Former coach of the year and Stanley Cup-winner John Tortorella addressed the media in a teleconference this morning for the first time since being fired by the Lightning on Tuesday.
The bullet points: he wanted to coach here next season.
+ He feels the team is not far away from being competitive despite finishing last in the NHL.
+ The team would be unwise not to at least consider assistant coach Mike Sullivan as his replacement.
+ He expects his relationship with general manager Jay Feaster to heal over time after their contentious season, but it will take time.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Why did the coaching change take so long?
I think you’re asking the wrong guy and why I think I was let go. The people that let me go, you need to ask them that. But having said that, when your team finishes 30th in the National Hockey League, obviously it’s a pretty long year and not a great year by any stretch. I think eventually someone is going to have to give some skin here and it’s just part of the business.
In my mind it was inevitable and its part of the business. I understand that.
Did you want to return as coach?
Yes. I have to make my own bed here, too. At the end of the year I talked to (general manager) Jay (Feaster) after the exit interviews and I’m pretty honest about everything that goes around our team and I thought out loud to Jay and had a conversation to him, and maybe there was a different voice that could come into play here. You have such a long year and it's two days after the season. As I got away from it and I talked to my coaching staff, trainers and players, I don’t think that was the right way to go about it. And that is my responsibility. I don’t think the team is far away. I didn’t think the team is far away and I wanted to be part of the solution in trying to get that turned around, but unfortunately a few other people didn’t agree with me, and here we are.
Do you feel there was unfinished business with the Lightning?
It’s difficult. We all know this is part of the business. To me, I already miss the players. That’s what has really bothered me, and finally following a decision (being) announced yesterday, that’s what bothers me the most, because I won’t be with these players. Remember, I’ve been here seven years with the core of this hockey club and I’ve learned a ton from them as far as how you go about your business, about the game, about everything. I’ve been treated very well there, by you, the media, the fans there, and by the organization. the organization has treated me very well there. So when you build it – and that’s the hardest thing for me: we spent six, seven years in what I thought was an absolute comedy show when we started with it – and built it to a viable competitive team, winning a conference, winning some division titles, winning a Stanley Cup, and then you leave it now, you know, that’s difficult. It’s part of you and always will be part of me. There are no bitches with me as far as how I’ve been treated there, by everybody, the fans, the media and the organization. this is all part of the business here. So, I’ll miss that. I’ll miss especially being around the players, because we’ve gone through ups and downs as a group of men for a long time here, but I think, especially with the core, we’ve come to an understanding and I think there is a mutual respect there. there is definitely respect on my part to them.
Should assistant Mike Sullivan be the next coach?
I believe so, yes. I listen to all the people talking about this-coach, that-coach, who’s coming in, who should be there. God, look at ya. Look under your nose. Mike Sullivan is who I think is just a tremendous coach and probably – not probably, is – a better person. There’s no question as far as what he can do for a hockey club. And no one even speaks of him. That boggles my mind.
Do you wish to coach in the NHL again?
Do you believe your firing was mandated by the current owners, new owners or Feaster?
I guess you have to say all three.
Jay Feaster, he has supported me tremendously through the years I’ve been there. I’ve given Jay many management opportunities and some managers would have said, ‘You know what, I’ve had it with you. I’m done with this.’ He stuck through it with me and believed in what we were trying to do and I think it’s a great lesson. You go through the ups and downs of building a team ….
Jay did a great job in our organization as far as bringing some stability to it.
Will you lobby for your next job?
I don’t know how to go out there and push yourself onto peopleI’m not too interested in just sitting around and just collecting a paycheck. I want to work. But I don’t know how it all works.
-- BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer