Photo credit: PNG
Gary Mason wrote an amazing article in last weekend’s Globe and Mail.
When Mr. Tortorella stormed an opposing team’s dressing room between periods of a game earlier this year, it alarmed everyone in the organization, including his players. If you want to chart the radical decline of the Canucks this season, you can begin at that moment. The team went into a nosedive after the incident, for which Mr. Tortorella was suspended six games. While he apologized profusely for his antics, it hasn’t changed the perception a loose cannon is in charge.
Since that January 18th game against the Calgary Flames, the Canucks have won 4 of 17 games (4-12-1), and have looked disorganized and disheartened doing so. In some games, they look like they’re simply going through the motions. Too often, it feels like they’ve already tuned out the coach.
Last night against the Islanders, they entered the third period with a 3-0 lead, but then proceeded to allow 7 goals in the last 20 minutes en route to a 7-4 loss. Poor Eddie Lack was in net for all the Isles’ goals except for the empty-netter, and heard the bronx cheer from the stands for his troubles.
The thing is, Lack has been solid all season long. Leading up to the Heritage Classic, he’d allowed just 12 goals in 8 games; but since getting the tap to start the Heritage Classic ahead of Roberto Luongo, he’s allowed 16 goals in his last 5 games.
It’s almost as if the controversy that accompanied that start at BC Place was a turning point for Lack. Canucks fans booed him, not because of his play, but because they wanted to see Luongo. Even Lack knew enough to understand the goaltending history in this city, unlike Tortorella, who insisted afterwards he considered the situation, but placed Lack in an untenable situation anyway. He could’ve started Luongo, and perhaps Luongo would still be a Canuck, rather than handing the team to his rookie goaltender who had all of 25 NHL games experience at the time and who doesn’t appear to be quite ready for the full-time starter’s gig yet.
Seemingly at every wrong turn of this forgettable season, Torts is in the middle of things. When you factor in that he’s running a system that doesn’t utilize the strengths of his personnel, that his players look uncomfortable executing it, and that this version of the Canucks is about to set all sorts of franchise lows (despite decades of futility), you can’t help but ask if Torts is the type of coach this team needs. You have to wonder if the centerpiece of GM Mike Gillis’ reset last summer is, in fact, its biggest problem.
If the Canucks continue along the disastrous arc they are now travelling, Mr. Aquilini will have some major decisions to make. And the first may be whether he keeps a coach in the first year of an expensive five-year contract who has presided over one of the worst seasons in recent team history. Missing the playoffs costs a franchise buckets of money. Owners will not want that to become a habit.
In firing Mr. Tortorella, Mr. Aquilini might have to spend money to make money.
In the late 90′s, John McCaw gave Mike Keenan 108 games to right the Canucks ship. The way things are going this season, it’s very possible the Canucks give John Tortorella less than that.