2013 Off-Season

While John Tortella’s ego took a beating as a result of the Ranger’s playoff performance, one New York teen took a much more physical beating because of the race for the Stanley Cup. Last month, a pair of knucklehead Rangers fans in Englewood put a 17-year-old in the hospital after they mistook him for a criminal who sold them phoney Rangers playoff tickets.

According to Englewood Detective Captain, Tim Torell, the suspects Robert Brancaccio and Raymond Sorg allgedly “grabbed, assaulted and sent to the hospital a totally innocent — and much smaller — kid who was simply on his way to work.”

The pair, both of whom are six feet tall and over 220 pounds, were arrested on assault charges. The Englewood police also nabbed the REAL scammer, 41-year-old Troy Harrell, for theft by deception and drug related charges. Harrell is a convicted felon with criminal records in New Jersey, New York and Maryland.

Brancaccio and Sorg reportedly met with Harrell after responding to a classified ad on Craigslist and paid $640 for what they thought were playoff tickets. Once the duped duo were denied entrance at the gate and realized that their tickets weren’t worth the paper they were printed on, they watched the game at a bar in Manhattan.

Passionate for revenge, Brancaccio and Sorg tried to find Harrell again on Craigslist. They spotted him trying to sell tickets to the exclusive New York City Governor’s Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island. They assumed aliases and arranged to meet Harrell in the same shopping plaza where they were sold the fake playoff tickets.“Their plan, at least according to them, was to confront Harrell about the previous rip-off and then contact the police,” Captain Torrell said.

For reasons that haven’t been revealed, the two dim-witted Rangers fans mistook a 17-year-old for Harrell, slammed him to the ground, and beat him. Thinking they caught their crook, they called the police and officers quickly arrived at the scene. While they were explaining to the officers what happened, they got a call — from the REAL Harrell. That’s when they realized they had made a criminal mistake way more extreme than your typical overzealous sports fan stupidity or delinquency. But they weren’t the only ones destined to spend the night in jail.

Shortly afterwards, Harrell showed up to the meeting place carrying four bogus tickets to the governor’s ball and a marijuana pipe. The officers placed Brancaccio, Sorg, and Harrell in cuffs.

Robert Brancaccio and Raymond Sorg  were booked and posted bail. The hearings for their aggravated assault charges are pending.

Troy Harrell was placed in Bergen County Jail on $27,000 bail.

The teen was sent to the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center where his parents later reunited with him.

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Logan Strain, a blogger from San Diego, California. He posts about crime, law, and personal safety on twitter.


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Pat Leonard of the Daily News penned the best description of the New York Rangers firing of Coach John Tortorella.

“The Rangers finally executed a power play, but it came at John Tortorella’s, expense” Leonard wrote.

“’Multiple players,’ including some ‘top guys,’ pushed for the firing of their demanding and combative 54-year-old coach, a source said, and they got their wish on Wednesday afternoon, just four days after the Blueshirts were bounced from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins.”

If you have been a regular reader of Ranger Ramblings you know that I am in the pro-Torts camp. I also realize that Tortorella had his “idiosyncrasies” that drove fans, players and the media crazy. I also realize that he is pigheaded at times in terms of player personnel decisions and style of play.

However, I also realize that he has a resume that only one other NHL coach (LA’s Darryl Sutter) could claim – leading his team to the second round of the playoffs the last two seasons.

Players spoke of the team taking a step back this season, while the coach called it a sideways step. Even if we take the players at their words, if the Rangers did regress and take a step back this year it was only because last year’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals was a case of the Blueshirts taking two, and perhaps three, steps forward.

In plain and simple terms, the Rangers are the example of the inmates running the asylum.

Rather than own up to the fact that some of the players were never mentally or physically fit to play the season following the lockout, the players did what all players do when a team fails to live up to expectations – point their collective finger at the coach.

I am not sure if anyone listens to or watches the “Boomer and Carton” Program, but they both said the same thing that Torts had lost the locker room and that a Rangers player told them as much about six weeks prior to Tortorella’s firing. Both Esiason and Carton refused to name the player, although they were quick to point it wasn’t Brad Richards, based on Boomer and B-Rich being good friends. Boomer did say it was a player that he has mentioned in the past and it was a player whose game Boomer had become disenchanted with.

I relayed this story to my wife and she came up with the same name I did – Rick Nash – and Roe did that without knowing that Boomer had been a big Nash guy.

