The Sharks celebrate a goal against the Flyers by slapping their sticks along the boards. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Sharks celebrate a goal against the Flyers by slapping their sticks along the boards. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
John Tortorella's antics have made headlines more than his coaching ability, but the veteran bench boss is showing again this season that he's still got the chops to be a top NHL coach.
Hidden behind all the nonsense is the fact John Tortorella can be a very good coach.
The 58-year-old veteran bench boss has proved it time and time again, particularly in 2003-04 when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup championship; allowing his players to show offence and creativity in a league that had become bogged down with clutching and grabbing.
Safe is death was Tortorella’s mantra back then and he convinced his players to embrace his adventurous coaching style. He was named the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 2004.
Too often since then, Tortorella has allowed himself to become a sideshow. His antics often took away from the good job he was doing managing questionable talent.
In New York, where he guided the Rangers to a 171-118-30 record in 319 games, Tortorella became better known for his daily run-ins with respected New York Post veteran beat writer Larry Brooks than coaching the team. Brooks calls ’em as he sees ’em – as a good journalist should – and that didn’t always sit well with the coach who would often lapse into verbal sparring matches with the reporter that would gain international attention.
There was also an incident during Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009 when Tortorella responded to being heckled by fans of the Washington Capitals by throwing a water bottle and trying to spear a fan between two panes of glass with a stick he grabbed from one of his players. He was not ejected from the game, but was suspended by the NHL the following day.
In his one season behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks, with which he was 36-35-11, Tortorella was involved in an infamous altercation on Jan. 18, 2014 when he entered the Calgary Flames dressing room area in an effort to engage with Flames coach Bob Hartley between periods following a first period line brawl. Tortorella was restrained by players and coaches and was suspended by the NHL for 15 days without pay.
Despite all the shenanigans, I have always believed in Tortorella’s ability to be an effective coach. I have a theory about him, though.
In an effort to prove to his players he wants to win as desperately – if not more so – than them, he comes across as trying to be one of them. That is when things tend to spin out of control. Long before his beard became a permanent fixture, he – like the players – would grow a playoff beard. Silly.
When things get out of control during games, Tortorella wants to show his players he is willing to fight for them. Even sillier.
After Tortorella was fired by the Canucks, many wondered if he had painted himself into a corner. Had his volatile reputation made him untouchable? Perhaps to some, yes, but not to Blue Jackets president John Davidson who got to know him when Tortorella was coaching the New York Rangers. Davidson knows all about Tortorella’s ability to be an effective coach when he is focused.
So when the Blue Jackets lost their first seven games in 2015-16, Todd Richards was fired and replaced by Tortorella who guided the team to a respectable 34-33-8 record. Not everyone believed in his ability, however.
After making headlines by saying he would bench any player who elected to sit on the bench during the playing of the National Anthem while coaching the United States to a disappointing 0-3 record at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, some wondered if Tortorella wasn’t losing his focus…again.
In its pre-season commentary entitled ‘31 Bold Predictions for The 2016-17 Season’ TSN.ca proclaimed Tortorella would not survive the first month of the season as the Blue Jackets spiral toward last place in the East.
Well, not only did Tortorella make it out of the first month, he currently has his Blue Jackets sitting in sixth place overall and riding a four-game winning streak. Not only was he still behind their bench, Tortorella was a legitimate contender through the first quarter of the season to win his second Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach.
There is still plenty of time remaining in the season and things could certainly go south, but it seems like Tortorella has a good grasp on what he needs to do to remain a successful NHL coach.
“I think he’s maybe been a little more relaxed and perhaps a little bit different with the scheduling of days off,” said Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad. “For the most part, though, he is who he is and he demands the most out of his players.”
For those who only know Tortorella through the viral YouTube videos that paint him as a madman, you might think he’s an incurable crackpot. For those of us who have the pleasure of knowing him on a more personable level, we know a good person lurks under the craziness. He just needs to control that craziness.
Philip Larsen got knocked unconscious, the Canucks retailiated without knowing what happened, and they could have hurt their teammate even worse in the process.
The incident was horrific. We can all agree on that.
Tuesday night in New Jersey, Vancouver Canucks blueliner Philip Larsen skated behind his net to retrieve a puck. He had no idea Devils left winger Taylor Hall was pursuing the same puck. They collided heavily. Larsen bashed his head on the ice and was knocked out cold.
It was a scary scene, undoubtedly, one that understandably evoked a ton of emotion from Larsen's teammates. It was hardly a surprise to see a flurry of Vancouver players swarm Hall and make him fight.
It was a shame, however, for multiple reasons. First off, the hit wasn't dirty. It wasn't even a deliberate bodycheck. Hall leaned back on his skates to slow his momentum and held out his arms as if protecting himself from imminent impact. It was more of a crash than a bonecrushing hit. We can debate whether Larsen's head was the principal point of contact – I don't believe it was at all – but it's irrelevant when assessing Hall's guilt. There was no intent there. He won't be disciplined by the NHL for an accident.
And yet, thanks to the sport's culture of immediate and forceful vengeance, Hall had to fight anyway. In the spur of the moment, in the heat of elite competition, players are simply too jacked up to take a breath and assess the situation. They see a comrade fall and, in mere milliseconds, seek and destroy whoever caused the harm.
“You always have a problem with a hit when one of your guys gets hit hard," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins told the Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford after the the game. "It doesn’t matter if it’s a clean hit. You have a problem when a guy gets hit that hard. I think all coaches would.”
