For the first time in, perhaps, his natural adult life, John Tortorella has a chance to play “good cop.”
It’s not his fault that the Vancouver Canucks have been torturing the psyche of Roberto Luongo, who brought them to within a victory of the Stanley Cup, lost his job, gained his job, appeared on his way to losing it again and then was basically given a promotion to full-fledged, no platooning starter.
Torts is the new guy. And he just wants Roberto Luongo to play.
Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun did a Q&A with Tortorella this week, and the new Canucks coach said the following about Bobby Lou:
"I don’t want to get into specifics, but I have talked to Roberto four times. In fact, I just talked to him yesterday. I’ll tell you, from talking with him he has told me he is working very hard as far as conditioning and getting ready for this season. He knows there is a lot of talk and probably a lot of questions coming his way with how it all unfolded here. I think he’s prepared for that and the bottom line is he told me “I just want to play.”
"I think that is the most important thing, if there is some conflict or you are unhappy about certain things, the bottom line is and he understands it, is that he is playing for his teammates. Those are the most important people. I have done a lot of talking to people who have coached him and know him and there is just tremendous support for what kind of pro he is. You don’t have to be happy about a lot of different things. You can be really happy about this, unhappy about that, as long as you are ready to play. I think he gets that. So I am really excited about where he is mentally."
Clearly, “Big Old Goal” had quite the impact.
Luongo has said that he “divorced” the Canucks in his mind during the Cory Schneider saga, and that’s obviously a difficult bridge to rebuild.
We’ve always thought four factors could make Luongo’s situation with Vancouver work: His relationship with his teammates and (most) fans; the arrival of Tortorella, who had no hand in the years-long goalie debacle; and the fact that, frankly, he knows it’s playing goalie in Vancouver or nowhere else.
Getting Lou’s head back in the game is Tortorella’s most important task. He’s a coach that somewhat relies on a goaltender to bail his teams out.
You know, from time to time.