I don’t know if it was Nash, but I have a REAL problem with players doing the deed and keeping silent. If you are going to stab your coach in the back, at least have the gonadal organs to put your name on the record. Say what you will about Mark Messier’s hand in the firing of Roger Neilson, but everyone knew that the Captain had grown tired of Neilson’s system – a system (by the way) that had lifted the Blueshirts out of the doldrums and into an eventual President’s Trophy winner.

The real shame in Tortorella’s firing is how Glen Sather manages to skate by with another pass. Just exactly how many coaches is he going to be allowed to fire anyway? Sather pretty much threw his players under the bus because he said he didn’t have any intention of firing Torts until after he spoke to the players in the season-ending meeting with management.

In all fairness, Tortorella was entering the final year of his contract so the Rangers needed to decide if they were going to extend his contract or run the risk of a lame duck coach like Terry Collins and Rex Ryan.

In addition, Torts needed to make some adjustments to his way of thinking. The team is desperate need of a new voice when it comes to the power play and there is a need to tweak their defensive zone coverage to lessen the emphasis on blocking shots and increase the pressure on opposing point men.

And if Sather had fired Tortorella because he refused to implement any changes and because he is in the final year of his contract, that would have been fine. However, Sather fired his coach based on the players’ revolt – and Slats did so without having a viable candidate in mind.

I say that because the Rangers are starting their organizational meetings in California and they are just starting to bring people in for interviews. The lack of action cost them a shot at Dallas Eakins who looks to be set to take over in Edmonton.

I bet the media is hoping the Rangers skate-dragging doesn’t cost them a shot at Vancouver’s ex-coach Alain Vigneault because the NY writers are pushing for him based on his being a good quote and very media friendly.

The next Rangers coach will mark the sixth coach that Sather will have hired since joining the organization in June 2000. If you factor in the interim coach that finished up the 1999/2000 season and was not invited back, Sather will be on coach number seven. In case you forgot, Tortorella was that interim coach so the Sather coaching lineage in 13 years is Torts, Ron Low, Bryan Trottier, Sather himself, Tom Renney and Torts again – and all the Rangers have to show for those years is one Division title.

In comparison, during Neil Smith’s 11 year tenure, his coaching lineage was Neilson, Ron Smith (interim), Mike Keenan, Colin Campbell and John Muckler. During the Smith years, the Rangers won a Stanley Cup, two Presidents’ Trophies and three Divisional titles.

Only Emile Francis and Lester Patrick won more games as a Rangers coach than John Tortorella during the regular season and the playoffs, where Torts is tied for third in wins with Colin Campbell.

The bottom line is that Sather reshaped the Rangers twice during the season without the benefit of a regular training camp, with the second reshaping coming in the middle of a wild playoff run.

Since Sather never adequately replaced the players he traded away during the off-season, Slats had to make his deadline deals in order to correct his original mistakes – including a deal for Ryan Clowe that could cost the Rangers two second round draft picks and a third round pick if the winger re-signs with the Blueshirts.

The 2011/2012 Rangers were not an exceptional team, rather they were a team that went on an exceptional run – much like the 1978/1979 Rangers did.

During the Summer of 1979, GM Fred Shero dealt away five players to acquire Barry Beck, who was supposed to be the missing piece of the puzzle. During the Summer of 2013, GM Glen Sather dealt away three players and a 2013 first round draft pick for Rick Nash, who was supposed to be the missing piece of the puzzle. While Beck’s impact is a closed book, Nash has only written the first chapter of his tale.

Much was written of how Tortorella’s team quit on him during the Boston series. Nice idea, makes for good articles, but is nowhere near the truth.

After watching the Bruins dismantle the Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight games, I think we can all say that we underestimated Boston and their ability to carry over the momentum from their comeback for the ages against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Outside of Game 2, two of the Rangers losses were by one goal and Game 5 was a two-goal game because of an empty net goal. A break here and a power play goal there and it could be the Rangers facing the Chicago Blackhawks.

No, if the Rangers were going to quit on their coach, they had their chance in the Capitals series. Down three games to two and facing a seventh and deciding game on the road would have been the perfect time to fold up their tent. That was not the case. The Rangers responded with two shutout wins backstopped by Henrik Lundqvist – including their best game of the playoffs in the 5-0 elimination of the Capitals.
While GM Sandy Alderson was talking about the moribund New York Mets (yet another one of my teams), he could just as easily be speaking about the 2013/2013 New York Rangers.

“This is not a staff issue. This is a player issue.”

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Somewhere Sean Avery is smiling because he got his wish in the end – the Rangers firing coach John Tortorella. Now is not the time to delve into an in-depth at what happened and why it happened. The news is still fresh and the rumor mill will need time to start churning out potential replacements.

