Monday, April 7, 2014

Weekend wrap: Gillis vs. Tortorella gets ugly. Sort of. Not really.

Each Monday, we’ll wrap up three of the biggest stories from the weekend and discuss how they’ll play into the coming week.

Tort Liability

Here’s a quick summary of the last 12 months in Vancouver: a first-round sweep at the hands of the Sharks; a coach firing; the trade of their star goaltender; a reasonably decent start to the regular season; a terrible second half; injuries aplenty; one ridiculous brawl; the trade of their other star goaltender; a trade request by one of their best players (which went unfulfilled); and, any day now, officially missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.

So, after all that, how do they close out the show’s final act? Well, could I interest you in a good old-fashioned passive-aggressive battle between the coach and GM? That’s what played out this week, as general manager Mike Gillis and coach John Tortorella took turns firing shots at each other. Sort of. Maybe. If they did, they were actually kind of polite about it. This is how turf wars play out in Canada, after all.

Gillis took the first swing Thursday, when he told a Vancouver radio station that he didn’t like the style the team played. That was widely interpreted as a dig at Tortorella’s defense-first approach, an impression that wasn’t helped when Gillis replied to a question about Tortorella’s job security by saying that “everyone’s open for evaluation.”

Tortorella got a chance to respond the next day, and for the most part he took the high road, telling reporters that he and Gillis had a “fantastic” relationship and were on the same page. But he also attributed some of the Canucks’ woes to a lack of depth in the lineup, which could be seen as a rebuke of Gillis’s work if you’re the sort who likes to assume the worst from people. (Which, for the purposes of stirring this controversy, we will assume you are.)

The whole thing may be overblown, but there’s little question that both Gillis and Tortorella are on shaky ground, and Canucks ownership will ultimately have to sort this all out once the season ends. It seems unlikely that both will keep their jobs, and if only one stays, then right now the odds are that it’s Gillis.

Oh, the Canucks did play a game last weekend, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. They hosted the Kings on Saturday night, and rode a pair of third-period goals to a 2-1 win. Eddie Lack outdueled Jonathan Quick to snap a personal three-game losing streak, and Brad Richardson scored the winner with under 90 seconds to go.

It wasn’t an especially meaningful game for either team — the Canucks aren’t making the playoffs, and the Kings are locked into third place in the Pacific and have essentially nothing left to play for during the regular season. But a comeback win over a legitimate contender could still provide some small measure of optimism for Vancouver’s brain trust going forward. Whoever that happens to be.

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