Blue Jackets' Tortorella heaps high praise on Penguins' Sullivan
March 11, 2016 2:29 PM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella stands behind his bench during a Dec. 21 game against the Penguins.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is not exactly known for dishing high praise of his opponents.
Mike Sullivan might be the exception.
Tortorella this morning said the Penguins coach, who was his longtime assistant in Tampa, New York and Vancouver, is a better coach than he is.
“Sully to me? Sully is a, he’s a better coach. He is,” said Tortorella, whose Blue Jackets play host to the Penguins at 7 p.m. “He is progressive. He’s a really good communicator where he can light you up a little bit sometimes with his emotion but also, I think he’s one of the best at drawing people into conversations so it’s a two-way conversation.
“[The Penguins] have some personalities on your team. There’s expectations on your team. That’s a tough job to coach that team because of the expectations and the personalities.”
Sullivan spent seven seasons as an assistant coach to Tortorella before becoming a head coach again, first in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He replaced the fired Mike Johnston in December.
He faced Columbus once before since then, but avoided getting too deep into rehashing his relationship with Tortorella.
When informed of Tortorella’s comments today, Sullivan quipped: “A lot of thoughts go through my head with that one. My first thought is he’s correct. No. Obviously I think the respect is mutual. We worked together for a long time. I think he’s a terrific hockey coach. He does great things with his team. I learned a lot in my years with him. I think we learned from each other and I think there’s a mutual respect there between the two of us.”
Tortorella said Sullivan is the right man to get the most out of a room of big personalities, and even called Phil Kessel a “different cat.”
“I think he allows people to communicate with him and engages them to bring that out, and they get to the root of the problem — or whatever it may be — so they’re on the same page,” Tortorella said.
“He’s so sound X’s and O’s. But where I think he has grown is that I think he understands how to handle the top players, which is a very important part of our business, and you have a number of them that are high-echelon players that he needs to mold and play under a team concept. You got the right guy there.”
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