Vigneault, Tortorella ride coaching carousel
June, 21, 2013
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com
And when the music stopped, all the coaching chairs were taken.
A whirlwind Friday in the NHL coaching world saw all the vacancies filled up, pretty much anyway.
The Vancouver Canucks still haven’t officially named their new head coach, but all signs point to John Tortorella being their man.
Across the continent, former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was officially introduced as the New York Rangers' new boss, meaning the Blueshirts and Canucks will end up simply swapping coaches if the Tortorella deal goes through in Vancouver.
Nobody said the hockey world was boring, right?
I like the Vigneault hire a lot. Having coached in Montreal and Vancouver, there’s nothing Vigneault hasn’t seen. New York is a bigger town but a smaller hockey market than those two previous stops. He’s a terrific coach and a great communicator, and I think the Rangers struck gold with that hiring.
Not so sure I feel the same way about Tortorella in Vancouver. I've always gotten along with the man called "Torts," but I feel that a year away from the game to decompress and recalibrate would have served him better. And there aren't many more demanding markets than Vancouver, where the media spotlight will be even more intense than it was in New York.
I understand what the Canucks are doing. Their brass loves Tortorella's fiery disposition and believe he will demand more accountability from the players. This hire isn't about whether he’s going to play nice with the media but rather is focused on what the Vancouver players need from their coach.
Still, this is a gamble from GM Mike Gillis in what is his first coaching hire.
Meanwhile, Lindy Ruff landed in Dallas while Dave Tippett re-upped with the Phoenix Coyotes.
It is not a coincidence that Vancouver and Dallas zeroed in on their guys just as Tippett announced he was staying put.
I believe the Stars and Canucks were keeping tabs on the Phoenix situation before moving on with their coaching hires, because both teams would have wanted to speak with Tippett had he been available.
Instead, Tippett waited as long as he could to see what would transpire with the Coyotes ownership situation and finally re-signed Friday. It’s still not a guarantee that the Coyotes will stay put -- much of that is still being decided as the city of Glendale and the prospective Coyotes owners negotiate a lease agreement that would cement the team’s future there -- but the rumors of Seattle being a solid Plan B if the team relocates were enough for Tippett to sign anyway.
In other words, Tippett certainly hopes the team doesn't move, but Seattle wouldn't be a terrible place for him. He has a daughter who lives there.
With Tippett unavailable, Dallas and Vancouver certainly hired some accomplished men, Tortorella winning a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and Ruff having a successful track record with an underdog Sabres team in Buffalo, including a trip to the 1999 Stanley Cup finals.
The Stars are going through a rebuild of sorts with new GM Jim Nill -- one of the game’s top talent evaluators -- and I think the patient Ruff is a good fit for a team that might need some seasoning before it is ready to win.
I feel bad for John Stevens, who appears to be the runner-up in Vancouver. The Canucks informed him over the past day that he was out of the running, a source confirmed Friday. Stevens is ready to be a head coach again, and it’s disappointing he didn't get that chance this offseason.
His work with the Kings as an assistant coach is reflected in the team’s sparkling defensive game. Stevens is a cerebral coach who thinks the game extremely well. He deserves another shot in a top job, and he'll just have to wait his turn. Other openings will undoubtedly beckon a year from now.