PLAYER SELECTION

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.

I disagree.

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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?

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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.

BOB HARTLEY

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.

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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.

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WRONG MOVE

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.

COACHING CALL

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. 

  • elvis15

    I don’t get how Hartley is to blame here.

    The Canucks have been going on for the last 2 weeks about how they are going to be tough to play against. How’s that working for ya?

    Hartley has every right to throw out the big boys. Like has already been said, if the Flames had their 4th line out for an icing call and couldn’t change, Torts would have had the Sedins out in an instant.

    Did Hartley bait Torts? You bet he did. Did Torts take the bait? Right again.

    Torts trip to the dressing room is where he crossed the line. About a 2 game suspension seems appropriate to me.

  • billythebullet

    Good read.

    I’ve never respected Hartley as a coach going back to his days in Denver. He was and still a goon coach who liked his players sending messages when games were pretty much decided.

  • elvis15

    The heart, energy, desire that the Flames are showing despite that it’s early in their rebuild and the team has very little talent is exciting. This identity is a critical element of a successful rebuild.

    Unlike the Oilers who have had 3 consecutive 1st overall’s (soon a 4th) and much more talent they are listless, lifeless, heartless, and most important they have developed a culture of no accountability and losing that will be very difficult to change!

    • D-Unit

      The Oilers have held coaches, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, and GM Steve Tambellini accountable.

      It has taught the players, it is not their problem, the coach will get fired, and we never have fault. Win or lose, the pay cheque goes in the bank.

    • piscera.infada

      For sure. We can argue the actions to the death – I’m not too sure the answer is as easy as ‘x’ coach is wrong. The nice thing about the whole pinata from a Flames perspective is that there’s a pulse. You can say whatever you want about the skill (or lack thereof), but to me, that game proves they aren’t going down without a fight. I like that, and see it as a crucial component of a successful “rebuild”.

  • piscera.infada

    Anyone who argues the Flames and Hartly weren’t out to fight, go watch the replay of the start of the whole line brawl.

    Bieksa cleanly wins the face off. Why? Westgarth doesn’t even try to win it, and just jumps straight on Bieksa.

    If that doesn’t show you that he’s just looking for a fight (and the Canucks aren’t), I don’t know what does.

  • elvis15

    One other point I don’t think has been brought up is Hartley tries to sell them being the starters by saying they scored in the last game. While McGrattan and Westgarth were on the ice for the Bouma goal in the previous game (at the end when the game was out of reach) none of that line has had a single point in some time. The last point of any kind for that forward group was Dec 12, when McGrattan had an assist, and Dec 21 for the defence, when Butler had an assist.

  • beloch

    First of all, I take issue with using “player selection” in the title of your article, which strongly suggests a comparison between Hartley and Ron Rolston, who was fined for “player selection” in the pre-season. That was a completely different situation. It wasn’t the first faceoff. He sent a goon out to attack one of his opponents stars because he wanted revenge for a fight that occurred previously in the game.

    I’m not going to pretend Hartley wasn’t spoiling for a goon-fight. You don’t start the game with your goon-squad if you aren’t. However, Torts wanted it too. If he didn’t want a fight, he had numerous options. He had four bloody lines to choose from, and three of them could have outplayed what Hartley put on the ice. He choose his goons. He could have instructed his goons that they were, under no circumstances, to accept a challenge to fight. They’d have looked like pussies but the Flames would have started the game with a penalty. Torts did no such thing. He sent his goons out there with implicit orders to do what goons do. Fight. He also sent out a rookie, which suggests he doesn’t like that rookie very much, but whatever.

    He clearly wasn’t expecting a full line-brawl, and that’s why he was probably so incensed after it happened. He must have thought Hartley sent his goon squad out with orders to not just start one fight, but five of them! If you ignore 20/20 hindsight and consider what’s likely to happen if you send a line out with orders to start a 10 player brawl, you’ll rapidly realize Torts assumption was utterly idiotic. One goon fight was intended by both sides. The brawl was spontaneous.

