The Vancouver Canucks have confirmed the worst kept secret in sports: naming John Tortorella the 17th head coach in franchise history.
The bombastic Boston native, who turned 55 yesterday, is being brought in to shake up the culture of the Canucks, who have been unable in recent years to turn strong regular seasons into Stanley Cup Playoff success.
Tortorella has a 13-year NHL head coaching career most recently with the New York Rangers and prior to that the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has compiled a coaching record of 410-340-37-67 in 854 NHL regular season games, has guided his teams to the playoffs on eight occasions, and led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup championship in 2003-04.
Tortorella was named winner of the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the year following the 2003-04 season. He currently ranks first on the NHL’s all-time wins list among American-born coaches and ranks fifth among active coaches for most games coached (at the end of the 2012-13 season).
Although Tortorella has been handed a multiyear contract by the Canucks, make no mistake: he's being brought in to win next season. With just one year left on the current contracts of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, if they can't work with Tortorella's direct, sometimes confrontational approach, the Sedins may look for a new hockey home rather than re-signing with the only NHL franchise for which they've ever played. If that happens, the Canucks will find themselves in complete rebuild mode a year from now.
Perhaps that's a doomsday scenario, but it's also a fact of life in the competitive business of professional hockey, especially for an organization like the Canucks, which appears to be at a crossroads with a veteran group, a declining salary cap, and a fan base fed up with back-to-back first-round playoff exits.
Tortorella has to find a way to get his group to buy into his system right away. His challenge increases because the Canucks will be playing in a realigned division with San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and an improving Edmonton Oilers team.
Tortorella will be introduced at a media conference at 1 p.m. at Rogers Arena.