"Maybe I did and maybe I didn't."
- Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak on whether or not he's asked to be traded.
"Maybe I did and maybe I didn't."
- Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak on whether or not he's asked to be traded.
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.
While the loss of the two centers is a crushing blow in the short-term, this team is positioned too well to lose assets in a hasty trade scenario
The Montreal Canadiens will be without top center Alex Galchenyuk and fellow pivot David Desharnais for at least six weeks, perhaps even eight. Both players sustained knee injuries in recent games and the news is obviously not good. But GM Marc Bergevin would make it even worse by jumping into a hasty trade.
True, the Habs now look skeletal down the middle (though Tomas Plekanec isn't a horrible choice for the top line and Andrew Shaw can help out), but this is a short-term problem. Montreal is the top team in the Eastern Conference right now and with netminder Carey Price, they can win more than a few games in the next month or so just on the strength of his gifted play. And the Shea Weber-led defense has been better than expected, so even if the Habs are super-boring and conservative until February, they'll get some results.
Will Montreal still be on top by then? Maybe not, but as long as they don't lose like, 20 games in a row, they'll still be in a playoff position with enough runway left to climb back up the rungs. And as the Los Angeles Kings have proven twice already, you can win the Stanley Cup as long as you get into the playoffs, particularly if your goalie is one of the best on the planet (caveat: being a great possession team helps and the Canadiens are only middling).
But a trade is not the way to go, particularly since the Canadiens aren't deep to begin with. They don't have many attractive pro prospects right now – unless they can drum up interest in a Charles Hudon or Nikita Scherbak – and their best recent draft pick is defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who should be seen as untouchable. I mean, if Pittsburgh offers up Evgeni Malkin for the 2016 first-rounder and a couple other goodies, you make that trade – but I don't think that's going to happen.
If anything, Montreal needs to build their pipeline up, instead of taking assets away from it. The Canadiens ranked just 23rd in the NHL in our most recent Future Watch edition and Sergachev was the only pick they made in the first two rounds this summer. They do have two second-rounders for 2017 (their own and Washington's selection), but again: they need those.
Galchenyuk and Desharnais will be back and in all likelihood, the Canadiens will still be in a playoff position. The short-term may seem a little bleak, but the price of a quick patch isn't worth the long-term loss. Patience is a virtue here.
The New York Islanders captain undressed Jay Bouwmeester in the most unusual of ways, but the important thing is he kept the puck. Then he buried it
John Tavares: good at hockey.
The New York Islanders captain pulled off an absolutely stunning series of moves last night, culminating in a laser-shot goal against St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen. But let's get back to his humbling of Olympic gold medallist Jay Bouwmeester, because that's where the real magic happened.
Witness, as Tavares puts his stick behind his back and grabs it with his other hand while still skating and fending off Bouwmeester. Then, since he is a patient boy, Tavares waits and waits and waits before firing one top corner on Allen:
As the soccer folks would say, lovely. New York would go on to beat the Blues 3-2, with Anders Lee scoring the other two goals for the Isles. After struggling to begin the season, New York is now 6-2-2 in its past 10 games. Tavares leads the squad with 21 points through 26 contests.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have hit another hurdle with their name, this time with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A trademark request has been rejected, but it doesn’t sound like the team expects a name change.
The Vegas Golden Knights are really having a tough time catching a break in the naming department.
On Wednesday, a trademark request by the Golden Knights was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in large part because the name and logo were deemed too similar to that of the NCAA’s College of St. Rose Golden Knights.
Yes, that’s right, yet another roadblock between the NHL’s newest franchise and the name Golden Knights.
The first hurdle for the team, and the first real hubbub about the name, came shortly after the naming ceremony in late November. The team had only had the Golden Knights moniker in place for a week when it was reported by The Fayetteville Observer’s Steve DeVane that the U.S. Army was set to review Vegas’ use of the name because it is shared by the Army’s highly decorated parachute team.
And all that came after Vegas owner Bill Foley purposely strayed from his first choice for the team name, Black Knights, in order to avoid any conflict with the U.S. Army’s NCAA athletics programs and after the singular name, Knights, was reportedly avoided in order to forego any conflict with the OHL’s London Knights.
Suffice to say, the naming process has been a headache thus far. However, before those who despise the name and/or logo go celebrating in the streets, it should be noted that the latest naming hurdle likely means nothing in the long run.
Shortly after the news of the rejection started to pick up steam online, Vegas released a statement to Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt saying that the team plans to respond to the rejection and adding that this isn’t an uncommon obstacle when filing for a trademark.
“Office actions like this are not at all unusual, and we will proceed with the help of outside counsel in preparing a response to this one,” the statement reads.
In their statement, Vegas also pointed to the shared names of UCLA and Boston, both named the Bruins, Miami and Carolina, both named the Hurricanes, and even pointed out that Vegas and Clarkson share the Golden Knights name. None of this is to mention the MLB’s Texas Rangers and the NHL’s New York Rangers share a name.
ESPN’s sports business reporter Darren Rovell said the worst-case scenario would likely see Vegas strike a deal with St. Rose College.
While Foley hasn’t yet commented on the situation outside of a brief comment to NBC Las Vegas’ Amber Dixon, saying that the trademark had not been denied, the team’s senior vice president, Murray Craven, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Ben Gotz that organization believes “this will be fine.”
“We believe, at the end of the day, all parties will embrace the fact that we are the Vegas Golden Knights and this absolutely will work out,” Craven told Gotz. “I hope people don’t overreact to this at all. We believe everyone will be satisfied. We are only going to enhance the name Golden Knights for everyone. That’s our goal.”
UPDATE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has released the following statement:
“We are currently reviewing the Trademark Office's letter and will prepare a detailed response demonstrating why we continue strongly to believe the Vegas Golden Knights mark should be registered in co-existence with the college registration, just as a number of other nicknames currently co-exist in professional and college sports (particularly where there is no overlap as to the sport for which the nickname is being used). That response is not due until June 7, 2017.
“We consider this a routine matter and it is not our intention to reconsider the name or logo of this franchise. We fully intend to proceed as originally planned, relying on our common law trademark rights as well as our state trademark registrations while we work through the process of addressing the question raised in the federal applications.”
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