    Now, no matter how angry you are, NHL coaches are generally expected to be above charging into their opponents dressing room looking for a physical confrontation. Torts owes a lot to McGrattan, one of the very goons he professes to despise, for first keeping him out of the dressing room (where he would have been gang-pummeled) and then stopping Clint Malarchuk from going after him. Malarchuk might not be a man-mountain, but he is one tough SOB. The goons had more class than Torts that day!

  • Brian Sutherby

    Bob Hartley sent out his 4th line, a line made up of players that had combined for 3 goals in 76 games this season, to start the game – the first time in 49 games this season he had done so. He sent out a player that had previously only taken 2 faceoffs all season to win the opening faceoff and to, apparently, score a goal. I think we all know why Hartley put those guys on the ice and it wasn’t to create offence.

    • Parallex

      Sure… but I’m pretty sure he didn’t put them out there to start a line brawl either. Blair Jones & Chris Butler aren’t what folk would generally refer to as “tough customers”… why send those guys out when Lance Bouma and SOB are dressed? Probably thought that he’d put McGrattan out there to get the ritual “you injured my guy last time now we have to fight” over and done with but then Tortorella’s maniac routine raised the temperture.

      Regardless this whole articule is poorly thought out… by the logic expoused here no coach can ever put any line out against another teams fourth line except their own fourth line… for some reason I’m pretty sure if the Flames fourth line iced the puck Tortorella wouldn’t have any objection to throwing the Sedins over the boards. He had a choice and he choose to take the outcome that Hartley offered up. His act of personal affrontery was buffoonish at best.

  • SmellOfVictory

    This is something I don’t understand: what is the requirement for “protection”? If one guy tries to fight another guy and second guy refuses, the refs will prevent a fight and instigator will get a penalty.

    It’s not like either Westgarth or McGrattan are good enough hockey players to be able to hurt people while playing; all they can do is punch dudes if the other dudes agree to fight them. I could see an issue if it was lining the Sedins up against a line of Lucics, but it’s not even close to that.

  • elvis15

    Disagree Brian. Coaches fight all game to get a match up like knuckle drag-er 4th line vs your top line. If you get that during a game, you take it, and you don’t worry osmething stupid will happen. You wanna make the Flames look bad, score a goal 21 seconds into the game. The 4th line looks terrible, the coach looks even dumber, and you’re winning. Yes, it’s just a regular season game against a team they probably beat anyways, but I think the odds of the Flames trying anything against the Sedins are pretty low. If im Torts, I play the Sedins, and let it be know to MY ENTIRE TEAM to be ready off the faceoff. IF something happens and they DO try something crazy, then every man jumps off the bench like lightening and 21 guys pound those 5 idiots for 5 seconds before the rest of the Flames bench clears and then the real fireworks begin. If there is a dog pile on a few of these guys you can even get a couple “accidental kicks” in for pay back.

  • Brian Sutherby

    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.

    Well said, Brian. I also agree that Fonzie’s between-period act deserves a suspension.

  • ThatGuy

    I was at the NYR-NJ game at MSG in 2012. It was an awful game in the end except for the opening face off. It was clearly staged and the fights were duds. It didn’t set the tone at all. I them got really really pissed and offended a Spanish tourist sitting next to me. What kind of Spanish guy has a shaggy red beard?!?

  • Kodiak

    Totally disagree, Brian. All of the “incidents” you referred to were late in the game, score out of hand situations. I don’t think there is any history of something like that happening on the opening faceoff. The chances of something like Westgarth mugging Sedin then were 1 in a million.

    If those concerns were real, if the Flames 4th line iced the puck the Canucks would never throw their top line on then but we know they’d be licking their chops to get them out there in that matchup.

    • Brian Sutherby

      They don’t have to mug someone to cross a line.

      The timing of the game, right at the start where they were out there on the road to have a big physical start and impose themselves by fighting or running around and you think Torts should put out the Twins?

      When the last game they played Mcgrattan Ko’d a Canuck with an elbow and Westgarth has already been suspended for a recklass hit from behind this season?

