NOTEBOOK: Lines remain the same,Witt results, Tortorella, and another thing

Okay, back to hockey (mostly)…

 

While the Lighthouse meeting was going on, the Islanders took part in an up-tempo 60-minute practice at Iceworks before boarding their chartered aircraft from Farmingdale to Pittsburgh. The lines have remained the same: Comeau-Bailey-Okposo, Bergenheim-Nielsen-Hunter, Sim-McAmmond-Guerin, Tambellini-Hilbert-Jackman. Scott Gordon was back with the team today after missing yesterday for what the Islanders termed “personal reasons.” There is nothing to read into that.

 

I’m told that Richard Park (ribs) has every intention of returning to the Islanders’ lineup sooner than the four weeks the team projected for him. Would not surprise me.

 

*

 

We received several emails and Comments from readers looking for us to weigh in on the Rangers’ hiring of John Tortorella, presumably so they can too(!). I didn’t have much interest because the Rangers are not my beat. I wrote a few paragraphs about Tom Renney last week because it was relevant to my background as a longtime PR director and relevant to how the NHL teams and personnel handle media relations.

 

Since many of you were not readers during Point Blank’s first incarnation, I’ve dug up a story I wrote about Tortorella when he was part of the Islanders’ interview process. Unlike what I’ve seen written, Tortorella did not tell the Islanders he was taking a year off. He was not offered the position and the two sides ended their discussions amicably. Joel Quenneville did tell the Islanders he was taking a year off and took the Chicago position a week into the season. To coach Kane and company on the rise, no one can blame him for taking that job. Coach Q should have just given the Islanders a more honest excuse.

 

Here’s my story on Tortorella. As you can tell, I think he’ll do a fine job over time for the Blueshirts. And contrary to a lot of opinions, he will get along spectacularly with Larry Brooks.

 

Point Blank 1.0:

August 2, 2008

 

A John Tortorella story: It’s the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Lightning fire a shot before their first round series with the Islanders even begins. Lightning management has boxed the Islanders out of their chosen hotel in Tampa Bay for Games 1 and 2. Sniping on both sides in the media begins, and when the Islanders – a big underdog – earn a split in the two games it looks like the series is going to be a nasty one.

 

When the Lightning arrive on Long Island, they learn that payback is a bitch. Among other things, it’s about 110 degrees in the visiting team locker room at the Coliseum. They also find their room not stocked with many of the usual amenities, like soap.

 

I’m in the Coliseum hallway talking to my PR colleague with the Lightning. A very sweaty John Tortorella approaches. “This (crap) has to stop,” the Tampa Bay head coach says. “Any chance Mike Milbury is around? Can you see if he’ll talk to me so we can settle this like gentlemen”?

 

I go to Mike’s office and tell him Tortorella comes in peace and wants a truce. The Islanders GM is impressed. “Walk him down here.”

 

Tortorella pleads, “This is getting stupid, Mike. You’re a coach at heart, like me. C’mon, for everyone’s sake let’s put this behind us and act like pros.” Tortorella apologizes for any nonsense that went down in Tampa Bay.

 

Milbury apologizes as well, the two shake hands and within minutes the Lightning room is cooled. When I see Mike later he says, “That was impressive. He’s going to be a great coach in this league.”

 

It would be a stretch to call Tortorella’s move genius, just because his Lightning won the next three games to clinch the series and went on to win the Stanley Cup. But I was blown away by the coach’s take-charge attitude. Most coaches in this game would never march into the office of an opposing GM. Time will tell if he and the Islanders are a fit. What I do know is the next team that gets him will be very fortunate.

 

*

 

More than 170 readers have spoken so far, and verdict is split between keeping Brendan Witt an Islander past March 4 and trading him in a package that would include at least a first round pick. Read the story to see the trade scenarios offered and all of the fan reaction.

 

With the one-comment-only rule in the poll, it was nice hearing from so many different people who weren’t shy to join in. May have to do that more often.

 

There is no news on Brendan’s status. Conversations continue, and this could go all the way up to the deadline. I find the poll a fascinating study. I really believe if I posted the Witt poll after the Islanders dropped a few in a row – as opposed to the temporary feel-good vibes of the post-Campoli/Comrie 4-0 win over New Jersey – the results would probably be different. (Okay, I also quoted Brendan earlier yesterday about how much he loves the fans and the Island…that might have had an impact on voting). All you have to do is look at the Comments a few weeks ago to see what I mean. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far.

 

  

Comments. If you missed it, Lighthouse update and reaction below.