If the Vancouver Canucks can’t beat Alain Vigneault and the New York Rangers Tuesday night at home, their already slim playoff hopes will take another major blow. A setback like that might also spell the end for Canucks coach John Tortorella.
In his first year behind the Vancouver bench, Tortorella has been everything we’ve come to expect – fiery, stubborn, and a lightning rod for criticism. As far as criticism goes, he’s getting it from all sides right now with Vancouver sitting five points back of the Phoenix Coyotes for the final playoff spot in the West.
Of course, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The Canucks haven’t put the puck in the net enough this year. GM Mike Gillis did a great job of bungling the daily Roberto Luongo saga before finally shipping him off to Florida. Injuries have stung the Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and David Booth.
All of these problems have contributed to Vancouver’s regression, but Tortorella may be most to blame – and that’s without even getting into his six-game suspension.
He’s the one who wanted to turn the Canucks into a “harder team to play against.” That in itself made a lot of sense. Critics have hammered on Vancouver’s lack of toughness for years, but this squad hasn’t lacked for talent in more than a decade. The problem began when Tortorella handcuffed that talent with his system.
Sure it’s essentially the same system that worked when he took the Rangers to the Eastern Conference final, but the Canucks aren’t the Rangers and a square peg doesn’t fit in a round hole. That’s why after Vigneault and Tortorella traded places, the former has his club surging toward a playoff spot while the latter may have over-coached his way out of his second job in two years.
Oh, he didn’t help his own cause with that
Maybe the Canucks rally behind Torts tonight and keep their playoff hopes alive. Maybe the intensity of this game with their former coach coming back to Vancouver spurs the team on to a big win. After all, if they can’t get up for this game, they’re cooked anyway.
Still, Sports Interaction has the Canucks set as +115 underdogs tonight against the New York Rangers and it’s hard to support the home team when its coach may have already lost the room. If Torts can’t get this one, the next thing on the missing list might be his job.