Like, I really have to write about this? Well, okay.
John Tortorella, blah blah. Alain Vigneault, blah blah. As much as tonight’s game really doesn’t matter – Vancouver won’t make the playoffs, New York will, and that won’t change – it still kind of does. Last summer, the teams swapped coaches. You won’t see that move in anything but hockey, where GMs actually often think, “Say, if we only had THAT guy, maybe it will change the years of internal dysfunction I myself have inflicted on this team and this poor city.”
I’ll put out there the thoughts I have had, and still do: John Tortorella is a fine hockey coach and he’s passionate about his players. I like the guy, and he’s had a bum deal this season in Vancouver. His critics forget that his predecessor – oh, Ho Hum, the guy who rides into town tonight on a blueshirted bronco from Broadway – missed the playoffs in his second season here, too, and only made the first one because his goalie decided to have the greatest individual season any Canucks ever has.
My other thought, about the other guy: Alain Vigneault is a fantastic general, a strategic mastermind who just quite simply can’t coach with a lead or close out a battle. His ideals are too high and he was too excellent and too quiet for too long to be truly appreciated on Canada’s Left Coast, even though he led these Canucks to two Presidents Trophies and a Stanley Cup Final, and watched over a squad that featured the team’s first-ever Hart Trophy winner and two consecutive Art Ross Trophy winners.
Vigneault’s triumphs, from 2009 to 2012, were clouded by the sentiment that Vancouver’s GM, Mike Gillis, was actually the guy who deserved the credit. And now that Vigneault’s gone, the thought exists that he actually did more than most would have with a lame duck team. Oh, and Mike Gillis sucks! Go figure…
But what right do I have to seriously talk about or analyze a coach?
Coaching is that bitty part of hockey we all have an opinion on, even though none of us have any clue what they’re actually doing behind the bench, never mind in the locker room.
So we pick up on little, possibly insignificant things.
Things like John Tortorella’s attitude, which seems gruff, mean, and sour. Things like Alain Vigneault’s temperament, which always seemed irrelevant and sedated. Things like Ryan Kesler’s hopes and dreams, even though – honestly – nobody gives a damn anymore.
The thought passed through my mind, briefly, in January that the Canucks owed Kesler something, just like they probably owed Roberto Luongo something and once owed Cory Schneider something. Or, that they owed Manny Malhotra something. But, you know what? They don’t. The players always get what they want while the coaches get the tire treads, deserved or not.
And so, what do you do when you feel obligated to comment on something you have no authority on, or – worse – no motivation for?
Well, you will most likely go only one way…
You could do what temptation asks you to, and just break it down to a simple “Vancouver sucks and they got Tortorella, and New York is good and they got Vigneault… so, carry the two, VIGNEAULT IS BETTER THAN TORTORELLA!”
Forgive me, but if I wanted to go through the motions, I’d write for How I Met Your Mother.
Of course, you could also go the other way…
You could swear your allegiance to the Canucks and Tortorella, and you could stand by your boy Eddie Lack. You could honour Alain Vigneault for all the years he served us (and himself). You could remember – and this is a real stretch, I know – that tonight is just a damn game, and the conclusion we’ll draw is as pointless and temporary as the preview we’ve been forced to write and then read.
Remember when Cory Schneider faced Roberto Luongo this year for the first time, when the Devils came to Vancouver? Remember how that seemed like a BIG deal at the time?
Yeah, well, how much does it matter now?
Trust me, Alain Vigneault has moved on. Mike Gillis will have to move on. (Get what I did there?) John Tortorella will either have to live with a plush unemployment or a returning, radically humbled roster in 2015.
So tonight is important, because it either matters a lot or not at all.
But that’s hockey, isn’t it?