It’s good to see that John Tortorella’s sense of humor has remained intact.
Despite a disaster of a first season as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, the former New York Rangers bench boss, was candid about his new team’s struggles this season and the comparisons that have been drawn between him and his Broadway successor Alain Vigneault.
The two coaches swapped jobs after both were dismissed from their respective clubs last summer. The difference? While Vigneault has the Rangers cruising along to an almost-assured playoff spot, the Canucks took a dramatic nosedive and remain on the brink of elimination.
“We’re losing games so I’m the idiot, and he’s winning games, so he’s the smart guy. And rightfully so,” Tortorella told reporters in Vancouver Monday. “When you lose games and you struggle, you’re going to get scrutinized.”
The two teams square off in Vancouver Tuesday night, the second of two meetings this season.
Vigneault, returning to the place where he coached for seven seasons, declined to compare the two teams. Or comment about his club, for that matter.
“I have no idea what’s going on here,” he said.
Whereas the Canucks came out of the gate strong, but fell off a cliff midway through the season, the Rangers recovered after an atrocious start to establish themselves as one of the better teams in the East. They are in second place in the Metropolitan Division with a two-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, though the Flyers have two games in hand.
“If you want to get into the playoffs and challenge, you’ve got to be one of those teams that progresses. And we’ve progressed.”
Digressed may be the best way to describe the Canucks, who do not appear to have embraced Tortorella’s hard-nosed, grinding style of play. The Canucks trail the last wild car playoff spot in the West by five points with six games remaining.
Speculation has been rampant that the fiery coach may even be dismissed following the season, despite the four years remaining in his contract.
What will happen when these two teams clash Tuesday night? Stay tuned ...