No, today is about asking questions and hearing from Rangers President/GM Glen Sather. Today can be considered a Groundhog’s Day Redux because Sather awoke from his mid-spring slumber in Banff to address the media – a chore that both he and his deposed coach just love to do (he said sarcastically).

I did not get a chance to listen to the conference call Sather had with the media, but it lasted about 20 or so minutes. God forbid Sather actually stumble onto a plane and meet with the media. I guess he is saving that for mid-June or so when he hires Pierre McGuire as the new Rangers coach – talk about a true God forbid moment.

As things stand now, Mike Sullivan is still around. However, that might just be to have someone around to turn the lights on and off. I guess Jim Schoenfeld could have done that, but with the Draft upcoming and the re-launch of the Hartford Wolf Pack, he might be busy – unless he is on the shortlist of candidates … and that might not be bad thing.

One interesting note from the conference call was what Sather said when he was asked about his future.

Sather responded, “I don’t know what you are talking about with all the roles, I don’t sharpen the skates here, I gave that up. I will continue as GM for next season.”

I wonder if he is looking to quietly fade into the sunset? It is interesting how he limited himself to “next season”.

Anyway, here are some Sather snippets from the conference call with my “translation”/response supplied.

Sather: “Every coach has a shelf life.”
Anthony: “So does every General Manager so Torts had to go before they canned me.”

Sather: “There’s a lot of good coaches around with different qualities…”
Anthony: “The wrinkled old man has his eye on someone and is afraid he might be gone. Lindy Ruff has spoken to Dallas and Don Maloney is trying to re-sign Dave Tippett. He better pass on Alain Vigneault.”

As an aside, Bob McKenzie tweeted that Vigneault was on the Rangers shortlist when they hired Bryan Trottier, but the former Canucks boss did not get an interview.

Speaking of Vancouver, one longshot candidate, Dallas Eakins, is interviewing in Vancouver. Could Slats have pulled the trigger on Torts because he couldn’t run the risk of not getting a shot to talk to Eakins?

Sather on Lundqvist comments: “It didn’t have anything to do with it. We plan on signing Henrik to a long-term contract.”
Anthony: “If it looks like a duck and quack likes a duck, it is a duck. If it had NOTHING to do with Hank why wait four days to fire your coach and risk losing one of those ‘good coaches’?”

Sather: “Can’t predict what new coach’s system will be like”
Anthony: “It will be whatever system that gets Hank to put his Johann Hancock on to a contract extension. Besides, we change systems around here as often as I chew on cigars”

Sather: “I think if you are not in the Stanley Cup and not winning it your season hasn’t been a success.”
Anthony: “Hmm, GM since June 2000 and he hasn’t been to a Stanley Cup Final, never mind win one. I guess that makes Sather a ‘non-success’”

Sather: Said that benching Brad Richards was an “organizational decision.”
Anthony: “You guys should have known Torts was a goner back then when I had B-Rich benched.”

Sather: “It was the choice of how we’re going to get better”.
Anthony: “The choice to get better – GM Jeff Gorton.”

Ultimately, there are three questions that need to be answered in the coming days following the firing of Tortorella.

1. Why did Sather decide to fire Torts?
2. Who replaces Tortorella?
3. How many more coaches does Sather get to hire/fire?

We know that the Rangers are a whole different ballgame when it comes to Garden involvement in the day-to-day running of the franchise. James Dolan does not pretend to know anything about hockey, unlike his forays into being the GM behind the GM of the New York Knicks.

As a result, this decision was Sather’s and Sather’s alone. For those who were anti-Tortorella and called for his firing, you got your wish. However, to them I say be careful of what you wish for. Sometimes it is better to keep the devil you know then the devil you don’t know.

Truth be told I would have kept Tortorella as the Rangers coach – with some conditions. He would have needed to hire a coach or consultant, if you wish, to work on the power play. Sometimes a new perspective is needed.

I also would have talked about adjusting the Rangers defensive zone coverage a bit. The Rangers get pinned in their own zone so much, and for so long, because the forwards are collapsing too much in an attempt to choke off the shooting lanes. Putting the forwards at the top of the circle might have provided a happy medium where they could still be in position to block shots and be in position to break up the passes to the points.

I wonder how the anti-Tortorella camp will react if, at the press conference to announce the hiring of a new coach, GM Glen Sather says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the newest Head Coach of the New York Rangers – Pierre McGuire.”

Okay, enough analysis for now. I have more to say and will in the coming days as things take shape in the wonderful world of Rangers-Land where there is never a dull moment – in-season or in the off-season.

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