SUNDAY JUNE 25, 2017
 
Blog THROWIN SMOKE
TORTORELLA HIRING CANUCKS' LAST GASP
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Desperate times call for desperate measures, and for the Vancouver Canucks, desperation is personified by Mike Gillis, the team’s besieged general manager.

Since coming within one win of winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, Gillis has had the reverse Midas touch – everything he’s tried to do has turned to crap.

His stubbornness over trading Roberto Luongo has cost the team assets and has been at best a distraction and at worst, a season-killing fiasco. Trading sniper Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian has backfired. Keith Ballard, Jason Garrison and David Booth have been busts. The draft-deadline acquisition of Derek Roy accomplished absolutely nothing beyond salting away a prospect and a second-round draft pick.

And now, with no more cards left to play and the team in full regression mode, Gillis has turned to an unlikely source, hiring hard-ass coach John Tortorella to turn around a team that has performed well during the regular season but quietly folded in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

It’s an abrupt about-face for the franchise, which had long established itself as a fan-friendly team based on speed, skill and white-hat values. In contrast, Tortorella brings with him a checkered resume of on-ice success, mixed with a toxic relationship with players and an abusive history with the media. He is Mike Keenan 2.0 — a ruthless dictator, who screams defensive responsibility at all costs, routinely throws his troops under the bus and plays complex mind games with his highest-paid talent.

But the trend in the NHL now is to replace players’ coaches with tyrants, and replacing Alain Vigneault — despite his team-record winning percentage — with Tortorella definitely fits the bill. Tortorella’s systems seem to fit today’s tougher, grinding game, even if it requires him to punish and humiliate most of his players in the process.

How Torts will mesh with the fair-weather Sedin twins is a true mystery. How he’ll handle the ongoing soap opera in goal seems like a car accident waiting to happen. And how the Canucks players — many of whom took less than market value to play in Vancouver — will react to his Gestapo tactics will ultimately determine the team’s success in 2014.

For Gillis, it’s a ballsy, all-in move. The team’s core players are all 30 or older now, and the team’s small window as a legitimate championship contender is shrinking fast. Like San Jose or Detroit, there is no Plan B without a full dismantling and rebuild. If Tortorella can’t will this team to the promised land, the next phase of the franchise will be undertaken without Gillis pulling the strings.

But if nothing else, it should be interesting. Like Rosanne Barr’s career or the movie Showgirls, some things can be so bad that you just can’t turn away. Upon Tortorella’s firing from the Rangers last month, Vancouver’s sports reporters gleefully compiled YouTube videos of his best media rants. Little did they know that they will be probably be witnessing his next batch of meltdowns first-hand next season.

With the unpredictable, fiery Tortorella at the helm, it truly is a new era for the Vancouver Canucks. For Gillis, it may be his last.

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