WATCH: Team USA coach John Tortorella talks World Cup, importance of roles
The U.S. bench boss got into the importance of roles and national pride
In less than two months, Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella will be leading Team USA into the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. The veteran coach, who piloted the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004 and served as an assistant on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team that took home silver, is relishing the opportunity in front of him.
Tortorella joined "Time to Schein" on CBS Sports Network on Monday to discuss the tournament with guest host Tony Luftman.
You can watch the interview above, but here are some of the highlights from Tortorella's remarks.
On what it will take for Team USA to be successful:
"When you get to this situation and you pick their team, they're all top players on their teams. One of the biggest things for us to be successful, I think it's incumbent on the coaching staff to relay to the players that this is a team.
"It's a team full of really star players, but you've got to buy into your role when you're developing your team for this World Cup. That's one of my biggest jobs as far as selling that, and it's one of the biggest things the players need to accept. They're not going to be guys playing 22 minutes as they do with their NHL teams in this World Cup. The ice is going to be divvied up and it's going to be different for some of these guys."
On where winning the World Cup would rank against his 2004 Stanley Cup win:
"Well I'll tell you right now, for a U.S. team to go into Toronto -- a Canadian city, a fantastic hockey city, what that atmosphere is going to be like -- and to go in there and do our business and try to do it the right way, at this point in time in my career, it's going have to rank as one of the top things because it's your country and it's the U.S. in Canada. That kind of whets your appetite a little bit.
"I'm totally honored to be involved with this, to represent your country, especially with the way today's world is. We're really looking forward to it. Very fortunate to win the Stanley Cup, but to do something in this situation and try to come into a situation and win it, man oh man, I'm not sure where you rank it."
Some quick thoughts of my own:
1. I thought it was interesting how much Tortorella stressed the importance of buying into roles, because based on the way they built this team, they seemed to focus almost entirely on roles. While many players on the roster do indeed play elevated minutes for their respective NHL teams than they will for Team USA, few of them should be confused as to what's expected of them in this tournament.
2. No entry to this tournament went as hard on filling the roster with grit as Team USA -- hence the additions like Justin Abdelkader, Brandon Dubinsky, David Backes and Ryan Callahan, who has since undergone surgery and won't play in the tournament now.
On the back end, Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson were among the surprise picks. Meanwhile, others that have more offensive-based skills like Phil Kessel, Tyler Johnson, Kyle Okposo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Keith Yandle were left off.
Perhaps Tortorella's concerns about getting buy-in were already mitigated by the roster construction. They sacrificed some scoring talent to take guys that are more about shot-blocking, physical play and penalty killing. Whether that was the right or wrong move will play out in the tournament, but it seems pretty clear that having role players was a big priority to the coach.
3. Another thing that stands out about this interview is that it appears Tortorella is really taking this opportunity to heart and appears extremely motivated by it. How that influences team success remains to be seen, but he's saying all of the right things when it comes to representing his country. There's no doubt that beating Canada at home is a huge motivating factor for Tortorella and surely the players as well.
Will that motivation be enough against the two-time defending Olympic champion? The talent gap between the two rosters appears pretty significant, so they're not going to have much choice but to try to out-work their heavily-favored opponents.
With no American men's team having won a major best-on-best hockey tournament since the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, this club and this coach are going to have a lot to prove.
Team USA opens tournament play on Sept. 17 against Team Europe in Toronto.
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