In a league with a plethora of colourful coaching personalities, John Tortorella arguably takes the cake as the most notorious. The man affectionately known as “Torts” owns quite a reputable coaching resume, but with some unique caveats. On almost a monthly basis, Tortorella makes headlines. Whether it’s for benching one of his team’s superstars or for attempting to storm into an opposing team’s locker room, Tortorella draws the ire of the hockey world more often than any other coach. But despite what many may think, Tortorella makes a perfect fit for the Seattle Kraken and should be in serious consideration to be the franchise’s first head coach.
Tortorella a Perfect Fit for Seattle Kraken Coaching Job
Sure, he’s “old-school”. Sure, he’s a bit of a “loose cannon”. And sure, he’s kinda crazy. But that just might be exactly what a group of guys scraped together in this summer’s expansion draft needs.
Kraken Can Target One of the Best in League History
In 1383 career games coached at the NHL level, Torts sports a record of 673-541-37-132. In 2003-04, he won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and took home the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach to boot. He won the Jack Adams Award again just a few seasons ago with the Columbus Blue Jackets, too. That second victory makes him the first coach since Jacques Lemaire to win the Jack Adams in separate decades. (Tortorella’s two wins fall further apart than Lemaire’s do, too.) His 673 wins place him 12th in league coaching history, 11 wins shy of the great Pat Quinn.
So, on paper at least, his ability remains undeniable. On paper, the Seattle Kraken should see a fit with Tortorella.
It’s his personality, though, that rubs many fans (and some players) the wrong way. Earlier this month, the Blue Jackets announced they would be parting ways with Torts after six seasons. He departs the city as the winningest coach in their history, sporting a 176-118-27 record. For a city with largely undecorated hockey history, Tortorella is the only coach to ever take the team to the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and the 31 playoff games he spent behind their bench dwarfs the totals of any other coach in their history (Todd Richards sits second, with just six playoff games coached).
The Sideshow that is John Tortorella
That being said, his stint in Columbus had its fair share of controversy. Just this past season, he benched star center Pierre-Luc Dubois on numerous occasions prior to the trade that sent Dubois to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. To be fair, Dubois requested a trade prior to all of this. Tortorella defended his decision too, stating, “If you play the proper way, you’re going to get out there.”
Then, once Laine arrived, he too wound up in Tortorella’s doghouse. Laine experienced getting benched in Columbus just like Dubois before him, due to lacklustre play and potentially some off-ice happenings. Not everything came out to the public, and rightfully so. But Tortorella sits squarely under the hockey microscope because of how he acts and speaks. And, of course, the hockey world constantly feels the need to share its opinions on all of his decisions.
Tortorella, in multiple instances over the last 30 years, has walked out of media sessions when upset. He challenges reporters and won’t hesitate to answer a dumb question (which he decides himself, of course) with a dumb answer. On the bench, it’s easy to read the obscenities as they escape Torts’ lips, whether directed at players, officials, or the opposing team. If this is news to you, please spend six minutes watching this highlight video.
The Motivator that is John Tortorella
Now, all of those moments that fans view as outlandish, over-the-top, or even downright unnecessary can be viewed in a completely different light, too. Torts doesn’t choose to act or speak the way he does to gain fans or stardom; he does it to motivate his team.
The expletives and energy looks one way from home but feels quite different to the players on his bench. They see a man who cares, who gets as fired up for the sport as they do. His message, across every team he’s coached, has been “buy into my system, and I believe this team can beat anyone in the league”. And when you’ve got a Stanley Cup ring and nearly 700 career victories, that’s a hard message for players to ignore.
In 2019, Tortorella’s Blue Jackets matched up against the President’s Trophy-winning Lightning in Round 1. After the first period, Columbus trailed 3-0. Enter John Tortorella, and one of the greatest mid-game coaching pep talks that, for all our benefits, was captured on video. Columbus rallied to win that game 4-3 and went on to sweep the Bolts for their franchise’s first playoff series victory.
Tortorella Maybe a Better Option than even Gerard Gallant
The Kraken, like the Vegas Golden Knights before them, will be piecemealed together via an expansion draft this summer. That means the vast majority of its roster will be made up of players plucked off other team’s rosters. Many of these players will likely be disgruntled with their former team’s decision to leave them unprotected. That certainly was the case in Vegas.
Many believe Vegas’ original coach Gerard Gallant to be in contention for the vacancy in Seattle, given the success he built there taking the Knights to the Cup Final in their inaugural season. However, Gallant lost his job midseason just two years later, marking the third time in his career he’s been fired midway through his third season as a head coach with an NHL team. From the outside looking in, both his Vegas and Florida Panthers firings seemed extremely abrupt. Both firings came when the team’s record sat above the .500 mark. Neither had immediate contingency plans going forward without Gallant. One can only speculate whether more was going on in both instances.
Seattle Kraken and Tortorella Fit Together Perfectly
What better coach to motivate a group of misfits than John Tortorella?
Speaking of Tortorella in an interview this last season, Cam Atkinson summarized him best: “Torts expects us to play as hard as we can. It doesn’t matter who you are, and I think everyone knows that. If you’re not giving 100 percent and looking like you’re trying, he’s going to sit you. It’s no secret. That goes for everybody, myself included. I’ve been that guy plenty of times. He just wants the guys that are gonna work. It’s not always going to be pretty. You might be playing with a lot of different [linemates]. But for the most part, if we play the right way and stick to our concepts of playing north and forechecking hard, it doesn’t matter who you play with.”
And in Seattle, that message would undoubtedly be even more true. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing with, where you played before, or why you were available for expansion. What matters is that everyone pulls the rope in the same direction, gives 100% effort, and buys into the system.
Give me Tortorella any day to send that message.