The NHL suspended Vancouver coach John Tortorella for 15 days without pay Monday night for his part in a chaotic meeting with Calgary.
The former Sabres assistant and Rochester head coach confronted the Flames at their dressing room during the first intermission Saturday. He was incensed after Calgary coach Bob Hartley loaded the starting lineup with tough guys, which resulted in a 10-player brawl as soon as the puck dropped.
“Mr. Tortorella’s actions in attempting to enter the Calgary Flames’ locker room after the first period were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the league,” said Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations. “Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high, and Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game.”
Tortorella, who will miss six games, is not allowed to have any interaction with the Canucks prior to, during or after the games. While working for the Sabres in 1995, Tortorella was suspended for three games for an altercation with a fan.
The NHL fined Hartley $25,000.
“We are holding Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of Flames right wing Kevin Westgarth, who took the game’s opening faceoff and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent – the Canucks’ Kevin Bieksa,” Campbell said.
After seeing the lineup of the visiting Flames, Tortorella started his tough guys.
“It’s easy for people to say put the Sedins out there and it’s deflated,” Tortorella said Saturday, referring to star players Daniel and Henrik Sedin. “I can’t put our players at risk that way. With the lineup he had, I am not going to put those type of players at risk, and that’s what ensues.
“I’m not proud of it. I have apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don’t feel great about it at all.”
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Monday he wouldn’t have countered Hartley’s moves.
“I think in 1964 maybe you respond a certain way,” Nolan said. “Now we’re trying to sell this game, and you don’t sell it like that. … We’re in the hockey business, not in the fighting business.”
The Sabres will have at least one lineup change tonight when they host the Florida Panthers. Penalty-taking Zenon Konopka will sit, with Linus Omark likely taking the forward’s roster spot.
Konopka has four penalties in his six games with the Sabres, and opponents have scored power-play goals three times with Konopka in the box. The center has been whistled three times for goaltender interference and once for holding.
“Those penalties, they could be avoided,” Nolan said. “We can’t afford to take bad penalties, we can’t afford to take too many turnovers in a game. They’re going to kill us every time.”
“It’s a fine line,” Konopka said. “I can’t put myself in a position where a so-so, 50-50 call can go against me.”
Omark, meanwhile, was scratched for the previous two games. The right winger practiced on the second line with center Cody Hodgson and left wing Steve Ott.
“It’s an opportunity if I play with those guys,” said Omark, who has no goals and one assist in nine games. “I have to produce.”
Defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who has missed eight games, will be a game-time decision.
Ville Leino’s struggles landed him on the fourth line Monday. The center, who has no goals and six assists in 30 games, skated alongside Scott and Matt Ellis. Leino has taken just 22 shots.
“We’re looking for people that want to compete and want to work,” Nolan said. “It doesn’t matter what your skill level is. It’s nothing with no will. We have to get him competing at a certain level. Some days he shows it. Some days he doesn’t.”