Willes: Canucks GM Mike Gillis didn’t need convincing that John Tortorella was the right coach
The time-space continuum was disrupted last week when the B.C. Lions played a Tuesday night game in Toronto. Hopefully, this will set it back on its proper course: a mid-week edition of the musings and meditations on the world of sports.
*** After some lively discussions with several members of the Canucks’ organization, it’s now apparent that GM Mike Gillis was sold on John Tortorella as the team’s head coach and didn’t need convincing from owner Francesco Aquilini.
John Stevens had been the front-runner until Tortorella became available, but the former New York Rangers’ bench boss changed that in a hurry.
Apologies if anyone was misled.
That said, the other points made in the offending article remain valid. This has been an unsettling offseason for the faithful as the organization has bounced from one drama to another.
It could be that Tortorella is the man to fix what’s been troubling this team. It could be that Roberto Luongo will be focused and committed when he arrives in Vancouver and will supply elite-level goaltending. It could be trading Cory Schneider was the best move for the Canucks. It could be the younger players will invigorate a lineup that looked stale last season. And it could be the Canucks’ veterans are all still in their peak years.
All of those things are possible. But the Canucks need them all to go right next season, and the laws of probability suggest that might be a problem.
Tuesday’s signing of blue-chip rookies Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk raises an interesting question: How many rookies will play for the Canucks next season?
When you look at the Canucks’ depth chart, there’s room for one forward and, maybe, one defenceman. As of this writing, Brendan Gaunce is the most likely fit for the forward spot, either as the third- or fourth-line centre, because he’s bigger and a year further along in his development.
Horvat, of course, could change all that in training camp. Patrice Bergeron, the player he’s been compared to, played his way on to the Bruins as an 18-year-old and never left. Horvat might be that good, but it doesn’t figure he, Gaunce and Shinkaruk will all be with the team at the start of the season.
*** On a related note, the Canucks’ signing of 22-year-old Latvian forward Ronalds Kenins didn’t exactly take the hockey world by storm, but there is an interesting backstory there.
Last season, Kenins played for former Canucks head coach Marc Crawford with Zurich in the Swiss elite league. He wasn’t exactly a scoring machine — 3-14-17 in 45 games — but he impressed Crawford with his mature, two-way game.
As it happens, Crawford’s brother Eric is the Canucks’ director of professional scouting. Older brother recommended Kenins to younger brother. Kenins signed with the Canucks. And now Marc Crawford says he’ll be playing in the NHL in two years.
“He’ll make it,” said the Crow. “I’m convinced of it.”
Crawford compared Kenins to Leo Komarov, the Estonian forward who played with the Leafs last season. Kenins is expected to play in Zurich this season.
*** It didn’t have the zing of David Beckham’s signing, but you wonder if the Seattle Sounders’ signing of Clint Dempsey to a four-year deal might be more important to MLS.
Dempsey is an international whose name is recognizable to soccer fans. More to the point, he’s a homegrown who returned to the States when he was still at his peak.
The development and marketing of its own stars is the last frontier for MLS. The game now has traction in Canada and the U.S. What’s been missing is the star power, that individual player who can draw the casual fan into the game, and Dempsey is that figure.
The league needs more like him. But this was a major coup for MLS.
*** And finally, it’s hard to find anything positive in the Alex Rodriguez/Biogenesis story, but if you look hard enough it might be there.
Any athlete who’s considering using PEDS need only look at Rodriguez to understand there are very real consequences for their actions. Rodriguez, depending on where you sit, is either the punchline to a joke or the object of scorn and derision.
From now on, wherever he goes, he’ll be A-Rod the cheater, A-Rod the liar, A-Rod the disgraced. He could have been remembered as a Hall-of-Famer, one of the greatest ever to play the game he claims to love.
Now, that game and its fans want nothing to do with him. Sure, he’ll have money and that means he’ll have friends. But he won’t have that one thing we all want for ourselves and our children: a good name.
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