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Above the 49: Tortorella right coach, right time for Canucks
By Daniel Fung, Sports Network Columnist
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The hiring of John Tortorella by the Vancouver Canucks has drawn plenty of mixed reviews from fans and media alike, but bringing in the former Stanley Cup-winning coach is the appropriate move for the team.
Tortorella, who was officially announced as the 17th head coach in franchise history on Tuesday after agreeing to a five-year contract, will oversee a core group that many feel is on its last legs for trying to win a championship before it will be forced to go into rebuilding mode.
It's also a team that clearly needed a new guiding voice after suffering through back-to-back first-round playoff exits following an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 under former head coach Alain Vigneault, who last week took over the job that Tortorella was dismissed from with the New York Rangers.
Tortorella isn't taking over a team that is on the cusp of elite status. Rather, he's assuming the reigns of a club that had reached an apex and is wondering whether it's past the best before date.
That's precisely why the timing of Tortorella arriving in Vancouver is perfect as far as the Canucks are concerned.
Most of the knocks on Tortorella have been over his fiery personality and his penchant for picking fights with the media. Very few of the criticisms directed at him have been over his hockey acumen.
There may be some who don't particularly admire his coaching style or his tactics but, as far as results are concerned, it's hard to suggest Tortorella isn't a very effective or good coach.
Tortorella has won at every level he has coached at, including winning championships at the ACHL, the AHL and the NHL, the latter being with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
He is a three-time finalist and one-time winner of the Jack Adams Trophy, and was part of the coaching staff of the U.S. Olympic silver medalists at the 2010 Winter Games. His 410 career victories put him in first place among all American-born coaches in NHL history.
He has been a winner in the past and, despite having not been back to the Stanley Cup Finals since 2004, he clearly still knows what's required to win in this league as evidenced by the strong record of his Rangers' teams over the past couple years.
His pedigree - not to mention his in-your-face approach - is exactly what the Canucks need from a coach as their window of opportunity is closing.
As much as the Canucks will talk about the importance of Tortorella having a role in making sure the team's young prospects can thrive at the NHL level or the need for him to maintain a healthy relationship with the fan base and media, there really is only one end goal for the incoming bench boss and that's to win a Stanley Cup and do it before time runs out for their current core group.
The Canucks' key players are essentially the same as the ones who went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals just two short years ago. But Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the respective faces of the franchise, will both be 33 by the time the puck drops on the 2013-14 season and are both entering into the final year of their contracts.
The Sedins have perhaps one more contract extension left in them beyond this season and, after that, you would have the figure the Canucks are in for a significant overhaul as the club transitions away from the twins and toward building around some of their younger stars and recent draft picks such as Zack Kassian, Nicklas Jensen and Brendan Gaunce.
If Tortorella manages to have a tremendous amount of on-ice success in the next several years, which without question has to include a Stanley Cup championship, then it's conceivable to see him stick around for that transition.
If he doesn't, it's hard to picture him - not to mention this current management group led by general manager Mike Gillis - being around as part of the next rebuild.
Tortorella may not have been the most popular choice in Vancouver for a coach, but he definitely is the right one at this particular moment.
And if time ends up proving he isn't the right man for the job, then Tortorella will be out the door almost as fast as he entered and the Canucks will be right on schedule for their imminent post-Sedin rebuild.
06/26 09:51:42 ET
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