      I acknowledged these incidents were different but this also wasn’t a tight zero-zero game late in the second when a coach tries to sneak out a sleepy fourth line that hasn’t played in 10 minutes and you matchup your first line to try and score.

      I don’t think they mug the twins, I already said that. But you don’t really know and if one of them is hurt because one of these big donkeys is fired up to start their first game in likely forever then how is it any better?

      Torts had to respond with that line.

      • elvis15

        Absolutely agreed, especially considering it doesn’t have to be a fight right off the draw but rather it could be McGrattan or anyone else taking a run at one of the Sedins (or Burrows, who was wearing a full face guard in his first game back from a broken jaw) and causing injury that way.

        Alberts still isn’t healthy from the concussion he got from McGrattan in that Dec 29 game.

      • elvis15

        Mcgrattan didn’t Ko a canuck with an elbow. You should probably go back and review that video. That was one of the weirdest KO’s I’ve ever seen. it was shoulder to shoulder and Mcgratts hands came up and that was it. Didn’t appear to be any significant contact to the head. What contact there was, was secondary. He got the “elbow pit” (inside of the arm) in the face.

        More likely it was just a unexpected impact for Alberts that stunned him

        • elvis15

          His hands and stick were up in the hit and contacted Alberts. Regardless, if you want to look at that as a legal play it’s further evidence of what could happen if the Sedins were put out on that faceoff.

          • elvis15

            His hands came up after initial contact. Have a close look at the video again.

            Either way what you are saying is never ever put the sedins out against somebody’s fourth line? I mean yeah they are little babies but that sounds kind of stupid to me.

            If you think Mcgrattan is such a goon maybe you should look at the penalties he gets. He rarely ever takes a stupid penalty, he doesn’t run around like an idiot trying to hurt people. His minutes are usually fighting and that’s it.

          • elvis15

            They still come up as a part of the contact and he almost clotheslines Alberts with the way he goes in with his arms.

            I get that McGratton isn’t really a dirty player (he’s not a Ben Eager for sure) so I have some respect for him there, but there is also Westgarth on the ice – particularly at center. The intent is fairly obvious to either fight right away or set a very physical tone (more so than any other time of the game).

            It’s not a match up you choose as the Canucks with a neutral zone faceoff at the start of the game. After an icing or something, sure, but as the home team with last change you don’t pick that most of the time.

            I’m glad you can argue a point without name calling or insults though… wait, what was that “little babies” comment? You might as well just call them sisters, something else that’s derogatory but absolutely false considering the physical abuse they take while playing the cycle and still keep going.

          • piscera.infada

            Ok, fair enough. Can we at least call Burrows “a joke”? No one’s going to argue that one. Face protector or not, he deserves to have his jaw bashed in at any point. It would definitely stop him from his little sqwak-and-run-away routine.

          • piscera.infada

            I’m glad you take offense at that(ummm why?). At least I’m not calling you names. Besides what should you care what I call players. Vancouver Canucks Diving team probably upsets you too.

            Anyway I can’t respect players like the sedin sisters or kesler, burrows and kassian. Their actions are often disgusting, like the drinking motions burrows was directing at our bench (maybe at SOB) I don’t know, but a bunch of gutter trash that I would be disgusted to have on my team.

            I can’t stand the soccer style dives those guys attempt time and again. Or the bitting or the idiotic locker room charges. It’s a joke. There is space for a little embellishment but it’s just so bad on that team.

          • elvis15

            Offence at those kind of comments? Not so much, actually kinda happy to think that’s the only argument people can come up with against the Sedins. It’s pretty sad though that people still resort to that after all these years of the Sedins playing tough minutes.

            If that’s your stance that you can’t respect someone like the Sedins even, but you want people to respect McGrattan, then there’s not much point in debating any of this with you.

          • piscera.infada

            haha tough minutes all you want about the sisters but I have yet to see them stand up and fight for a win (playoffs????) Sure they can score but when the going gets tough they get diving. That doesn’t win you hockey games. So yes I don’t respect them nor do I want them on my team.

