Tortorella era all set to start in Vancouver
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)
Like it or not, there is a new culture in Vancouver.
Whether the new atmosphere surrounding the Canucks leads the franchise to its long-awaited first Stanley Cup championship remains to be seen.
But coach John Tortorella is sure going to try.
Following five division championships, two Presidents trophies, for the league's most points, and a Stanley Cup finals appearance in seven years under Alain Vigneault, Vancouver brass determined the Canucks needed a tougher voice. So Vigneault, the franchise leader in wins, was fired May 22 and replaced by John Tortorella, himself fired by the New York Rangers May 29.
Tortorella comes with an edge - he can be hard on the media, and often calls out his players in press conferences - but he wins, and that's what Vancouver needs. He won a Stanley Cup in 2004 behind Tampa Bay's bench, and took the Rangers to the Eastern Conference finals in 2012.
The Canucks have more talent than most teams in the West, but something always seems to hold them back. They have not made much postseason noise since they blew a 3-2 lead in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals vs. Boston.
Here are five things to watch with the new-look Canucks:
SUPER STAFF: Tortorella is 410-340-37-64 in 854 regular-season games with Tampa Bay and New York. And when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, he was given the Jack Adams award as the league's top coach. Tortorella hired Mike Sullivan, his top assistant in New York, and former Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan to be on his Vancouver bench.
QUESTIONS IN GOAL: The marriage between Roberto Luongo and the Canucks has not been a fairy tale. But they are stuck with each other. Gillis tried to trade the veteran goaltender at the deadline last season - and again at NHL draft this summer - but couldn't pull it off. Instead, he dealt backup Cory Schneider to New Jersey. But maybe this will all help. Perhaps Luongo, who signed a 12-year, $64 million extension in 2009, will find a groove, knowing Schneider is not looking over his shoulder.
TWIN TOIL: Throughout his coaching career, Tortorella has allocated a large amount of ice time to his best players. He has promised that will not change in Toronto, as he has already announced that the Canucks' top two players, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, will have penalty killing added to their workload. Last season, Henrik Sedin averaged nine seconds of penalty-kill time per game, while Daniel Sedin averaged four seconds.
RYAN'S READY: Center Ryan Kesler has been hampered by injuries, and posted just four goals in 17 games last season. But he's ready to go this season, and he worked with Tortorella on Team USA in the 2010 Olympics. In 2010-11, when Vancouver won the Western Conference, he scored 41 goals.
TALKING TOUGH: Tortorella has preached toughness, and expects that wish to be pushed by Zack Kassian and Dale Weise. Kassian had 11 points and 51 penalty minutes in 39 games last season. Weise, who briefly played for Tortorella in New York in 2010-11, had six points and 43 penalty minutes in 40 games last year.