Mon 10 Jun 2013
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.”