VANCOUVER, Canada — Anyone who saw John Tortorella's testy, 20-second news conferences when he coached the New York Rangers might have been shocked Monday when he conducted a cordial 20-minute session before the Canucks' morning skate at Rogers Arena.
Tortorella scored a few mild jabs when asked about the lineup — a subject he has established as a no-go — but he was personable and thoughtful, as he has been since he was hired to coach the Canucks last summer.
It's a deliberate difference from his rudeness in New York. Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis discussed Tortorella's past behavior while interviewing him for the job but saw someone who wanted to reform.
"I thought he was completely sincere in his feeling about those events and it got out of control and he didn't want to be known or recognized as that kind of a coach," Gillis said recently. "And he was committed to not being that way and doing things differently, and so far he has."
Vancouver forward Alex Burrows said all he previously knew of Tortorella came from TV highlights of Tortorella's rants. "You'd see those clips and you'd think that's him. He's a completely different guy on that," Burrows said Monday.
"He's a really smart hockey coach. He really knows how to motivate our guys. He's brought a system in place and he's a good teacher, too. He takes his time to teach guys how he wants us to play.
"There's no gray areas. If it's white, it's white. If it's black, it's black and you know where he stands and what he means and what it's all about. That's all you can ask for as a player. He's pretty fair."
The Canucks have had difficulty scoring but Tortorella has been encouraging, not scathing. "You can't beat yourself up about it because then it will turn the wrong way," he said.
"I think we're playing the system well. I think we're playing well. We can't get the goals regularly but we can't step away and forget about our team concept. We need to be even stronger there."
The Canucks aren't among the top eight in the West, and historically it has been difficult for teams to erase even small early-season deficits. "Come March we'll see where we're at," Tortorella said. "If we're not there you'll be kicking the hell out of me. And if we're there we'll keep on trying to find our way."
Roy making case for coach of the year
The Colorado Avalanche's 6-0 start could be considered a honeymoon period for new Coach Patrick Roy. So could the team's roll to 12-1 and 14-2.
But the Avalanche has continued to excel after encountering its first adversity. Tested by consecutive losses to Carolina, St. Louis and Florida, Colorado responded with wins over Chicago, Phoenix and the Kings, an impressive streak. Roy called the 1-0 overtime victory Saturday at Los Angeles his team's best performance this season.
"Right now it's going well. We're playing with confidence," he said. "The win against Chicago was a big win for us. It's a big turnaround. . . . Even in that losing streak I said to the players I was proud of them, the way that we start the season, the way we came to camp and on and on."
The Avalanche shares the league lead in wins, with 17, and is 3-0 in overtime. No surprise there: Roy played goal during the Montreal Canadiens' 10 straight overtime victories in their last Stanley Cup run, with the Kings their final victim.
"I hope I brought that from '93," he said.
The Tampa Bay Lightning won its first two games after losing standout center Steven Stamkos to a broken right tibia on Nov. 11 but lost its next four, scoring only six goals in that span.
"It's a big hole to fill. Without him we're not as explosive a team," General Manager Steve Yzerman said. "But we want to play the same style, the same way. No more defensively — as defensively. We were playing pretty good in our own zone, playing pretty responsibly.
"Your mind-set changes a little bit. Instead of worrying about scoring goals, let's worry about keeping them out and we'll score. I trust that we'll score enough."
Yzerman is also executive director of Canada's Olympic hockey team, and he met with other Team Canada executives last week in Toronto. Did they decide that anyone had played himself out of contention?
"Not that I would tell you," he said.
OK, then. Has anyone played his way into contention? "A few," he said, declining to identify them. "Basically, we just pared our list down a little bit. It's more of forming a team now." The group will meet again early next month.
Congratulations to St. Louis Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock, who recorded his 621st victory last week and moved into eighth place in career wins. . . . Washington's Martin Erat has asked to be traded. Acquired from Nashville to be a top-six forward, he never produced enough to keep top-six minutes. He has a no-move clause but told the Washington Post he gave the Capitals a list of places he'd be willing to go.