Torts' retorts have killed his Olympic hopes

John Tortorella's snarky, combative press conferences are ruining his chances of being asked to...

John Tortorella's snarky, combative press conferences are ruining his chances of being asked to coach the U.S. Olympic team in 2014, or says Steve Simmons.

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

NEW YORK - John Tortorella’s image has taken a beating in the Stanley Cup playoffs and if he had any ambition to coach the U.S. Olympic team in 2014, well, he can probably forget about it now.

Tortorella’s very short, snarky, combative press conferences have made for fine television moments — if that kind of thing makes you laugh — but it hardly sets him up to represent his country as a leader in an event where major media responsibilities are just part of the daily interaction of the job.

Tortorella, in fact, might have been the favourite for the job after being an assistant to Ron Wilson in 2010 and considering what he’s done with the New York Rangers — but that certainly has taken a step backwards in the playoffs.

Even though Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma and Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette were eliminated with Tortorella still alive with the Rangers, they now loom as favourites for the position. The betting here is that Bylsma gets the job because the United States Olympic Committee and USA Hockey would want no part of Tortorella’s act.

THIS AND THAT

Brian Burke is the odds-on favourite to be named GM of Team USA again, assuming there is NHL involvement in the 2014 Olympic Games. The question is: Why him? Why not David Poile or Dean Lombardi or Lou Lamoriello or Ray Shero or Paul Holmgren, all of whom have significantly better NHL teams. Another question for the incoming ownership change of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment: Considering the state of the Leafs, is ownership comfortable having a general manager focusing on matters that don’t make their team better? ... Leafs assistant Scott Gordon, coaching Team USA at the world championship, has told people that he isn’t sure if he’s returning to Toronto next season. He hasn’t been told what his status is. Rumblings are that Kingston native Scott Arniel will be in as a Leaf assistant coach and Gordon, and probably Greg Cronin, will be out from Randy Carlyle’s staff ... Should the New York Rangers be eliminated from the playoffs, expect them, along with the San Jose Sharks, the Boston Bruins and the Leafs to be among the leaders in the Rick Nash chase next month. The more teams which fail to meet expectations, the more suitors there will be for the occasionally explosive Nash ... If I’m defenceman Ryan Suter, I don’t re-sign with the Nashville Predators. I test free agency on July 1. The reason: The Predators don’t have the kind of forwards you can win a championship with.

HEAR AND THERE

Now this is odd: Canadian Ryan Dempster ranks first in the National League in earned run average (1.02) and last in wins (none) ... Wonder what Roy Halladay thinks when he sees the Blue Jays in contention at 18-15 and the Phillies seemingly out of contention at 15-18? .... So much for Linsanity: The New York Knicks, in particular Amar’e Stoudemire, want Steve Nash next season. And why not? Come the summer, there may be more bidders on Steve Nash, including the Raptors, than Rick Nash ... The middle name of Braden Holtby’s brand new baby boy is Hunter, which happens to be his mother’s maiden name and his coach’s last name. The baby, though, wasn’t named for Dale Hunter ... Assuming Hunter leaves at the end of the season, which many expect, who winds up coaching the Washington Capitals? Names being kicked around include Paul Maurice, Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley. Word around the Caps is they want a coach with NHL experience ... Are the Calgary Flames waiting for the Rangers to be eliminated to talk coaching with assistant Mike Sullivan? ... According to Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette, Ray Lalonde was pushed out as president of the Alouettes because season-ticket numbers had dropped from 18,000 to just above 14,000 and sponsorship figures had dipped significantly. Seems the model CFL franchise isn’t so much the model these days.

SCENE AND HEARD

The top of the Blue Jays rotation is as impressive as anyone’s in baseball: Hitters are batting .198 against Ricky Romero, .201 against Brandon Morrow and just .227 against Henderson Alvarez. The one early-season weakness of all three: Too many home-run balls relinquished ... Strange, Alex Semin has played seven seasons in Washington and still won’t grant interviews in English, not even through an interpreter ... A playoff discovery: What a fine young three-zone hockey player Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils is. You win with players like him. He was a third-round draft pick in 2008 ... Walked in to a giant Barnes & Noble book store in Manhattan Saturday, where there were 12 large shelves just for sports books. Looked hard but couldn’t find a single hockey book in the bunch ... Don’t know what was more ridiculous: The five game suspension of Cole Hamels for admitting to intentionally hitting rookie Bryce Harper — Jim Leyland is right, it should have been 15 games — or the fact under the Major League agreement Hamels doesn’t lose any salary for his time away from the Phillies. Which begs the question: Why bother? ... Has anybody heard Milos Raonic declare he’s playing for Canada in the Summer Olympics? I haven’t ... Didn’t you smile when Angel Cabrera knocked three in the water on the 17th at Sawgrass and ended up with a nine? I’ve done the same, more than once, on the 18th at Maples of Ballantrae ... One word about my first trip to the new Yankee Stadium: Breathtaking ... Sergei Fedorov, who was a headache for a number of his general managers over the years, is the new GM of CKSA in the KHL.

