Former NHL head coach and now analyst John Tortorella is at it again. Just a few weeks after suggesting Connor McDavid was a complainer and telling him to “shut up” and play, he’s now taking aim at the Trevor Zegras/Sonny Milano goal from a game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 7, 2021.
For those that didn’t see the goal, while standing in front of the Sabres net, Milano called the play “Michigan” which was a signal for Zegras to flip the puck over the net from behind where Milano knocked it out of the air — barely avoiding being called for a high stick — and scoring a goal. It was an incredibly skilled play and perhaps one of the best assists in the history of the NHL.
Somehow, Tortorella has decided, and is standing by his opinion, that it’s a play that isn’t good for the NHL or the game of hockey.
Tortorella Continues To Prove How Out of Touch He Is
A number of fans were taken aback when Tortorella suggested McDavid needed to change his game and simply understand that NHL officials weren’t going to call penalties as they should be called. It was a take that made little to no sense because most would contend it would be better for the game if the NHL simply protected its top stars and made the right calls during both regular season and playoff contests. In his defense, the debate about the rules being changed to serve the better players, or whether or not McDavid doesn’t get the calls he should is a debate that understandably has many falling on both sides.
That said, this take is much less understandable. Amazingly, Tortorella has somehow convinced himself that an unbelievably skilled move that now has millions upon millions of social media views is bad for the NHL. Saying “I’m not so sure this is good for the game”, Tortorella contended he would have likely talked to both Zegras and Milano after the game to express his displeasure in the move.
Tortorella said, “It’s cool. My position is though, is it good for the game? I hear Ray say all the kids are doing it now.” He added, “I’m not trying to be a fool here, I’m just not so sure it’s great for the game.” Tortorella contended that if these players did that back in the late 90s or 2000s, they’d have their head taken off.
When asked if those players were on his team and they did that, what would he do? He responded, “I’d have a talk with the people after the game, I would.” He added, “I think our game has gotten so far away from what our game should be.” Tortorella claimed the game should be hard and honest but the game has gotten too “showman.”
When another panelist said this is good for the game and attracting the type of fans the NHL wants, including the casual fan the NHL needs to grow, Tortorella inexplicably responded that the NHL is losing fans too because of it.
Tortorella Just Doesn’t Get It
This is a comically bad take from Tortorella and that fact that he says “I’m not trying to be a fool here,” is especially hilarious because it’s clear he no longer needs to try. Not only is he showing how out of touch he is, but he’s failing to understand how hard that play actually was and how it doesn’t take away anything that is honest about the game.
Not only that, but could you imagine how that conversation would have gone if he was the coach of the Ducks and told those two players not to ever do that again? He’d lose that room in seconds and he’d lose the respect of one of the game’s up and coming great talents.
Many of the responses to Tortorella on Twitter suggested this was just another old man yelling at a cloud and that’s a pretty good description of how this take comes across. There is absolutely, unequivically nothing about the Milano and Zegras goal that is bad for the game. Having a play break through the NHL-exclusive audience and go mainstream is exactly what the league needs. When a goal becomes conversation among the general public, the NHL benefits. It’s plays like these that have helped the NBA and the NFL gain such big audiences and attract such huge television and sponsorship deals. This would be like arguing Steph Curry taking threes from well beyond the three-point line and continually draining them is a bad look for the NBA. It’s preposterous.
It’s takes like Tortorella’s that prevent the NHL culture — one that clearly needs a revamp — from ever really changing, growing and adapting in positive ways. The old-school mentality that hockey can’t be both tough and physical but also skilled and beautiful is tired. Trying to stifle the creativity of the league’s best is absolutely not the way to go.
Perhaps the most ironic thing is that Tortorella making comments like these and showcasing his lack of understanding of how the game has changed is hurting the NHL much more than plays like the Zegras and Milano one ever will.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”