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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Snippy, intolerant Tortorella disrespects NHL fans

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John TORTORELLA behaves like he works for a secret service agency, denying fans of the New York Rangers and the NHL all but a few crumbs of his hockey acumen, and Gary Bettman should put a stop to it.

Tortorella is coach of the biggest hockey team in the league's biggest TV market and with that title comes the responsibility of dealing with the media on a daily basis.

Tortorella, however, has deemed it beneath him and refuses to engage. The media ask questions and he gives short, terse answers before storming out.

Snubbing the collective NHL media, who work for organizations that spend thousands of dollars to follow and cover the league, is bad enough, but Tortorella is also snubbing fans of the game everywhere.

Churlish and rude is one thing. Most reporters are used to the arrogance of coaches like Ron Wilson. But say this about Wilson, he lived up to his responsibilities in Toronto. Tortorella doesn't do the same in New York and if he gets to the final and behaves like this it will be more than an embarrassment for the NHL -- it will be a lost opportunity.

Tortorella has every right to be miffed -- with himself. Dale Hunter has quietly out-coached him to get his seventh-seed Washington Capitals into a Game 7 with the top-seeded Rangers.

Hunter has found a way to get his team to overachieve, while Tortorella shortening his bench too early and jumbling his lines has only dried up the Rangers offence.

If New York manages to get past the Caps on Saturday night they'll have to deal with the rested and rolling New Jersey Devils, and that won't end well for the Blueshirts.

HUNTER'S HUNCHES: Dale Hunter received no respect when appointed Capitals coach at mid-season, but he's done a masterful job of handling his team's bench.

Hunter will likely never be mistaken as a technical genius but as an in-game technician he's been brilliant.

The former Capitals captain and one of the most intense players to ever skate in the NHL has an innate feel for the game and knows which players to go with on a nightly basis.

He may go into a game with a plan, but it quickly goes out the window as his instinct takes over. So far, he's hit all the right notes.

 

Hunter's decision to limit Alex Ovechkin's ice in the playoffs only works if the players he promotes have success, and they have. Hunter has picked the right players to bet on at this time of year. That's good coaching.

SCORING KINGS: Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean had this to say after his team's first-round playoff ouster. "I believe you have to score your way to the Stanley Cup, not defend your way," said MacLean.

Every team that advances to the conference final will have a hot goalie and a core of players buying into team defence. The difference then comes to who can score on the limited number of chances available. The Los Angeles Kings appear to be the best equipped for that task as the Cup chase gets tighter. The Kings have the best top-six group right now with the top line of Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar followed nicely by Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner.

The Kings may have been one of the lowest scoring teams in the regular season but with 27 goals in nine playoff games they're tied with the Devils (36 in 12 games) with the top goals-per-game average among teams left in the playoffs.

The Devils loaded up on poor defensive clubs in Florida and Philadelphia while the Kings have had to grind it out against superior competition in the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues.

THEO'S TAKE: Caught the documentary Theo Fleury: Playing With Fire, on HBO Canada and it certainly is a candid take on Fleury's life. Fleury goes over the well-documented abuse he suffered at the hands of Graham James and the excess and destruction that followed. But the viewpoints expressed by his brother and ex-wife, as well as Bryan Sutter, indicate the hurt Fleury caused during his time in the NHL.

I was left feeling that Fleury is still very angry, and he admits he's "still crazy," during the film. It's a must-watch for Canadian hockey fans.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2012 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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