The ironic thing about this tough-guy mentality is that it could end up pushing one of the toughest things about hockey out of the game: good, clean hits. If the swarm mentality goes on much longer, the only guys willing to lay opponents out with big hits will be those ready and willing to drop the gloves right afterward. Sooner or later players might decide it's not worth sitting five minutes and/or risking injury just to put a lick on a guy. And, in Hall's case, he wasn't even trying to drill Larsen.
Will we ever stop seeing players attacked after clean hits? I doubt it. The revenge assault is a crime of passion, a snap decision. But maybe, just maybe, the Canucks and players all over the world can learn a bit from what happened right after Larsen got hit. Watch:
The first instinct, sadly, is not to help Larsen, but to destroy Hall. Center Michael Chaput immediately starts a fight. That causes a pileup of players from both teams – all around the unconscious Larsen. It's downright disturbing to see him getting kicked in the head by his own teammates’ skates. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom tries to box out Larsen and keep him safe. Markus Granlund tries as well but has to step over and onto Larsen in the process. It’s a miracle Larsen wasn’t cut. None of that would've happened had Chaput thought of Larsen first.
The ugly scene is a reminder that, right after a teammate takes a massive hit, the first priority should be to protect him. The best way to do that isn't to attack his attacker. It's to attend to the teammate first. There's plenty of time to review what happened and take down the perpetrator's number for later in the game. That's what jumbo-tron replays are for. And, in cases like Hall's, the violence would be averted altogether if players watched the replay and realized it was an accident.
Sadly, the idea is a pipe dream, and I don’t expect players to learn from Larsen's fate anytime soon. But we can always hope.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
Kevin Dineen father Bill Dineen head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers pose for a photo before the game against the Boston Bruins at the Boston Garden.
Inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2014, Dineen led the Adirondack Red Wings to Calder Cups in 1986 and 1989.
The hockey world lost a coaching icon on Saturday.
The American Hockey League confirmed the passing of Bill Dineen at age 84.
Inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2014, Dineen led the Adirondack Red Wings to Calder Cups in 1986 and 1989. During his six seasons behind Adirondack’s bench, he led the club to a 246-182-52 record and won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach twice.
“During his time as a player and coach, and in the values he instilled in his family, Bill Dineen created a legacy of greatness in the American Hockey League that still resonates today,” said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our deepest condolences go out to the entire Dineen family at this time.”
Bill’s sons Shawn, Peter, Gord, Kevin and Jerry all went on to play and/or coach in the AHL. Gord Dineen is currently the associate coach of the Toronto Marlies.
Our thoughts are with Associate Coach Gord Dineen today, as the hockey community mourns with the family over the passing of Bill Dineen.— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 10, 2016
Kevin Dineen is currently an Assistant Coach with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Bill Dineen was a tremendous man," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN's Tracey Myers. "Everyone who had the privilege to meet Bill and be around him loved the guy. He was probably one of the most liked people you'd ever want to meet.
"Great family man; the kids are just like the dad. We had a good time with him on the dad's trip last time. Seeing him at that stage and being around hockey again, it was fun to be there."
During his playing days, Bill Dineen was a four-time 20-goal scorer over six AHL seasons with Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester and Quebec, and made appearances in the Calder Cup Finals in 1959 and 1964. He recorded 271 points in 391 AHL games during his playing career.
Dineen also appeared in 324 NHL games with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cups in Detroit. He later coached the Philadelphia Flyers from 1991-93.
Additionaly, Dineen won three other league titles as a head coach, with the Western Hockey League’s Denver Spurs (1972) and the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros (1974, 1975). He was twice named the WHA’s coach of the year (1977, 1978).
Connor McDavid and Brandon Manning
Connor McDavid didn’t mince his words when asked post-game about Brandon Manning. He called the Flyers defenseman “classless” and said Manning admitted to injuring him on purpose.
Connor McDavid has had no shortage of head-to-head battles with young stars in the game. There has been outings against Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and more than handful per year against the Flames duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
But of all the players Connor McDavid could have had an on-ice feud with, it seems Brandon Manning is the first real rival for the Oilers phenom.
One might recall that it was during the early part of the 2015-16 campaign that Manning, a Philadelphia Flyers blueliner, got tangled up with McDavid as he looked to break in on goal, resulting in McDavid making hard contact with the boards behind the net. The impact with the boards saw McDavid break his collarbone and led to a 37-game absence for the then-rookie.
It was believed to be an unintentional act, something that simply happened as part of the game, and McDavid had even absolved Manning of any blame. That was until last night, more than 13 months after the Nov. 3, 2015 injury to McDavid..
During the Oilers’ hard-fought 6-5 defeat at the hands of the Flyers, McDavid was seen verbally jousting with Manning on a couple of occasions. The most obvious case came after a power play goal by McDavid, where he was seen skating towards Manning and shouting something in his direction.
It didn’t end there, though. Post-game, the Oilers captain went in on Manning, calling the hit that led to the broken collarbone an intentional act.
"I did all I could defending him last year in the media," McDavid said. "Everyone wanted to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose, and he wanted to say some comments today about what went on last year. I thought it was one of the [most] classless things I've ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly. I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it on purpose' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that. Shows what kind of guy he is when he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.”
Shortly after McDavid commented on the incident, Manning fired back saying that he would “never intentionally hurt someone,” and added that’s not the way he plays.
"Anybody who knows me, I play a hard game,” Manning said, according to NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman. “That's the reason I'm here, that's the way I'm in the NHL. I'm not here to score goals like some of those guys. I think I play an honest game, and anyone who knows me knows I play hard and stuff happens out there."
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