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Tortorella enjoys TV, but likes coaching more

by Dan Rosen

"I want to coach. It's the only thing I know how to do."
-- John Tortorella

John Tortorella is having fun and learning more about the NHL working as an in-studio analyst for TSN two or three nights a week, but the former Tampa Bay Lightning coach isn't ready for a career change.

"I want to coach. It's the only thing I know how to do," Tortorella told "This has kept me close to the game. I have really enjoyed this part of it. I wasn't sure how it was going to be, but the people at TSN have been fantastic. I'm having fun with it, but eventually if I get an opportunity - and there are a lot of good coaches out there, so I hope I do get an opportunity - I'd want to get right back in it."

While Tortorella patiently waits for his next opportunity, he's embracing his new role as an analyst.

By watching games on a nightly basis, he's been able to learn more about the Western Conference than he's ever known and he's picking up tendencies and styles from various working coaches that he thinks he'll be able to use once he does get back behind the bench.

"When I coached it was more focused on what we were doing, not so much what the other teams were doing," said Tortorella, who hasn't been in a rink or on skates since May when he was the coach for Team USA at the World Championships. "I'm learning different styles and I watch all different coaches. You sit back and watch all these different things and eventually I think it's going to make me a better coach."

Although he is known for his honest reputation, which he said gets confused in some circles with a perceived abrasive or hard personality, Tortorella isn't looking to make any headlines as an analyst.

"I made sure TSN knew that I wasn't going there to be critical on anybody. I just wanted to be analytical," Tortorella said. "That's how I tried to approach this. This is in-studio work and it gives me an opportunity to shed some light on what a coach is thinking in different situations. I'm certainly not being critical because I have no right being that. I don't know what is going on with the club and I certainly don't want to coach anybody else's team."

Especially his old team.

Given a chance to voice an opinion about the Lightning, who fired Tortorella's successor, Barry Melrose, 16 games into the season, and currently are last in the NHL, Tortorella chose not to pass judgment.

"Because I have been freshly booted out of there a lot of people ask me questions about the organization and I have really tried to divorce myself from that situation," he said. "I still live in the city and I hear a lot of things that go on. Being so close I still have a lot of friends within that team, in the front office and the players, but I'm not going to comment on it. That's their business right now."

He does, however, think the Lightning are headed in the right direction under interim coach Rick Tocchet and associate coach Mike Sullivan, who worked under Tortorella last season.

"I know they are really trying to teach and bring some structure and I think eventually they'll find a way to win some hockey games there," Tortorella said. "As far as all the other stuff going on there, I really have no comment. It's none of my business."

Tortorella also doesn't like talking about his departure from the organization. He was fired June 3 after the Lightning finished last in the NHL last season with 31 wins and 71 points. He won 239 games in six-plus seasons, including the Stanley Cup in 2004.

"You're asking the wrong guy. I'm the guy that got fired," Tortorella said. "You need to ask the people that fired me and maybe they can give you a better answer."

He was known to clash with star center Vinny Lecavalier on occasion, but Tortorella doesn't believe he ever lost control of the dressing room last season.

"No, I don't think I lost the players," he said. "It was a tough year and when you finish 30th in the National Hockey League and you're the head coach of the team, you better be looking that you're going to be gassed out of there and I understand that part of it. I think it was a number of things going on with that organization, but as a head coach you are responsible with that winning a losing."

Tortorella still speaks with Jay Feaster, the general manager at the time he was fired. He said he has the utmost respect for Feaster, who is also out of the League this season after also becoming victim to the Lightning's remarkable overhaul.

"I don't agree with some of the things that happened when I was let go, but that is going to happen between men," Tortorella said. "I think Jay was the main reason why we won the Stanley Cup there, because of the stability he brought. When Vinny and I were trying to find our way together, he could have said, 'I have had enough of this coach,' but he hung in there, believed what we were trying to do with the team and he allowed the stability to take over. I give Jay a lot of credit."

While he's definitely trying to relax in his year away from the bench, Tortorella is hardly a homebody. He travels from Tampa to Toronto, where TSN's studio is located, every Monday and doesn't return home until Thursday or Friday. 

"I go to a great city in Toronto that is nothing but hockey and that has kept me a little fulfilled without coaching," Tortorella said. "It has kept me around the game and understanding the nuances of what is going on around the League."

Three coaches have been fired this season, and two were replaced by out of work coaches like himself, but Tortorella tries not to think about the fate of current coaches around the League.

"I try not to because it's so unfair and it's a lousy way to live, but you have people talking to you and you hear this and that," Tortorella said. "I think there are a lot of good people in this game and we all know it's part of the business. I certainly don't wish anything bad on people because a lot of them are good friends of mine. I am going to try to go about this the right way and if things happen than they are supposed to happen."

Make no mistake, he wants it to happen. Preferably, it happens quickly.

"I really miss the interaction and the problem-solving you get day-to-day as a coach in the National Hockey League," he said. "I'm not in the fire now."

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