In his weekly radio hit on 97.1 FM alongside Anthony Rothman and Bobby Carpenter, John Tortorella discussed his evolution as a coach and his passion for developing his young players into better men.
When a recent soundbite from Assistant Coach Brad Larsen teasing Tortorella saying the head coach is "maturing" as he's perceived to have lost some of his old-school edge, Tortorella had a thoughtful followup.
"He's not wrong. Sometimes it's very confusing to me, Bobby. Listen, I'm not going to lose my old-school, I'm not going to lose that, but I also have to understand what athletes we're dealing with. And the athletes we're dealing with compared to 10,12,13 years ago, it's different. I always have to remind myself that you need to push the right buttons to get these athletes to be the best they can be so your team can be the best they can be. It's not about you and how you want to do it – it's how you handle these athletes."
And while athletes have changed, so too has the coach.
"It's a struggle sometimes because I have a very strong conviction as (to) what an athlete should look like, what an athlete should be like, and how he should act. It's a dog fight sometimes to get them to understand that. It's tug-of-war. Lars is right. Lars keeps an eye on me and he reminds me sometimes, "you're not helping them right now." And he's very good at that. (Brad) Shaw is the same way. And I need that help because I have strong convictions, but I also may hurt the athletes in certain times in how I do things."
The trio went on to discuss how, despite a perception around the league, Tortorella doesn't mind playing youngsters over veterans, citing playing 19-year-old Alexandre Texier in the playoffs last season as an example.
"I get put in a box sometimes in that I want that veteran guy. I actually think so much differently than what people think that I am. I want that view. There's no status, no draft pick, how much money you make. If you can be better than that guy and you can help this team win, you're going to get an opportunity. And I've always lived by that. It's a very important value to have as a coach, I believe."
"Since I've been here, I think we've been the youngest team every year. A big part of what I enjoy the most is not only trying to develop them as players, but when we have the youth that we have, you're developing as people. And sometimes I'm not sure what I enjoy more in development, what they become as people or (as) players.
"I'm very fortunate to have had the teams I've had here. I have fallen in love with this team since the beginning of this year and I am anxious to see them face-to-face."
Us, too, coach.