AND ANOTHER THING

The Sunday essay question: LeBron James has now won three MVP awards in the NBA. Kobe Bryant has won once. Discuss or disgusting ... Can’t remember an NBA first round this unpredictable. Is it the short season or all the injuries? ... Cris Carter confuses trash talk for actual pay for injuries (bounties) in his recent admission about NFL play. The fact a player says, “I’m going to take you out” is part of sports culture, it’s verbal intimidation, but it isn’t something ordered, paid for or planned. The distinction between the two needs to be made ... Someone named Edwin Encarnacion is second in the American League in home runs, second in RBI ... An NHL executive on the state of the Leafs: “They don’t have any Randy Carlyle players. If they want to have success, they’re going to have to go get some.” ... Every time there’s another problem with another Red Sox pitcher — the latest being Josh Beckett, a missed start and a golf game — I can’t help but wonder: How much do these guys miss the wisdom and guidance of John Farrell? ... The Texas Rangers season is only 37 days old and Josh Hamilton, hitting .407, has knocked in 40 runs. That’s crazy ... There are CFL people who don’t like the fact the Argos open their schedule in Edmonton, which puts undo early-season pressure on both teams. The Argos are looking to show something with Ricky Ray at quarterback, playing against his old team. And what if the Eskimos lose at home to their old QB to open the season? How tough is ticket selling after that? .... Do you care that Tim Tebow has changed the name of his dog from Bronco to Bronx, now that he’s playing in New York?... If the Edmonton Oilers are going to fire Tom Renney, shouldn’t they just do it, already, and get it over with? ... Happy Mother’s Day, one and all ... And a happy birthday to P.K. Subban (23), Dennis Rodman (51), Barry Zito (34), Mike Sirotka (41), Dean Meminger (64) and Bobby Valentine (62) ... And hey, whatever became of Mike Eagles?

CUTTING-EDGE PROSE BY AXFORD

There is much to admire about John Axford (left), the remarkable relief pitcher from Port Dover, Ont., but he added to his long list of accomplishments when his streak of 49 straight saves came to an end Friday night against the Chicago Cubs.

Instead of making himself available post-game, Axford left a letter for the press by his locker in the Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse.

It read: “I put my wife into contractions with my performance tonight! So I had to run to the hospital. The streak is over so now you can talk about it. The luck I’ve had in the past didn’t show up tonight! All I can do is begin another streak and keep my head up! Cliche ... cliche ... another cliche. Gotta go! Love, Ax.”

LEAFS ARE FAR, FAR AWAY

The longer the Stanley Cup playoffs proceed, the more it becomes apparent just how far the Maple Leafs are,a not just from making the playoffs, but for competing as a legitimate contender.

Aside from the obvious things like quality goaltending and front-line talent, the Leafs lack the kind of solid, veteran presence found on the remaining teams and the successful teams in the chase for the Cup.

Players like Dainius Zubrus (right) of the New Jersey Devils or Roman Hamrlik of the Washington Capitals aren’t measured by numbers. They just know how to play. They don’t turn the puck over in bad situations. They make teams better.

The middle to bottom of the Leafs roster needs to be upgraded and maybe that will happen, as it has in Washington, strictly by changing coaches.

But it’s hard to succeed without solid veteran presence.

GET USED TO IT, BRENDAN

When Brendan Shanahan (left) misses, as he has on occasion in his first year on the job as NHL disciplinarian, he gets clobbered for doing so in the media and other forums of hockey conversation.

That goes with the job description.

You make decisions. You stand by them. You take the hits for them. But what’s probably unfair is this: When Shanahan makes the right decision, as he did with the difficult one-game suspension of Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, there are few headlines congratulating him for being just.

Outside of Philadelphia and New Jersey, were there many columns written congratulating Shanahan for his strength and consistency on Giroux? This isn’t going to change for Shanahan, it’s just part of the job, a part that’s not necessarily fair.

You get hammered when you’re wrong, or perceived to be wrong and you get silent applause when you’re right.

You need a thick skin and then some to do the job.

 


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