Canucks cite 'needed fresh start' in firing coach John Tortorella
Team president Trevor Linden says he also has 'a real strong candidate list' for GM's position
VANCOUVER — Saying it was a tough decision and a difficult one, Vancouver Canucks new president of hockey operations Trevor Linden today fired head coach John Tortorella and top assistant Mike Sullivan.
"I have a great deal of respect for John and Mike and what they have accomplished in their coaching careers," Linden said. "They're good people and good coaches and I want to wish them and their families all the best in their future endeavours."
Tortorella and Sullivan lasted just one season with the Canucks. The club badly underachieved and missed the playoffs, finishing 12th of 14 teams in the NHL's Western Conference. The Canucks were 26th on the power play, 28th in team offence and 30th in third-period goals. They finished with 83 points and, with 191 goals, were the lowest scoring team in franchise history over a full season.
Assistant coaches Glen Gulutzan and Darryl Williams, as well as goalie coach Rollie Melanson, are being retained, Linden said.
"Today is about the future and the goal of getting this team back to the Stanley Cup playoffs," Linden continued. "My vision it to bring exciting, winning hockey back to Rogers Arena with the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. I came into this with a rather neutral position but after thoroughly evaluating every facet of the organization, the more I looked at the situation I felt that a change was necessary and a fresh start was needed."
Linden, who has yet to hire a general manager, was asked if he was prepared to hire a coach before he had a new GM in place.
"First of all, I'm encouraged by the managerial search," he responded. "I think I've gotten less pushback on timing. I've got a real strong candidate list and I will be starting the interview process next week so I'm encouraged by that. I can think those two processes can move along together for a certain period of time. Obviously it's important that the manager has a great deal of input on the coaching direction so that would be the ideal situation. Things happen quickly and change quickly."
Linden was also asked whether pressure from a disgruntled fan base hastened or contributed to the decision to jettison Tortorella.
"I think I can separate those two things fairly well," he said. "After talking to numerous people within the organization and understanding and looking at the facts of where this team was this year as a group and as individuals, everyone was disappointed with the results — coaches, fans, players — and I just felt that, given other circumstances that I looked at, it was just the right thing to do moving forward. When a new manager comes in, I want to have the ability to have full flexibility and create a new vision together.
"I think a coach for me is someone who is a career coach and has been experienced at many levels," added Linden. "I think he is a teacher and able to communicate with his players on many levels and understands players need to be communicated with differently for the different type of personalities. I think a coach is someone who has a real distinct style of play and believes that their style of play is the way to success."
Linden would not comment on specific candidates in his GM search. Boston Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning, a one-time Canucks teammate of Linden's, is considered a leading candidate.
"I think it's important that (GM search list) stays somewhat confidential," he explained. "I haven't gotten any pushback on timing from a playoff standpoint."
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