With Alain Vigneault heading to New York, the swap of the offseason remains in play.
John Tortorella’s interview with the Vancouver Canucks went over extremely well, and if he is hired this week it will add a rich and twisted storyline to GM Mike Gillis’s next chapter.
As if the trappings accompanying a potential Tortorella hire weren’t already provocative enough, reports Friday the Rangers were preparing to make Vigneault their next head coach added another layer of irresistible nuttiness.
It would be enough to give the producers of HBO’s 24/7 pause. If only the Rangers versus Canucks could be included in the Winter Classic catalogue.
You can’t trade coaches in the NHL, but that’s how this would be viewed and appraised. All year long.
From a selfish point of view, the ridiculousness of it all would be great for business. Not sure how great it would be for the Canucks.
Many have theorized the Tortorella off-ice factor is about the last thing the Canucks need after a season when they jumped lily pads from one crisis to another.
But the one thing Gillis is never going to accomplish with his coaching hire is winning over public opinion.
John Stevens will be framed as too underwhelming. John Tortorella, too overwhelming. Dave Tippett, too defensive. Glen Gulutzan, too WTF?
It goes down steeply from there among the dozen candidates.
There was a time, not so long ago, when none of this would have mattered. Gillis could have hired Tortorella and there would be belief he could make it work.
Not so much now.
There’s significant dread, from fans and media, both local and national, that Tortorella’s combustible approach would devour the franchise with one explosive distraction after another.
You have to know his first Larry Brooks-like moment will get national coverage, let alone the all-Torts-all-the-time discussion which will be going on here.
Could Gillis keep a handle on it? Also, could he convince Tortorella to return to his “safe is death” motto utilized when he reigned over the Tampa Bay Lightning?
Whatever credit Gillis amassed in his first 3-1/2 mostly great years appears to be vanishing.
People tore into the Canucks for losing out on Dallas Eakins, although they were looking for a coach with more experience and Eakins has been a head coach for only two years in the AHL.
In his first few years, Gillis could do little wrong. When management did slip up, it was essentially shrugged off as “champagne problems,” a phrase owner Francesco Aquilini dropped this year which isn’t getting nearly enough play.
So, you have two goalies with a combined $9.3 million cap hit and $4.2 million invested in a seventh defenceman? Champagne problems.
Years ago, when the Canucks were winning playoff series, the small things seemed important, and the Canucks were winning the small things. Vancouver had this “our GM is smarter than your GM” vibe.
But when the Canucks are losing, the mind rooms look like nonsense, and smart becomes pompous. It’s hard to remain likable when you’re both hubristic and getting swept in the playoffs.
Even great moves these days, like the Jason Garrison and Alex Edler signings, get little run.
Too bad, because with Sergei Gonchar, 39, getting two years, $10 million and Mark Streit, 35, asking for $5.5 million a year out of Philly, Alex Edler’s deal is beginning to nudge toward masterpiece status.
Edler, 27, is signed for six years, $30 million, for a $5 million cap hit. Consider the Nashville Predators just re-signed Roman Josi to a seven-year deal for $28 million. Josi was a nice No. 2 defenceman for a non-playoff team this year. But he had the most points he’s ever managed in an NHL season and it was just 18.
There’s always been a premium on players like Edler, defencemen who have proven they legitimately push offence. The premium is rising rapidly and will continue to through free agency. All of this makes Edler more valuable to the Canucks, either on the ice or in a trade.
Now, that’s a fascinating choice. How many people are convinced Gillis will make the right one?
A down slope in the Gillis regime was inevitable and this one can be traced back to the January, 2012, win in Boston. Can’t everything?
Not long after, Cody Hodgson was traded, and replaced by Sami Pahlsson, and the team couldn’t score goals.
Cory Schneider, their best trade asset, was allowed to pass Roberto Luongo on the depth chart, and take over the No. 1 job. After that, the Canucks couldn’t trade Luongo.
It soon became clear Manny Malhotra was never going to be the same, and the Canucks couldn’t find a centre to replace him.
During their coach casting call, the Canucks were portrayed as an indecisive team.
They are expected to announce their hire this week. If they don’t, the criticism will multiply.
But what is viewed now as dragging feet, a couple of years ago would have been seen as thorough.
That’s what happens when you lose a few trades, make a few mistakes and things for a year or so don’t go your way.
The only way to change it is to win some playoff games. And if it’s Tortorella, it better be more playoff games than the Rangers won.