I guess Glen Sather paid close attention to his friend Harry Howell when the honored Ranger spoke to the Garden crowd last night during the jersey retirement ceremony for Howell and Andy Bathgate.

Howell quoted his former Rangers Coach/GM Emile Francis.

“If you players do not do what I tell you, I will send you so far away that the Hockey News won’t be able to find you.”

Well, in these days and ages of salary caps and no-movement clauses in players’ contract, making wholesale changes is pretty near impossible – especially with some of the bloated contracts the Rangers have.

However, coaches are a different story. The Rangers have fired Coach Tom Renney and Assistant Coach Perry Pearn following the Blueshirts 3-2 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Benoit Allaire and Mike Pelino will remain as assistants.

Reports indicate that the Rangers are attempting to negotiate a deal with former Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella – the Rangers interim coach and the man Sather passed on when he was named President/GM. According to Steve Zipay of Newsday, Tortorella is looking for a long-term contract. If Tortorella is not named as Renney’s replacement, the talk is that Jim Schoenfeld will take over the helm.

According to Sportsnet.ca, sources told them that the Rangers scheduled a meeting with Tortorella last week.

If the Rangers do hire Tortorella, it will mark a drastic change in Sather’s hiring policy with the Rangers. With all respects to Renney, Sather has a Rangers’ history of hiring lesser names who would not overshadow the GM (Ron Low, Bryan Trottier and Renney). Sather passed on Tortorella after he finished up as coach of the 1999-2000 Rangers (0-3-1).

If former Daily News Ranger beat writer John Dellapina was correct, Tortorella came closer to getting more than four games a mop-up coach in 2000. On June 21, 2003, Dellapina offered the following insight.
Chosen by Neil Smith to replace Muckler midway through the 1999-2000 season, Tortorella never got that chance because the former GM was not permitted by Garden management to make that change.

When both Smith and Muckler were fired on April 1, 2000, the fiery Tortorella was installed as the interim coach for the final four games. But he never was interviewed that summer by incoming GM Sather, who opted to hire old friend Ron Low.

One has to wonder if Sather is beginning to feel some heat for the first time in New York. Long known as an absentee landlord, Sather is now thrust to the center of the blame game. The idea that Sather is considering Tortorella serves to fuel thoughts (and hopes) that Garden management will soon hold Slats responsible for the state of the Rangers.

The ball is now in the court of the Dolan family. If the Rangers continue their downward spiral into missing the playoffs, they must hold Glen Sather accountable because, as they say, the fish rots from the top.

The one ominous point in hiring a new coach is that the Dolans would not allow Sather to negotiate a long-term deal with a coach if they had any intention of pulling the plug on Sather.

UPDATE

According to a report from Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca, the Rangers have reached an agreement to hire John Tortorella as their new coach. However, there are still other hills to climb – namely Mount Lightning.

Tortorella is still under contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the club must give their consent. Sources told McKenzie that the NHL is involved in the situation.

Given the rumored financial problems the Lightning’s new owners, Olen Koules and Len Barrie, Tampa Bay will probably want to get out from under any future financial dealings with Tortorella.

Considering the Lighting have the NHL’s second worst record (the New York Islanders are the bottom), could any agreement between the Rangers and Lightning over Tortorella also involve the Lightning claiming Sean Avery and re-entry waivers and then trading him to the Rangers. With the Andy Bathgate-Harry Howell ceremony over, and with the Rangers coaching situation settled, one has to figure that the next item on Sather’s agenda is how to guarantee the return of Avery.

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