            Comparing them to Mcgrattan is idiotic he’s not supposed to carry a team. He plays a role and does what is asked of him. He doesn’t dive or act like an idiot. He goes out and tries his best, he may not be very good but at least he tries.

            The sisters disappear the moment things get physical. Also keeping your consecutive games streak going by going out for a 15 second shift to start the game and calling it quits after that is also extremely idiotic and hurts the teams chances at winning.

          • piscera.infada

            I actually disagree. I think the Sedins get a pretty raw deal when it comes to their actual, instead of perceived work ethic, strength, and toughness – those guys are actually pretty tough competitors. They don’t mix it up after the whistle, but that’s not really necessary, and usually leads to some pretty funny hi-jinx. For example, this hilarious turn of events. As was pointed out during the game in question, the style of game the Sedins play (low cycle in the corner) is some of the most physically taxing play in hockey. I’ll agree with you on some of the other suspects past and present, although I happen to like Bieksa as well (heresy, I know).

            I also agree on the “ironman” streak bit too. That kind of crap is periphery – it certainly isn’t gospel, or important in any way.

          • elvis15

            Pretty terrible, wasn’t it? I at first thought Kassian must have had his stick up past Giordano’s waist and Giordano just chicken winged it, but it’s pretty clear from the reply that Kassian’s stick was down at Giordano’s knees/thighs and Giordano grabs it, pulls it up, then flops backwards to draw the call.

  • piscera.infada

    This is why skilled tough guys like Lucic, Clarkson and Phaneuf are important to successful hockey teams. Even Kadri is pretty tough and gritty and can throw down a fight.

    • Brian Sutherby

      Dec. 20, 2011 Rangers vs. Devils. Torts being away started his 4th line and devils responded with the same. no line brawl but still Torts never accepts the blame for anything.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy5iX4eCj_k

      then later devils did it right back to them.

      Then devils coach DeBoer

      “I guess in John’s world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can’t do the same in here,” DeBoer said. “He’s either got short-term memory loss or he’s a hypocrite. So it’s one of the other.”

  • andyg

    Who are all the people who are posting on here? Tons of names that I have never seen before. I guess the game must have been entertaining.

    I think Torts did ever thing right but the hall way nonsense. H Sedin has something wrong with his ribs and Burrows is coming off a broken jaw. That’s who Calgary lined their 2 toughest players against. That would send alarms off for me.

  • elvis15

    I was wondering why so many teams hate the Canucks, Chi, Bos, now Flames, soon the Oilers. Classless and cheapshot with that clown Kassian after he broke Gagner jaws then taunt him last game. Somebody beat the snot out of him Tue game please.

    • beloch

      I think when teams have some success then they turn into a polarizing. I don’t think people pay much mind to the Flames until Hartley pulled that BS move last Sat. Welcome to the Brian Burke mind-set. Little success and lots of penalty minutes.

  • andyg

    There is nothing wrong with icing the line up you want (both Calgary and Vancouver).

    There is nothing wrong with challenging someone to a fight at a face off and if BOTH agree there is nothing wrong with the ensuing fight.

    There is nothing wrong with extracting retribution on an opponent at the faceoff for a previous cheap shot (whether or not the cheap shot artist wants to fight or not). I wish our tough guys did more of this.

    What was wrong as sending Westgarth out to center ice with seeminly the sole purpose to start a fight right off the get go with an unwilling participant. (This assumes that Westgarth would have tried to start something with the rookie originally slated to take the face off which I suspect would have been the case.)

    Not knowing who Torts would have put on the ice it is clear to me that Westgarth wasn’t out to extract retribution for a previous cheap shot.

    If Westgarth hadn’t started the fight and McGratten or Jones found a WILLING partner I would have had no problem with the fight but Westgarth immediately dropping the gloves on an unwilling participant was wrong.

    I like Hartley but if he gave orders to Westgarth he should be fined. I suspect that may have been the case. If that was the case Hartley was wrong and Westgarth was wrong although being in Westgarths position I don’t see that he had any alternative and suspect he was pumped as well because he finally was able to contribute to a game in the manner his coach wanted.