By Mike Harrington
It was a gentler, softer John Tortorella we saw today in advance of tonight's Sabres-Canucks game. During his fiery days with Tampa Bay and the Rangers, you never knew what outburst might come your way. He even had a classic one here in March after a Sabres-Rangers game. Remember?
Tortorella underwent plenty of scrutiny about his media dealings before he got this job and he's been better at it from all accounts. He better be with the scrutiny in a hockey market like Vancouver. The Yankees, Giants and Knicks aren't there to deflect attention.
"You might have 45 minutes of video and he's going to tell you what you've done wrong in a brutally honest way," Henrik Sedin told me today. "But two minutes afterward, you might have done something well in a clip and he'll tell you the same thing. That's all you can ask for as a player."
Added goaltender Roberto Luongo: 'He's a very passionate intense coach and I think we needed that in this locker room. He's bringing a lot to the table and the guys are buying in."
The one thing I wanted to know was Tortorella's view of the Sedin twins now as their coach and not as an opposing coach. He even broke them up Tuesday in Philadelphia, something pretty rare in their careers.
"I have never been more impressed with two athletes," he said. "Watching them from afar, watching them play I was impressed with them. But I'm even more impressed with them as people as I get to be with them every day. And we're not even talking about what they've done for us on the ice. Just how they carry themselves."
The Canucks are 4-3 and this is game two of a seven-game road trip. A Vancouver asked Tortorella what it's like to be in Buffalo, a place he visited often as an Eastern Conference visitor but one that starts his resume as an NHL coach dating to his days as an assistant to John Muckler.
"I lived here for eight years and it's probably one of the most underrated places in the world," Tortorella said. "Everybody says 'Buffalo?' I have a tremendous amount of friends here. It was a great place to coach."
The West is 31-11-4 in games against the East this season, while the East's record is 15-26-5. The Sabres are 0-2 against the West while the Canucks are 2-1 against the East. This topic, however, was the lone one we got Tort-speak on.
"I haven't really thought too much about it quite honestly," he said. "We concentrate on how we're playing and that's been our main focus."
"It's about structure," said Sabres winger Steve Ott, who spent 10 years in Dallas. "The way they're built out there with coaches like (St. Louis' Ken) Hitchcock, (Phoenix's Dave) Tippett, teams like Chicago and LA, they're all so structurally sound that it makes it harder to play. When you look at the East, the East isn't as structured. It's just not coaches wise. It was a big change I noticed coming from the West. You really had to adapt in the West."
As for Tortorella's impact on Vancouver, Ott said, "A coach influences players but the same dynamics of their team are there. The Sedins are such world-class players. It doesn't matter who is coaching them. They're always the Sedins."
Click below to hear Tortorella's session with the media today, including more thoughts on the Sedins and dealing with the huge travel burden the Canucks face.