If the NHL was a reality TV show, tonight’s showdown between the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals [10 p.m., CSN] would feature a pre-game steel cage match between John Tortorella and Adam Oates.
Who can forget the banter between the two coaches last spring following the Rangers’ seven-game playoff series victory over the Caps. Two days after the series ended Capitals general manager George McPhee complained about the officiating and Tortorella mocked the Caps, accusing them of “whining.”
All of which led to Oates appearing on 106.7 The Fan and telling LaVar Arrington and Chad Dukes, “Well, I think he’s out of line. He should be worried about his own series. We didn’t whine once during the series. I never complained.”
No, not until the series was over. And when Arrington baited Oates by asking him if he would beat up Tortorella in a one-on-one fight, Oates bit, responding, ‘Yes. Easily.”
So there you have it.
Two weeks after those angry words were exchanged, the Rangers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs and Tortorella was fired. On June 25, he was named head coach of the Vancouver Canucks and has led his new team to within four points of the Western Conference lead with an 8-4-1 record.
The Canucks are coming off a seven-game road trip in which they went 5-1-1.
“Throughout the trip, we won in different ways,” Tortorella said. “We kept our composure.
“Day by day, it's a really good trip but you need to flat-line it here and just stay within ourselves and just keep on working as a team.”
Throughout his career as an NHL coach Tortorella has adapted his coaching style to the teams he’s coached. In Tampa, where he coached from 2000 to 2008, he established a “safe is death” approach and won a Stanley Cup in 2004.
With the Rangers he convinced his players to collapse in front of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and his teams routinely led the league in blocked shots.
In Vancouver, Tortorella is trying to find a way to best utilize an offense led by Swedish twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin while riding the goaltending of Roberto Luongo.
Despite his success in the NHL, where his teams have gone 410-340-36-67, Tortorella was left off the U.S. Olympic team coaching staff for Sochi. That staff is headed by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who chose Peter Laviolette and Todd Richards and Tony Granato as his assitants.
Tortorella served as an assistant coach with Team USA in 2010, when the Americans won the silver medal.