Team USA World Cup general manager Dean Lombardi picked John Tortorella as the squad's head coach for four clear and obvious reasons.
1. Tortorella’s track record of success as a Stanley Cup champion and the winningest American born coach in the NHL
Tortorella has an understanding of his players as an NHL coach and Lombardi believed that was a major reason why Tortorella has been successful. “That’s one thing a coach has a feel for that goes well beyond a strategy,” he said.
2. Tortorella admitted his mistakes to Lombardi
Tortorella flamed out of his last NHL head coaching tenure – a one-year stint with Vancouver.
“He freely opened up as far as mistakes he made with players, maybe times with his system as well as the media and that takes a lot when you see a guy with this type of track record to be willing to admit he made mistakes, that does not often happen,” Lombardi said.
3. He loves the United States and USA Hockey
“When you meet with John, there’s an incredible amount of honest passion there,” Lombardi said. “There’s no phony here and sometimes yes, it gets the best of him, but there’s no question in my mind that he is all about those American values.”
4. They’re both Italian and Lombardi jokingly said Tortorella’s lineage goes backto the Roman statesman Cincinnatus – whom Lombardi referenced in his news conference when he was announced as Team USA general manager.
“The bottom line is, how cool is it that you’re playing for your country? Tortorella said. “The way our world is right now, that has to come into play, and it’s just a great honor. “
There were questions about whether Tortorella’s ‘all-or-nothing’ style would jibe with NHL superstars in a preseason tournament. He seemed to take exception to this and some of the criticism around his shot blocking systems as a coach.
“That shot blocking seems to follow me around and kind of takes on a life of its own,” Tortorella said. “To play to win, you need to be playing in all facets of the game. I think if you back off here or have to be careful there, I think that’s when you get injured, because then you have a mindset of giving in a little bit and not playing at full speed or being totally aware of what’s going on on the ice.”
Added Tortorella, “I really can’t go in that room and say, ‘OK let’s back off this area a little bit here because we’re a little worried about what’s coming up in the season. I don’t know how to do it that way and I don’t plan to do it that way.”
Tortorella’s lack of current NHL job is seen as somewhat of and advantage to Team USA. He’s not going to get bogged down with the day-to-day minutiae of an NHL season.
Working for USA Hockey and figuring out the best possible team for the tournament is his sole hockey goal right now.
“I’m already knee-deep into what we’ll touch upon in those 10-11 days. I’m focused on the World Cup and that’s all I’m worried about right now,” Tortorella said. “It’s totally separate from the NHL.”
Also, Lombardi noted that coaches who leave the game and then come back seem to return with a better approach and a fresh mindset. He referenced his own Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings, Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and Bob Hartley of the Calgary Flames as all guys who have taken a step back and returned with a high level of success.
“I wouldn’t want to be out of it too long as a coach,” Lombardi said. “But I think when you are in that pressure-cooker particularly moving to a couple of organizations, the ability to step back, I think is invaluable.”
The World Cup of Hockey is scheduled to begin Sept. 17, 2016 in Toronto. Team USA is in an initial group with the Czech Republic, Canada and Team Europe. The tournament will run through Oct. 1 at the latest. Team USA's last World Cup win was in 1996.
- - - - - - -
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY