Hartley and Tortorella clearly have a bit of history together, going all the way back to 1995 in the AHL. Hartley knows he can get under Torts skin, and he did so on Saturday. Generally speaking this can be used for tactical advantages— manipulating an opponents emotions is exceptionally helpful in any sort of competition.
So Bob Hartley saw this possibility, started to strategize, and came up with the dumbest possible idea of all: attempting to intimidate Tort's team by starting with a goon line for the first time in the season. Surely, there must have been some way this could've worked to the Flames advantage, right? Wrong. Let's run through the theoretical responses from Tortorella.
Respond With Skill
Obviously, Hartley was trying to goad Tortorella into avoiding this, and that worked. I guess that makes his plan a success if you want to qualify it like that. But let's say Torts isn't biting and puts out literally any line but the Sesito-Weise-Lain. What happens there?
Well, barring the Sedins getting dumb and trying to fight McGrattan and Westgarth, that fourth line is going to get burned. Blair Jones was the only Flame out there who could play hockey at any skill level above "fart", so even if the Canucks put out the third line, chances are they'd end up with some quality time in the Flames end.
But okay, maybe Hartley knows Tortorella well enough that he predicted Torts would respond to the thugs in kind, is that any better?
Respond with Goons
This is what happened. Torts saw that the dancing bears would be on the ice to start the game and thought "Oh hell no." And if that's what Hartley was aiming for, well good for him. Except it's still useless.
What was the outcome of Tortorella giving in to Hartley's intimidation? The players on the ice brawled. A bunch of garbage players and Blair Jones got sent to the penalty box. Some other players took dumb penalties later in the period. That was it. Calgary gained no advantage from the encounter.
Either way you look at it, this looks bad on Bob Hartley. First there's the issue of him trying to use intimidation at all, rather than actually, you know, coaching. Then there's the issue of him playing such a poor game.
No matter how you shake it, this wasn't a game Hartley was likely to win. The best outcome was a non-outcome where both teams lost their thugs for most, if not all, of the game. If Tortorella had been a remotely more rational coach he would have absolutely smoked the Calgary goons.
Even if, as I hear the Hartley Homers claiming already, his intention was to goad Tortorella into doing something dumb like trying to charge into the locker room and get suspended for 15 days, it doesn't help Calgary at all. The Flames aren't challenging Vancouver for their spot in the division. There is literally a difference of twenty points in the standings between the two, and it's not like they play again in the time Torts is suspended.
Hartley's been listed as a poor coach in my book since he started arbitrarily benching SVEN and Backlund in the fall, but this absolutely finalizes my opinion of him. He didn't just make a bad bet- he went all in after folding during the blind.