COLUMBUS – Blue Jackets bench boss John Totorella is one of the higher profile coaches in the NHL, primarily due to his experience and what is often a fiery demeanor. Tortorella recently served as the head coach for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey, and prior to their first preliminary game, Joe Pavelski was named as captain of the squad.
The tournament was a disaster for the Americans, who were quickly eliminated and lost all three games due mainly to a poorly constructed roster. But that certainly didn’t diminish Tortorella’s opinion of the Sharks captain, whom he also coached in the 2010 Olympics as an assistant when Team USA captured a silver medal.
“I’ve had him for a number of years at the international tournaments. He’s such a professional,” Tortorella said. “He’s a guy that does everything really well offensively and defensively. I used him as a sounding board in a number of different situations in the World Cup, although it was a short stay for us.
“But, you can’t do nothing but respect that guy as far as what he’s done in his career and how he handles himself, too. Forget about what he does on the ice, just how he handles himself. In the years that I’ve known him I just have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
Pavelski said he understands the “passion [Tortorella] brings to the group.”
As for being a “sounding board,” Pavelski said: “At times you talk, especially early in those first few games, how you want to play. … It was up to us to execute, and we could have been a little better there.”
Headed into Saturday’s Sharks-Blue Jackets game, Pavelski’s line, with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl, and the Blue Jackets’ top line of Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson will both try to be better.
Dubinsky was a minus-five while his linemates were each a minus-four in a season opening 6-3 loss to Boston.
“It’s plain as day, they were awful,” Tortorella said. “I don’t expect that out of them ever again, they’ve been so good for us. I’m not sure if it’s our top line, [but] it’s one of our lines that defines a little bit of our identity.”
Although the Sharks’ top line didn’t score an even strength goal against the Kings on Wednesday, coach Pete DeBoer was by no means concerned.
“They didn’t score, but that’s not the measure of that line. They always draw the other team’s best players,” DeBoer said. “I thought they still had a positive impact on the game. I think our expectation is if they’re not scoring two or three goals that they’re not having a good game, but I don’t think that was the case. It’s just a matter of time with those guys.”
Pavelski said: "We could have been better. We didn’t have tons of chances, but there weren’t tons of chances out there. ... There’s definitely room for improvement.”