Canucks need ‘good cop’ assistant for ‘bad cop’ Tortorella, says former player of fiery coach
‘No hiding from the issue that he is very hard on guys. Some guys can take it and some guys can’t’
Former New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella walks through a throng of reporters and cameramen to a side door leading outside, where there is a waiting vehicle, upon arrival at the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond on Friday, June 21, 2013. Tortorella is considered close to being announced as the Vancouver Canucks’ new head coach.
Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — If John Tortorella is going to play the bad cop, and there's really no doubt about that, then Brad Lukowich says he's going to need his lead assistant to be the good cop to have success as the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.
Lukowich, a recently retired defenceman who played briefly with the Canucks in 2009-10, spent three seasons in two separate stints of his NHL career playing for Tortorella with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That first stint went well as the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, which was Lukowich's second season with the team. Lukowich said Monday that having Craig Ramsay as associate coach helped players better deal with the combustible Tortorella.
"He (Ramsay) was a great guy for Torts because Torts came so hard at guys and Rammer was so good at backing him up and giving the same message but at a less emotional level," Lukowich said. "He was the arm-around-your-shoulder kind of assistant coach that Torts needed."
Lukowich left Tampa after that Cup win and played with both the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. And when the Cranbrook native returned to the Lightning for the 2007-08 season something had changed. Tortorella was still there, but Ramsay was not.
"He had Mike Sullivan, who was a different guy," Lukowich said. "He was a lot like Torts. It was kind of like beating the same drum. You'd hear it from Torts and then you'd hear it from the next guy in pretty much the same way. If you made a bad play you heard about it a couple of times the same way, with the same delivery.
"So I'm not sure the message got across quite as clearly as it did the first time. With Rammer and Torts, they were a great one-two punch. Going to Vancouver he is going to need the same thing, he is going to need a guy that can come in and settle down the crew when it's needed."
Lukowich, who was hired Monday as an assistant coach with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes, said playing for Tortorella will be a huge adjustment for Canucks players used to the more easygoing Alain Vigneault.
"Coach V was great, but he was much more reserved, almost quiet," Lukowich said. "In the room he was a very quiet guy, his teachings were really short. Torts is a tough coach, is very thorough, and he demands a lot from you.
"Personally, I thought he was a great coach. When I first went to Tampa the first two years he was pushing you every day to be your best. He brings a different player out of a lot of different guys, but you've got to be able to take what he's throwing at you. He makes you tougher mentally, he makes you tougher physically, but there is no hiding from the issue that he is very hard on guys. Some guys can take it and some guys can't."
Sullivan remained on Tortorella's staff in his four-year stint with the Rangers, so it will be interesting to see if he is brought to Vancouver. Ramsay is currently an assistant with the Florida Panthers.
Lukowich thinks Tortorella can succeed with the Canucks, who have called a 1 p.m. news conference on Tuesday to announce his signing.
"It's a different dynamic having a guy like that as a head coach," he said. "But if they can get everyone to rally behind the guy, they're going to be a tough team …I think he is going to be a good fit. He is the kind of guy who can take the distractions out of the dressing room and put the best product out onto the ice."
Doug MacLean isn't so sure about that. MacLean, a Sportsnet analyst and former NHL head coach and general manager, said he was shocked by news that the Canucks had settled on Tortorella.
"I was caught off guard by it, to be quite honest," MacLean said. "I don't even know Tortorella. I don't wish him bad luck, I don't wish the Canucks bad luck. I was just shocked by it, that's all."
MacLean said it's become clear that the main reason Tortorella got fired in New York was because "the veterans didn't buy into the system that he was trying to employ."
"To me, I see the Canucks as a veteran group and I look at the personnel there and I don't see it as a great fit."
ICE CHIPS: Defenceman Chris Tanev has hired agent Ross Gurney to negotiate a contract with the Canucks. Tanev, a restricted free agent, had previously been represented by his father, Mike. Gurney and Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman had preliminary talks on Monday.
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