September 05, 2008
If this is John Tortorella's introduction as a studio analyst, count us among his viewership. The former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach curb-stomped his old franchise and its new ownership in a radio interview in Ottawa ("I have zero respect for them.") and in a chat with Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times.
Here's Torts, on Oren Koules and Len Barrie:
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.
Tortorella also blames Barrie for the trade of Dan Boyle, calls the Andrej Meszaros trade "a hell of a deal" for the Ottawa Senators, and questions Mike Smith's abilities as a No. 1 goalie while playing behind as young, underwhelming group of defensemen. He may even be the first person to take a subtle shot at the "Seen Stamkos?" phenomenon: "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."
Tortorella has every right to be bitter, and this sort of rant was expected. But Koules and Barrie have invested roughly $28 million in new (or different) salary into the worst team in hockey last season. They've signed Vincent Lecavalier through 2020, securing his place with the franchise in a way Jay Feaster never did. To think, as Tortorella does, that a team that had 71 points -- and scored only 223 goals despite being heavily focused on the forwards -- doesn't need to be "blown up" is delusional.
The concept of respect in the NHL is complex. There's a basic level of man-to-man honor that Tortorella clearly feels the new ownership lacks. But then there's the respect one earns through achievement on the ice. It's easy to take the shot and label Koules and Barrie as "Oren Cowboy and The Disrespectful Kid" in September. If, by some strange twist of fate, their moves actually turn the Lightning back into contenders in 2008-09, can we expect Tortorella to lavish praise?
Of course not. He's a cowboy, who'll continue to disrespect their efforts until someone takes the mic away from him.