During and after the fireworks in Vancouver on Saturday night, many people wanted to get on Canucks head coach John Tortorella for being so mad. Claiming that if he didn’t want or expect that to happen, he should have put out a more skilled line.
He shouldn’t have made his way to the Calgary Flames dressing room but that doesnt mean he can’t be upset about the start to the game.
MCGRATTAN & WESTGARTH
Yes, every once in a while a team starts their fourth line and it doesn’t always result in a line brawl but Torterella couldn’t risk putting his skill guys out there. I don’t think if they countered Calgary’s fourth line with the Sedin line, the twins would have gotten mauled but how do you really know?
You don’t start that line with Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth, two of the toughest in the game, without the intention of a big physical start. Whether it’s running around to set a physical tone or actually fighting someone.
It’s hard to know what was said between Westgarth who was playing center for some reason and Kevin Bieksa but it sure looked like Westgarth was more than ready to do something dumb and it didn’t matter who was taking the draw. Westgarth did immediately jump an unwilling guy and then grabbed Kellen Lain and made him fight 2 seconds into his first NHL game.
If things were different and a skilled Canuck player was injured or beat up badly because they didn’t respond with the right line, who is everyone blaming today?
The head coach of course.
It happened to Randy Carlyle in pre-season this year, when he put out Phil Kessel with John Scott. His best player was put in a bad spot because he didn’t expect it to happen. “I never believed in my wildest dreams that the attack would come directed at that type of player from the opposition, but I was wrong.” He said.
A very memorable game I was playing in 2006 had a similar situation as far as player selection. The game was in Washington versus the Atlanta Thrashers who were coached at that time by none other than Bob Hartley. His teams were always pretty tough and we had some good battles with them.
It was late in the game and six foot five Andy Sutton took a big run at one of our young defenseman Mike Green. This wasn’t a little run; this was a take your head off and hurt you type run. The third or fourth time he had done this late in a hockey game against us. Green thankfully avoided it, but the intent was absolutely there to hurt someone once again.
After the hit, a small melee ensued. This left each team playing 3 on 3. Our bench was irate. Many four letter words were exchanged before the next faceoff. What happened next is, Hartley either misread the situation or he intended to diffuse it with the players he put out.
We were at home and had last change. Hartley sent out Greg DeVries, Vitaly Vishnevskiy and Marian Hossa of all guys. Our head coach Glen Hanlon answered with Donald Brashear, John Erskine and Matt Bradley. Everyone knew what was going to happen whether you like it or not. We were not going to be pushed around again.
Brashear beat the snot out of Vishnevskiy, Erskine gave Hossa a rough ride and DeVries and Bradley paired off.
Now this incident in 2006 happened at the end of an extremely heated game with rules in place to prevent instigating and shenanigans in the last 5 minutes so perhaps there was a sense of protection the Thrashers bench felt?
Either way, the end result was players that shouldn’t have been out there for Atlanta were and Hartley made a huge mistake. Andy Sutton and Bob Hartley have to feel terrible for getting their guys pummelled.
The situation in the Flames-Canucks game was different. There wasn’t a heated incident immediately before, but as a coach I don’t think you can take that chance, especially if you have last change.
Torterella is vilified more today if Daniel Sedin is mugged or their team is completely taken advantage of. He protected his team, which is what a coach is supposed to do. He had no choice but to put out a comparable line of grit and toughness. That doesn’t mean he has to be happy with what unfolded next.
No one knows what might have happened had Tortorella put out a skilled line. This game is unpredictable and rules don’t often matter in the heat of the moment. Assuming nothing, could have been very costly for him, more than the fine or suspension he will likely receive and deserve for his intermission antics. He could have lost his best players or that dressing room.
Has Bob Hartley ever tried to diffuse a situation again, when put in Tortorella’s spot?
I doubt it.