Monday, January 07, 2013
Torts “missed” players; other off day’s emotions
John Tortorella would not divulge his frustrations/emotions during the lockout - “It’s not about me” - nor would he bite when asked what he could say to the fans frustrated by the NHL’s latest labor stoppage. Nonetheless, he made it very clear he was happy the league and the NHLPA have reached a tentative deal.
“Well, we’re not back, we certainly haven’t touched the players,” Tortorella said of the coaching staff. “It’s good we’re getting closer.
“I always felt there was going to be a season,” he added. “The coaches were prepared, we had conversations. When they come out the other day and say, ‘We’re there,’ knowing it was going to be there, it was exciting. This is what we do. This is really the only thing I know how to do. The players wanting to be together, the coaches want to get back with them too. We feel we’re a tight-knit group. Quite honestly, I miss them. I’m anxious to get back with them and get to work.”
Tortorella acknowledged that, of course, there were concerns through the lockout as to how the players were preparing. At the same time, Tortorella leans on the trust and faith he has in his players, built over the past seasons working with this core group. The returning players have certainly informed the newcomers what to expect once training camp opens.
“I feel really good about our group, we always have, even through this, that they’re handling themselves the right way,” Tortorella said.
As for the team’s motivation this season, Tortorella is not convinced that it’s purely that the team reached the Eastern Conference final but lost to the Devils in six games, failing to reach the Cup final for the first time since hoisting the Cup in 1994.
“I’m not sure if it’s that,” Tortorella said. “I think the hunger is that they’re together again and will be a team again. We’ve gone through a few years of trying to cultivate it. The room is good and that’s what they want to get back to. That’s all these guys know is how to compete and what they’re anxious to do. I’m sure they were excited about last year, they made some good steps. But right now they just want to play.”
Tortorella also said the shortened season (most likely 48 games) doesn’t make a good start any more important than in any other season. That said, Tortorella always believes a strong start is crucial.
As to his message to the fans, Tortorella would say this: “We all want the fans to come back. We feel we have some of the greatest fans in the league. As a coach, I’m smack dab in the middle of it. I’m not with management and I’m not with the players. I just waiting to hear go. We have the go. I can tell them our team will be ready and we’re going to try to start right where we left off last year as far as style of play and how we go about our business.”
Meanwhile, in the dressing room, there was a keen mixture of excitement over the season and frustration over the time already missed.
“Some days I was excited and then it would come crashing down around you,” Brian Boyle said. “It was tough, tough to get out of bed sometimes. You want to play. It’s tough to be told you can’t play, you’re not allowed to play. That was hard.”
Rick Nash said being away from the game - he always lived through the 2004-05 lockout - made him appreciate the game more.
“For sure, it definitely does,” Nash said. “We’re lucky to be doing the thing we love as a job. When it’s taken away from you, it’s devastating. It definitely makes you realize how lucky you are.”
Captain Ryan Callahan said he gets that fans are likely to be upset and that bitterness might be directed at the players.
“Obviously, some fans are upset and rightfully so, they have reason to be,” Callahan said. “Our job now is go out back on the ice and bring the product back and, hopefully, they support us. It’s understandable they’re upset. We’re upset too. We didn’t want to lose this much of the season. At this point, now, there’s no looking back. We have got to build from here.”
Callahan added he was an optimist about a deal getting done and, several times, he thought the sides were on the verge of an agreement.
“Then nothing got done,” Callahan said. “You’ve just got to stay focused like something’s going to get done.”