MacLean vs. Tortorella

Senators coach Paul MacLean will face off against Rangers counterpart John Tortorella in the...

Senators coach Paul MacLean will face off against Rangers counterpart John Tortorella in the post-season. (PIERRE-PAUL POULIN/QMI Agency file photo)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:13 AM ET

OTTAWA - If reporters were paid the same as players, they’d probably chip in to pick up John Tortorella’s fines.

Like the 20 grand the league demanded from the Rangers coach for comments he made just last Thursday, after a loss to Pittsburgh during which his team’s second-line centre was victim of a dirty hit.

It was just another in a long line of must-see Tortorella interviews that spice up even the best stories.

Even Senators coach Paul MacLean enjoyed the clip.

“I was entertained,” he said Monday.

To recap, Tortorella took shots at Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin then called the Penguins “one of the most arrogant organizations in the league,” adding that “they whine about this all the time and look what happens. They’ll whine about something else, won’t they, starting with their two (blanking) stars?”

Clearly agitated, Crosby responded via the team’s website, expecting Tortorella would apologize for his remarks. Just as clearly, he doesn’t know Tortorella very well.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has a better handle on the guy, saying that kind of post-game rant was part of Tortorella’s “coaching manual.”

So is throwing his players under the bus.

One of the most memorable moments from the Senators-Lightning playoff series in 2006 was Tortorella, then the Tampa coach, running over his goalie, John Grahame — then backing up and running over him again.

“I’m getting tired of the 25% rule,” Tortorella said of Grahame giving up a goal on every four shots. “It’s deflating. We need the occasional save.”

Yes, Tortorella can be short-tempered, sarcastic and nasty. He’ll fight with reporters — his exchanges with Larry Brooks of the New York Post are on high-light packages — as well as scream at and threaten the coach of the opposing team.

In a scrap, MacLean would kick his ass. But how will the Senators rookie coach fare going head-to-head against Tortorella in the opening round of the playoffs?

“I think experience, no matter where it is, it’s a factor,” MacLean said.

Both MacLean and Tortorella should finish in the Top 3 of voting for the Jack Adams Award, because each led his team to a place it wasn’t expected to go. From this angle, MacLean is more deserving of coach of the year honours simply because the Senators had to cover a greater distance.

Tortorella, who guided the Rochester Americans to a Calder Cup championship in 1996, has made it to the playoffs six times in his nine years as an NHL coach.

He won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning, but has also lost in the first round four times, including last year and his first year with the Rangers.

In MacLean’s eight seasons as a bench boss in the minors, he won one championship and missed the playoffs once.

Only twice of seven times was his team eliminated in Round 1.

Meanwhile, MacLean has become hit-and-miss in the interview room. Asked Monday his opinion of what it will take to beat the Rangers, he said: “I think we have to skate.” A slight pause later, he added: “We have to skate.”

Asked for specific concerns he has on the New York team, MacLean was less than enlightening when he mentioned that Marion Gaborik, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist are good players.

If ever the two coaches are holding their media availability at the same time, MacLean will be speaking to a very small scrum.

Now MacLean is probably a little gun shy since the Senators West Coast swing in January, when he told reporters one of the refs had called Erik Karlsson a diver. Ottawa, you’ll remember, was the victim of questionable, costly calls for three games afterward.

Sometimes comments through the media can work in a coach’s favour, influencing a break from an official down the road. Sometimes they can work against him.

Asked Monday how coaches use the media as an effective, message-sending tool, MacLean said he isn’t one of them.

“I’ve never thought of it,” he said.

Yeah, okay.

“We’ve all seen it before,” said Daniel Alfredsson. “If it happens, I don’t think anybody will be surprised. That’s part of the playoffs. If we feel we can get an advantage somehow, we’ll do it. That goes for everybody in the league.

“You saw the final last year ... one goaltender said something about another goaltender and that becomes a huge story. It could work for you and it could work against you. It’s all sportsmanship.”

To pull off an upset over the Rangers, the Senators will need all the help they can get.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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