Wed 18 Jan 2012
Well those grinches at Outdoor Life Network, er Versus, um NBC Sports Network (or whatever they are calling themselves today) cost Ranger fans a chance to relive the movie “Groundhog Day”. No, Glen Sather did not make an appearance (which would be a sure sign of the Apocalypse). Instead, it was Rangers owner James Dolan appearing at the post-game press conference (which was not covered by MSG so that we could watch Boomer & Carton in 60 – oh boy) meaning there are six more weeks left in the Knicks season ?
With the Knicks floundering after spending beaucoup bucks in free agency and trades (sound familiar), Dolan spoke with the media for the first time since the 2005-2006 season – according to both Andrew Gross of The Record and Steve Zipay of Newsday.
As I am sure everyone has heard, Dolan was praising the job Sather has been doing since redoing his strategy in 2004. Jimmy should probably have mentioned something about the Lockout and the Salary Cap in the next breath, but why ruin a good story.
Rather, Dolan invoked the name of the Stanley Cup in reference to something Dolan gave to Sather (insert your own punch line) that was not be returned until the Rangers recapture the Cup.
Of course Dolan’s Stanley Cup statement drew the attention of his coach who responded as only John Tortorella can.
“Thanks a lot, Mr. Dolan,” Torts retorted. “I’m just as shocked as you guys are. We just have to go about our business. I have my owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That’s a bunch of bullshit. We need to take one day at a time.”
You have to love the coach for having the cojones for calling out his owner. Then again, having the best record in hockey tends to give you a bit of leeway with your boss.
Tortorella has taken a lot of heat during his tenure with the Rangers and some of it has been deserved. Despite his “safe is death” mantra at the start of second go-round with the Rangers (remember he had a four-game stint at the end of the 1999-200 season), the Blueshirts have not been an offensive juggernaut mainly due to their woefully inconsistent power play.
Whether it is stubbornness on his part in terms of systems or player selection, Torts has not been able to bring any consistency to that part of the team’s game.
Some fans roll their eyes whenever Tortorella starts running out different line combinations – even though every coach in the NHL does it. Those fans see the Rangers struggles as a result of his line juggling , rather than his reacting to the team’s offensive (and defensive) struggles.
You could even get on him for his “treatment” of Sean Avery if you are so inclined.
The one thing that you cannot complain about is the one thing that has the Rangers in the position they are in. He holds his players accountable for their actions.
About a week ago Tortorella sent his team back into their locker room after the team’s sluggish start to a practice following a day and half off.
Michael Rupp, who has been around the block a few times, addressed the coach’s style in an interview with the Blueshirts United web site.
“That’s Torts through and through, I think,” Rupp offered. “You have guys who have strong games, and they have one shift of not being good and it’s addressed. I think that’s important. There’s too many times I played on teams where a guy is in a position on a team or has a niche and is told to just go with it. Maybe over a course of 20 games he’ll be good for us. Well that’s not good enough, and here it’s not like that. So if it’s kicking us off the ice for a minute or sitting one of our top guys for a couple of shifts, everyone is accountable and we understand you have to bring it every time you step on the ice.”
That belief is not one that is held by Rupp alone. Six days prior to Torts pulling his team of the ice, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman touched on a similar belief.
In a January 3, 2012 CBC.ca blog, Friedman wrote, “New York head coach John Tortorella can be very tough, but it’s clear the Rangers respond to him. Why? Several players say it’s because they respect the fact he treats every player the same, no matter where they fit in the lineup. One added that if you have a couple of bad shifts in a row, he makes it clear you may not get many more.”
While speaking to The Record’s Gross about the practice incident, Tortorella provided insight into why the coach was quick to dismiss Dolan’s talk about the Stanley Cup.
In speaking about his team leaders and the trust he has in them Tortorella stated, “It has to be sustained in the room. I trust this group. I just don’t want it to slip. We have so much more work to do with this club. I just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’re heading down the right road. I want to make sure we keep heading down the right road and not detour.”
Things are going well, for now, and the future is looking promising. Both Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger have resumed skating with the team, albeit both are wearing non-contact jerseys. When both are healthy and cleared for game action, it is going to put the coaching staff in a tough, but desirable, position of having to decide who plays, who sits and who ends up in the AHL.
This forthcoming depth on defense will put the Rangers in a position to strengthen their depth at forward. While a top-six scoring winger would be a great addition, it will come at heavy price in terms or prospects, draft picks and future salary cap space.
The Rangers need to tread lightly come the trade deadline. On the plus side, they do have the option of jettisoning Wojtek Wolski’s $3.8 million cap hit to the AHL if the right player is available at the right price.
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