The Vancouver Canucks have canned head coach John Tortorella, relieving the bench boss of his duties with four years and $8 million remaining on his contract.
Tortorella’s longtime assistant, Mike Sullivan, was also fired. Glen Gulutzan, the team’s second assistant coach, is remaining on staff with goaltending coach Rollie Melanson.
“Today we are making an important change in the direction of our team,” said Trevor Linden, the Canucks’ newly appointed President of Hockey Operations. “On behalf of the entire organization, we extend our thanks to John, Mike and their families for their commitment to the Canucks and wish them the very best.”
Linden held a press conference on Thursday, where he addressed the firing. Prior to that press conference, he spoke with Canucks TV’s Joey Kenward (video above).
“It’s a difficult decision because you’re dealing with people and families and their lives,” Linden said. “It was difficult for me, but at the end of the day, it was a decision I had to make. I felt it was important for this organization to move forward and have a fresh start.”
Earlier this month, on April 8, the Canucks fired general manager and then-President of Hockey Ops Mike Gillis, replacing half of his duties with Linden.
So, Linden will now oversee the hiring of a new GM and a new head coach.
“I’m really encourage with that (GM) process,” Linden said Thursday. “I’ve gotten written permission to speak with a really solid candidate list that I’m excited about. Those interviews will start next week.
“I’ve gotten very little pushback on timing, vis a vis playoffs and that sort of thing.”
The Canucks are selecting sixth overall in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
“We have a lot of important work to accomplish this off-season as we build our management and coaching staff, improve our roster and connect with our fans,” Linden said, in the team’s press release on Canucks.com. “Our General Manager search is well underway and we will begin assessing head coaching candidates immediately.”
In only one season with the Canucks, Tortorella coached the team to a 36-35-11 record and its worst points total (82) since the 1998-99 season.
He also was suspended for six games in January, after he tried to fight Calgary coach Bob Hartley in the Flames’ tunnel in Rogers Arena, after a five-on-five brawl kicked their game against the Canucks.
In his press conference on Thursday, Linden said Tortorella’s Calgary “incident” had nothing to do with his firing.
Tortorella just finished the first year of a five-year, $10-million contract, which he signed last offseason.
In Tortorella’s year-end press conference – held in mid-April – he said he thought the Canucks needed a youthful facelift, and that he felt the team was “stale” when he took over last summer.
“This is a group that’s been together for a long time,” Tortorella said (Burnaby NewsLeader). “It’s stale. It needs youth. It needs a change.
“We’re not in 2011. We have to stop talking about 2011.
“The team needs to be retooled.”
Linden addressed Tortorella’s stale comments on Thursday, in answering The Province reporter Jason Botchford’s queue:
“We talked about that,” the new president said. “I don’t totally agree with everything that he said… He’s referencing the lack of push from the bottom, the lack of players that are pushing our core to be better.
“If you look at other clubs around the league that have re-generated that group and pushed that core to be better, we haven’t done that here.
“John and I talked a lot about that. Certain parts I agree with, certain parts I don’t.”
Linden promised to do his due diligence when he took over from Gillis in early April and, on Wednesday, TSN’s Farhan Lalji reported that Linden wanted to make his decision on Tortorella sooner rather than later, especially as the Canucks gear up an offseason that won’t officially start until the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs conclude in June.
In 14 season as a head coach in the National Hockey League, Tortorella has a 455-367-37-82 record with Vancouver, the New York Rangers, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, in a seven-game final against the upstart Calgary Flames.