KANATA, Ont. — The question wasn’t even finished before Roberto Luongo was spitting out the answer.
“We came out and we scored four goals,” he said laughing, seemingly incredulous someone was still wondering whether John Tortorella’s passionate, controlled rage, on the bench and in the room, could have had any impact on Thursday’s turnaround win.
The Canucks fell behind 1-0 to Ottawa. Luongo had given up another early goal. The lines were a jumbled mess. Jannik Hansen had been chewed out in the most public of ways. And when the team left the ice in for the first intermission they looked as dejected as they have at any point this season.
When they returned to the ice they scored four unanswered goals.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen every game, but sometimes guys need to get a kick in the ass,” Luongo said.
The timing of Tortorella’s “kick in the ass” was great. Not because people think it actually spurred the Canucks on to a win. But because it all happened two days before the Canucks re-connect with former coach Alain Vigneualt.
Saturday’s matinee at Madison Square Garden is the first regular-season showdown spotlighting one of the more bizarre, unofficial trades in Canucks history.
The finger-poking Tortorella came to Vancouver and the hands-off Vigneault went to New York. That’s one heck of an offseason flip.
The contrast may not be as stark as some believe, but comparisons between the two remain delicious.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that, a coaching switch like that,” Luongo said.
“It was for the best.
“Nothing against AV, but we needed change and so far we are really happy with Torts.”
Both coaches have had their struggles with their new teams. Vigneault’s Rangers have just 26 points in 25 games, but they are sitting in a playoff position. The Canucks, with 31 points in 27 games, are out of the playoffs and ninth in the Western Conference, but have played far better than their record indicates.
In Vancouver, Tortorella has not only given his team freshnes,s he’s brought with him a humanity that has far exceeded expectations. He has been fair, honest, patient and verbose and that’s both with his team and the media.
Not that his relationship with the media should matter. But it does and it does to the coach.
“The thing that bothered me the most was that every time my name was spoken it was about media and what’s going on,” Tortorella said. “It wasn’t about the game, not about coaching, not about trying to compete as a hockey club.
“At the end there, that really bothered me. Nothing was talked about what happened there as a hockey club.”
One of the points his players keep making is that Tortorella is a “good teacher.” It’s a fascinating quality to be picked out by these professionals, who, you’d think, have the game mastered by the time they spend years in the NHL.
“He’s a really hands-on type of coach and he is great with systems,” Luongo said. “He does it all while being a very good teacher. This team needed that.
“He’s hard but he’s fair. He’s going to tell you the way it is, whether it’s good or bad and there are times guys need to hear it when it’s bad.”