Tortorella will serve as head coach, Sullivan to assist

Updated: March 28, 2008, 11:41 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella will serve as the head coach of the U.S. entry in the IIHF World Championship this spring.

Tortorella was an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2005 world championships, but this will be his first experience as a head coach at the international level. The tournament will be held May 2-18 in Quebec City and Halifax.

It will be the first time the tournament will be held in Canada and the first in a series of tests for players hoping to be named to the U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

The tournament also will be a test for Tortorella, who is among a handful of Americans likely to be considered for the coaching job for the 2010 Olympics.

Peter Laviolette, coach of the Carolina Hurricanes and the U.S. entry in the 2006 Olympics, will be on the short list of 2010 Olympics candidates, along with San Jose's Ron Wilson. Both will be coaching when the NHL playoffs start April 9, while Tortorella's Lightning will miss the postseason for the first time since 2001-02.

According to the source, if the Americans have a good showing at the worlds, Tortorella's stock vis a vis the Olympic job will rise dramatically.

Tortorella's assistant, Mike Sullivan, will serve in a similar capacity on the national team, sources close to the team told ESPN.com Thursday.

USA Hockey also will announce a second assistant coach in the coming days. Kurt Kleinendorst, coach of the AHL Lowell Devils and one-time assistant coach with the NHL's Devils, is considered the top candidate to fill out the U.S. coaching staff.

Sullivan also has international experience. He was coach of last year's world championship U.S. team and was an assistant to Laviolette at the 2006 Olympics.

The other issue to be decided is who will act as the team's general manager.

Four American-born NHL GMs -- Ray Shero of Pittsburgh, Brian Burke of Anaheim, David Poile of Nashville and Don Waddell of Atlanta -- oversee the coaching and player selection for these international events for USA Hockey. But Burke and Shero will be involved with their NHL teams at least through the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Poile's Predators are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference, so his availability is unknown. Waddell's Thrashers will not be in the playoffs and it's believed he would assume the job.

The GMs and USA Hockey officials are scheduled to talk early next week, and it's believed only one GM will be named for the U.S. team, as opposed to having co-GMs for the tournament if Poile and Waddell were both available.

The tournament will be a good opportunity for USA Hockey officials to assess the progress of young players such as Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson, Dustin Brown, Peter Mueller, Patrick O'Sullivan, David Booth, Drew Stafford and Lee Stempniak, assuming their respective teams do not make the playoffs or are eliminated in the first round.

Because the tournament is usually held in Europe, Canadian and American rosters tend to be named earlier to take into account travel and visa issues. But with the tournament being held in Canada, the two North American teams will be able to wait longer before naming their final rosters, which should make for stronger squads.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.