John Tortorella is not ever going to be a guy who lets a cell phone ring during one of his news conferences. He's not going to field questions about the opposing team, nor will he indulge anyone simply looking for canned clichés or mindless television sound bites. He's not going sugarcoat his criticism of players or substitute family-friendly euphemisms for his abrasive outbursts behind the bench. But after all the criticism he earned for his brash, unforgiving coaching style -- one that hastened his exit from the New York Rangers last spring -- Tortorella seems to understand that his approach needed to change, at least a little. It would be a stretch to ever characterize the hard-edged Boston native as "mellow," but it has become apparent in the first few weeks with his new team in Vancouver that Tortorella has at least tempered the way he treats his charges. "In a number of circumstances, yeah," Tortorella said last week when asked about the transition. "I think you need to respect where the athletes are in their career." The Canucks are better for it too, with an impressive 9-4-1 start to the season, good for third place in a dominant Western Conference. Tortorella hasn't been afraid to make bold moves in the opening month of his tenure in Vancouver. He has split up twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin at times. He moved center Ryan Kesler to the wing (a grand idea considering Kesler has five goals and eight points in the past six games). Tortorella also isn't hesitant to load up his top two lines with heavy minutes, a technique that was evident in the Canucks' recent victory. This is a veteran team, Tortorella recognizes, and he is trying to treat the players accordingly. "We're going to push, you know that's going to happen," he said. "We're going to push and play hard and be a tough team to play against -- we're certainly working on that part of it -- but I also have to understand the personnel and where they're at there." Tortorella, 55, preached the importance of self-awareness in his players while in New York. When he was shown the door after the team's disappointing playoff exit in the second round last May, it forced him into some introspection. "It stung," one person close to Tortorella said. But, instead of letting himself grow bitter or become distracted by the pangs of regret, Tortorella seems to have channeled that painful experience into making himself a better coach. A message delivered with his ferocity day in and day out can make players grow weary, and he realizes that now. "There are times when he has to be stern, and he does that, but for the most part, he's a little more [mellow]," Canucks forward Dale Weise told ESPN.com last week. Weise, a gritty fourth-liner who played under Tortorella in New York, said the coach's basic principles have remained the same, but the team's veteran presence has warranted some adjustments.
Not the same old Tortorella
ESPN | Nov 1