NHL News – New York Rangers Fire Coach Tortorella
On Wednesday, the New York Rangers fired head coach John Tortorella only four days after their exit from this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, a semi-final defeat in five games at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
This post takes a brief look at ‘Torts’ time in charge and the murky circumstances surrounding his departure.
The move has been greeted with general surprise by most considering Tortorella guided the Rangers to the postseason four out of his five seasons at the helm, including to the Eastern Conference Final last year where they fell to the New Jersey Devils. Despite his modest success with a defensive-based approach, there have been recent murmurings of discontent from inside the locker-room which in the bright spotlight of the Big Apple, may have paved the way for the wielding of the managerial axe.
Speaking after their recent elimination, Tortorella suggested this year was more of a side-step than a disappointment and seemed to be gearing up for yet another charge at the elusive cup next season. This statement contrasted heavily with the opinion of star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist a day later, the Swede outlining this year’s exploits as a backwards step and pondering whether he wants to sign an extension on his contract with the team. Though GM Glen Sather has since refuted claims these comments influenced the decision, there is no doubt in my mind that such disparaging remarks from a key player affected the events.
Then there was the Brad Richards situation. Tortorella took the decision to make the veteran, who is tied up for seven more seasons with a $6.67 million cap value, a healthy scratch for games 4 and 5 against the Bruins. Despite the choice seeming quite reasonable considering the atrocious campaign the centre was having, the two have always enjoyed a fractious relationship and Richards was not the only player with whom the fiery Tortorella clashed. Marian Gaborik, who often fell out with the hard-nosed tactics of his coach was pretty much given some taxi money and shipped off to the Columbus Blue Jackets before the trade deadline, a move that did not go down too well with the Madison Square Garden faithful.
In the end, this seems to be an unfortunate case of an organisation caving to unrealistic expectations and needing to make a rash change to satisfy the paying fans. In my opinion, the New York Rangers should have won the Stanley Cup last season, but they froze in the Conference Final and paid the ultimate price, beginning a chain reaction which has culminated in Tortorella losing his job. A repeat wasn’t really on the cards this year, especially after the organisation made the awful choices to allow underrated but vital pieces in Artem Anisimov, Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp to move elsewhere. Once more however, the coach made brave moves in desperate times and got crucial results. The addition of Derick Brassard and Ryan Clowe were master strokes, as was the pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, who particularly flourished during the shortened regular season.
Though he wasn’t everyone’s icy cup of tea, perhaps too outspoken at times (I enjoyed every second of his interviews), and maybe the numbers weren’t always the greatest, with the Rangers averaging 2.69 goals a game and ending up 23rd in the league on the power-play over the past two seasons, when it came down to getting important results to keep a season alive, Tortorella more often than not provided. Finishing with a 171-118-1-29 record, he leaves a difficult task for whoever follows, because not only will they find a team plagued by underachieving stars but a line-up moulded in the image of their former coach, gritty, stubborn and passionate to the extreme.
There are many who say that his team stopped playing for him towards the end, but if those people took the time to actually watch the New York Rangers instead of simply looking at results or stats, noting both their comeback against the Capitals and their spirit throughout the series with the Bruins, they would soon change their tune.