The Ballad of Torts and AV
There's no escaping this storyline for John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault.
Of course, at this point, only Vigneault would want to.
In a hockey tale worthy of the Fritz Peterson-Mike Kekich wife-swapping chapter in Yankee baseball history - actually, the two pitchers traded children and even dogs, as well, back in '72 - Tortorella and Vigneault essentially swapped teams over the summer.
Both had to be fired first (but then again, in essence so did Peterson and Kekich). Then Tortorella took over the Vancouver Canucks squad that Vigneault seemingly could coax no more from, while Vigneault grabbed the reins of the Rangers after enough whiffs of discontent with Tortorella wafted out of the dressing room that GM Glen Sather pretty much had to fire him.
Tortorella now had Roberto Luongo to turn to instead of Henrik Lundqvist. Vigneault could lean upon Ryan Callahan as his captain rather than Henrik Sedin. Tortorella inherited the mountains, Vigneault got Fifth Avenue.
Well, so far Torts is enjoying his new domestic situation on the Lower Mainland more than AV is loving Broadway (Peterson, by the way, is still with the original Mrs. Kekich, while Kekich's end of the bargain only lasted a few years. There's been talk of a Matt Damon-Ben Affleck movie in the works).
The Canucks, returning home Monday after an excellent road trip, knocked off Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals 3-2 and are a solid third in the Western Conference with a 9-4-1 record out of the gate.
The Luongo-Cory Schneider soap opera is a thing of the past, and Tortorella is leaning on an old trick from his days in Tampa Bay to get the Canucks going.
Then, it was playing the heck out of Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards. By Tortorella's final year with the Bolts, Richards was gone but Tortorella was playing Lecavalier and St. Louis more than 24 minutes per game each.
Now, getting all that ice time in Vancouver are the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler. All three are averaging 22 minutes per game, with only Sidney Crosby playing more per night among all NHL forwards than the three Canucks.
Henrik Sedin is third in league scoring, Daniel is 11th and Kesler has eight goals in 14 games.
Against the Caps, Tortorella played all three more than 23 minutes, with Kesler leading the way with 23:53. Those totals were actually down a bit from the previous three games. It helps that after splitting up the twins earlier in the season, they're playing together with Kesler alongside for the better part of the last eight games.
Tortorella doesn't have to mix and match to keep the trio happy. He just keeps sending them over the boards together.
In sharp contrast to the happiness with the Canucks would be the misery of the Rangers, second last in the Eastern Conference ahead of only woeful Buffalo.
The record comes with a bit of asterisk because the Blueshirts had to play their first nine games on the road as the final touches were being put on the spectacularly refurbished Madison Square Garden.
They finally got to play a home game on Monday against Montreal and are still looking for their first home-ice goal of the season after being shut out by Peter Budaj in a 2-0 Habs triumph.
This was the New York State team that needed Tomas Vanek. Or Matt Moulson, for that matter.
Under Tortorella, the Rangers struggled at times to score. Under Vigneault so far, it's been an offensive nightmare, with the Rangers having scored only 15 goals in 10 games for a league worst 1.50 goals-per-game average.
Rick Nash is out with a brain injury, which just makes it worse. Ryan Callahan is also injured. Chris Kreider hasn't turned out to be the young sensation people thought he would be when he burst on to the playoff scene two springs ago, Derek Stepan has followed up on his training camp holdout with no goals and a minus-8 rating and while Richards avoided a summertime compliance buyout and has five goals, he still isn't the Richards the Rangers thought they were getting.
Tonight, the Rangers head up the Long Island Expressway to face Vanek and the Islanders. Let's just say the heat is on the Manhattan squad.
Under Vigneault, the Rangers look the same, but the results are worse.
Under Tortorella, the Canucks look a little different. Less complaining, fewer half-gainers.
"Our team is not going to dive," Tortorella told NHL.com last week in what could have been interpreted as a shot at Vigneault. "Our team has already been talked to. We're not going to dive. I don't think there is much whining going on either."
The Vancouver results so far are about the same, but better than many believed they would be.
In a nutshell, that's the swap so far.