Groz: Why the 1st Seattle Kraken coach should be the fiery John Tortorella
I will be the first to admit it – I didn’t know all the details of John Tortorella’s coaching history when I first suggested he was my favorite to be the first Seattle Kraken head coach. But after doing more research, I have found that I’m even more convinced he is the man for the job.
The obvious reason: He is a winner. A Stanley Cup in Tampa, two-time NHL Coach of the Year, and the winningest American-born coach in NHL history with more then 670 wins.
Not everybody was pleased when I said on Twitter that Tortorella is my preference to be the Seattle Kraken coach. He’s not the most well-liked person around the NHL.
Mainly, that’s because he has a well-deserved reputation. He’s cranky, having criticized his own players he had gotten into scrapes with, though most of this happened earlier in his coaching career. He is also known for feuding with the media, especially in New York when he was Rangers head coach, which hardly makes him unique.
Tortorella is understandably held in low esteem by the Vancouver Canucks fan base for his one season coaching the team in 2013, mainly because of his decision to not start veteran goalie Roberto Luongo in the Heritage Classic. Luongo flipped out and was traded two days later.
As far as his players, the major incident involved him standing up for them. In between periods in Calgary, he tried to get into the Flames locker room and get at coach Bob Hartley (watch video of the scuffle here). Tortorella accused him of starting a lineup with intent to injure a star Canucks player. Tortorella had to be restrained by several players and coaches, and the league suspended him for 15 days without pay.
Tortorella coached the Tampa Bay Lightning to a championship in 2003-04, giving him the same number of Stanley Cup victories as the Rangers and Canucks franchises combined over the last 50 years.
During his last gig with the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he became the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, the only “trouble” I could find were a couple of fines – one for $20,000 for criticizing officials who messed up the timing in an overtime loss, and another for $25,000 for leaving a media session after just two questions following Columbus’ exit from the 2020 playoffs.
It seems that, for the most part, what he did in Columbus was appreciated. Here’s an excerpt from an April article on The Cannon, a Blue Jackets SB Nation blog:
“Tortorella has done so much good for this organization in his six years here – he has brought stability, success, and a culture of change and accountability to a team that sorely lacked each of those. He has shown an ability to win with a skilled roster, a less talented roster, and an ability to take a team farther into the playoffs than the organization has ever been before.”
Tortorella and Columbus split last month in what was called a “mutual decision.” Tortorella went 227-166-54 in six seasons with the team.
He’s 62 and is the perfect guy to bring some credibility to the Seattle Kraken. Plus he has a built-in beef with the expansion team’s nearest rival, the Canucks.
For Tortorella, a chance to help build a team from scratch is something he has never done. He brings some heat and talks a little trash. We don’t necessarily mind that in Seattle. “Ain’t that right, Shawn?”