Tortorella lets fly
Former Lightning coach John Tortorella declined to speak about his time with Tampa Bay or his feelings about the organization in an interview I did with him earlier Thursday; his new gig with TSN as a studio analyst was upper most in his mind. But Torts got revved up during an interview with 1200 The Team sports radio in Ottawa and for the first time weighed in on new Tampa Bay owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie (“I have zero respect for them”), the team’s acquisition of defenseman Andrej Meszaros (“I think it’s a hell of a deal for the Ottawa Senators), the Dan Boyle trade, Vinny Lecavalier and more.
Tortorella, 50, was fired after last season’s last-place finish, ending a seven-season run that included four straight playoff appearances, the 2004 Stanley Cup title and being named the 2004 Jack Adams Trophy winner as the league’s top coach.
“Again, I don’t wish anything bad on the players or anything like that,” Tortorella said. “I just have a tough time understanding some of the thinking going on with the club. I guess when you invest seven years, you want to still see them do well, but I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen there.”
NOTE: This is a longer version of what is in Friday's paper, so it is not all redundant, though there is some overlap.
On the many changes to the Lightning: You got a couple of cowboys in there as owners. You finish 30th in the National Hockey League, I was there for seven years, I know it’s coming as a coach, and it probably should come to a coach if you finish 30th. But how it all goes about and how you treat your people and run your business is very important in this league. I look at the club and how some things have been done and how they treated Danny Boyle and really lying to the kid, and some of the other things that have gone on there, it’s a total different team. Do I think the team needed to be blown up for it to get back to competing? No, I don’t.
There still are some good players there. But new owners come in and they try to reinvent the wheel. I’m anxious to see what happens. I don’t wish anything bad on them. I have a lot of loyalty to the players who are still there and people who work in the office. But as far as the two cowboys that went in there and bought that team, I have zero respect for them.
On the Boyle trade: I knew that was going to happen … during the trading deadline where myself, Jay Feaster and all the administration of that team were locked in the room with owners that were still in the process of trying to buy the team. It turned ugly in there because of some of the thoughts they had, and they still hadn’t even dropped a penny on the club. I sat across from Lennie Barrie and Lennie Barrie started talking to me about Dan Boyle when he played with him seven, eight years ago in Florida, which makes no sense to me because I think after seven or eight years a guy may mature and improve his game. I begged them to sign Danny Boyle. If you’re going to trade Brad Richards at the deadline, which we shouldn’t have done at that point in time, and then let Danny Boyle just go, what do you think Vinny and Marty (St. Louis) are going to think about there the next year starts? They grudgingly decided to sign him but I knew once they signed all these forwards during the summer, during the free agency, (he) was going to go.
On acquiring Meszaros for Filip Kuba, Alex Picard and a No. 1 pick: Meszaros, we all know he’s a good player. He’s a young player. He’s a durable player But is he more than a 35-, 40-point guy? That’s my question. I think Filip Kuba is that and then some, though a little older. But you also have this kid in Picard. … He’s going to be a good player and he has some jam to him also. And who knows where that No. 1 pick falls into play here. I think it’s a hell of a deal for Ottawa .
On Lecavalier: I think he’s at times the best player in the league and at least in the top three or four, and he has matured incredibly. But I think the key for Vinny was a structured environment. When they signed Vinny to that contract and they basically (made) him a partner, I worry is it going to be enough structure there and where it’s going to go in his game. He is such a gifted player and has so many years left, I hope he understands how to handle some of those situations and maybe teach along the way here, not just the players and his teammates but some of the people around him that are running the team.
On Steve Stamkos: There's a guy I have heard so much about and am really anxious to see play. I hope they do it the right way and allow him to grow and put him in the right situations. I'm a firm believer that a player, no matter hat he's touted as and what his potential is, still has to go through the process of becoming a pro in this league. I hope the people around him and Vinny, I think that's one of his main jobs this year, to make him understand what it is to take the steps in being a pro.
On Tampa Bay's defense: To create a competitive hockey team, you have to work from the back end out with your goaltender and your defense. Listen, I like (goalie Mike Smith). I like the way he presents himself. I like his arrogance. But he still hasn't proven himself as a No. 1 goalie in this league. That's why I think it was good they signed (Olaf) Kolzig. Olie is getting older but he competes, but we still have question marks about Smith as a No. 1. And then you put a young blue line in front of him where maybe as you go along the way and you're trying to develop as a No. 1, pucks are going to go in your net, and then your confidence goes as far as your defensemen. I'm not making any excuses. We lived with that for the past two or three years. ... When you have some youth there who are going to be good players, it's a dangerous situation. You're not going to win hockey games from the forward. You need to start from the back end out.