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NHL Blueline Review: Coach Smart, Not Hard

We’re just over a tenth of the way through the NHL season, and the Blueline Review is back – and so is John Tortorella! Let’s see if he learned anything during his year off…

“I need to listen. I want the players to speak to the staff, just to find out where they’re at. And we need to do this collectively, the coaching staff and the players (need to be) involved.”

That’s a different Torts than we saw applying boot-to-ass propulsion to the bench in Tampa, New York and Vancouver. He seems a bit calmer, which might be what the not-good but certainly not-THAT-bad Blue Jackets roster needs. Some flowers need sunshine, others need rain.

Coaching is less about being a martinet and more about legitimacy. The day of the coach who told you to “walk it off” and to “get tough, you gotta want it” are gone from the pro level. Greg Schiano tried that crap with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and things got so bad that they resurrected Lovie Smith. What makes successful coaches like Joel Quenneville, Bill Belichick and Phil Jackson respected isn’t because they yell or not, it’s their legitimacy. And in the pro game, that’s player management and x’s and o’s.

The rageaholic Pop Warner coach who makes nine-year-olds destroy their shoulders running Oklahoma Drills might satisfy the parents who want their kid to grow up tough, but going aggro on pro athletes is a disaster waiting to happen if your game plan doesn’t work and doesn’t change if needed. Tortorella will need to make his stay in Columbus about planning first and yelling second.

THREE TO WATCH

Tampa Bay at St. Louis (Tue., 7 CDT, NBCSN, SportsNet1): Both are coming off tough OT losses this weekend, and need to keep pace in their respective divisions. Should be a nice battle of skill.

Pittsburgh at Washington (Wed., 8 EDT, NBCSN): The Pens are already digging themselves quite a hole in the playoff chase, and will need a win against the hated Caps. I’m pulling for a line brawl here.

Detroit at Ottawa (Sat., 7 EDT, TVA Sports [fr], The City [en], Fox-Detroit [en]): This is the back-end of a home-and-home that will start Friday in Detroit. It’s also a possible eight-point weekend between the two teams that could launch one of them into the thick of the Atlantic Division fight with Montreal and Tampa Bay.

THREE TO DODGE

Carolina at NY Islanders (Thu., 7 EDT, Fox-Carolina, MSG+): Thank you, drive through.

Vancouver at Dallas (Thu., 7:30 CDT, SportsNet-Vancouver, Fox-Southwest): The Canucks will play Montreal at home late Tuesday, hop on a plane to Texas, and play another juggernaut of a team less than 48 hours later. This’ll be fun.

Boston at Florida (Fri., 7:30 EDT, NESN, Fox-Florida): There are nine games to pick from on Friday night. Surely you have better taste than this.

GIRLFRIEND QUESTION OF THE WEEK      

Every week, I watch dozens of hockey games with my girlfriend, who is also a big hockey fan. Unlike other girlfriend-viewing situations, her questions tend to be about finer points of tradition, strategy and technique, and not the typical “What’s ‘Offsides’? Is that like it is in football?” type. Here’s this week’s question:

She: “The home teams in the NHL wear the colored jerseys at home, but all the minor leagues and college teams wear white. What gives?”

Answer: It’s about the money, or more specifically: third-jersey money. In the olden days of the Original Six, teams had but one jersey, but changed to the White Road/Color Home format in 1955. In 1970, after the league had grown to 14 teams, they adopted the White Home/Color Road setup – a format that was reflected in the minor leagues and in college, not to mention also in place in basketball and baseball.

As third jerseys became commonplace in the mid-90s – not only in hockey, but in all sports – a new revenue stream opened up as fans wanted to snap up the (sometimes) cool new additions to their team’s fashion line. Nearly all of these third jerseys, however, had color schemes other than white – which necessitated visiting teams to wear their own then-home whites on the road on these special days. To facilitate this, the NHL made the switch back to White Road/Color Home format in 2003, meaning that Ottawa just needs to pack the road whites on a week-long trip to the West Coast and not worry about the nights that Anaheim busts out the throwbacks or thirds.

Meanwhile, in the AHL and lower levels of hockey, where third jersey sales are not a major concern, the “white at home” is intact.

COACH DEATHWATCH

Players get cut, traded and sent to the AHL all the time. If you REALLY want your team to stop sucking, you have to start with firing your coach. Here’s the coaches around the NHL that should get their resumes in order and buy the Rosetta Stone Swedish program. Coaches are placed in descending order of their imperilment.

Todd Richards, Columbus

Claude Julien, Boston

Patrick Roy, Colorado

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim

Dave Tippett, Arizona

Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles

Bob Hartley, Calgary

Mike Babcock, Toronto

Todd Richards walks the plank, and now the Blue Jackets will get yelled at by new coach John Tortorella all the way to a 21-54-7 record. But Columbus did get their first win before Montreal got their first loss, so that will settle that little bar bet for you.

Julien is still under the gun, but he’s joined on the chopping block by Patrick Roy. I don’t care if people think that Avs GM Joe Sakic doesn’t have the guts to fire a fellow Avs legend: there are consequences for losing to the Jackets, and Sakic might decide better Pat than him.

THE WEEKLY GOAL HORN REVIEW

Click the link! Push the button! Cheer!

The Boston Bruins haven’t been able to play this one often so far this season, but Sully from Rawksbury will definitely jump to this. A heavy cruise ship horn and then right into the EDM classic “Zombie Nation.” WICKED AWESOME. Not too original, but a good, safe choice for a goal.

Grade: B

“YOU HAD TO KNOW THAT WAS GONNA HAPPEN”

For the 30th season in a row, the NHL is trying to cut down on fighting. Instead of simply penalizing players, the NHL Blueline Review believes we should study the CAUSES of hockey violence. Each week, we’ll look at a fight and how it could have been prevented. Increase the Peace!

Last Tuesday, early into the Jackets’ loss to the Islanders, Columbus’ Scott Hartnell was marked for justice by New York defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who held Hartnell comically at arms’ length before taking him down for the win.

This was obviously the last gasp by Todd Richards to try to fire his people up: Hartnell leaves the bench and sets a beeline for Frans Nielsen. Boychuk, however, was there to thwart Richards’ scheme, and setting the tone for the 4-0 defeat that would finish off the doomed coach.

The lesson here: don’t trust your last stand to Scott Hartnell.

HOCKEY FOR VEGAS DEGENRATES

We see how it is; now that the DFS apocalypse has come to pass, you gamblers want to come crawling back to betting on games? Very well: every week, we’ll give you a Tuesday night game to plop money on with our for-entertainment-purposes-only expertise!

Montreal (-130) is on two days of rest and playing at Vancouver, who are winless at home in five games. For a heavy favorite, these are pretty good odds.

Blueline Review season record: 1-1

HOCKEY COURT

Hockey Court is a semi-regular feature of the NHL Blueline Review wherein our crack legal experts critique suspensions and disciplines laid down by NHL VP of Player Safety Stephane Y. Quintal. This week, we look at…

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! Now comes the Bruins’ newest meathead, Zac Rinaldo, to Hockey Court (again) for laying out Flyers forward and NBCSN regular Sean Couturier – his former teammate, no less! I can’t wait to see how the DPS deals with yet another repeat offender. Don’t drop the soap, Zac!

Seriously?!? Quints has a chance to throw the book at both Raffi Torres AND Rinaldo in the same month and fans on it? What kind of the bleeding heart commie thug coddling is this? Surely this has something to do with the recent elections in Canada. JUSTIN TRUDEAU IS SOFT ON GOONS.

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