The Rangers are once again facing a last minute playoff appearance or lots of golf at Bethpage State Park. The question I have been asking my closest friends and family, all Rangers fans is, does John Tortorella get too much heat for this teams performance?
Tortorella is a fiery, honest coach who shoots it straight and leaves no questions for the players, the media and the refs. He seems to be a man of integrity, and it showed during the mid-season swoon where the Rangers continued to make bad plays, and leave Henrik Lundqvist helpless in net. There were times when the offense looked great and the defense looked great too, but the team just couldn't capitalize on that great play, and mired themselves in mediocrity.
Like a player trying to live up to a big contract (insert Waive Redden joke here), Tortorella might have put way too much pressure on himself early on, and prevented him from getting through to these guys sooner. John Tortorella knows what it takes to win hockey games. He was an Olympic coach and he is the Rangers coach for a reason. He has a good system, but it takes the right group of men to buy in, and leave it all out on the ice. I get the feeling that Torts knew the roster was flawed, and this is the reason he worked them so hard in training camp. He wanted his imperfect club to be ready for the rigors of a long, up and down season.
In my opinion Tortorella has performed admirabily, despite the Rangers current situation. I mean let's face it...Glen Sather controls the roster, but Torts makes game decisions. Tortorella is trying to put the best players out there to win. It's not Sather calling the in game shots. Slats is the man that built this team, and we all know it. We all have our favorites....Dan Girardi, Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal, PA Parenteau, HANK, but when you give a coach a flawed team you have expect mixed results.
The Rangers are heading in the right direction, I believe it firmly. Even to Sather's defense I will commend him for not dumping prospects and or picks at the deadline, instead he dumped bad contracts for Jokinen, who could help the Rangers get that last playoff spot. If Jokinen fails to do so, who cares, the Rangers are free to let him walk, saving a bunch against the cap for next season.
I really believe that Tortorella deserves respect from Ranger fans. He gives interviews, he's always very candid, he's involved in practice, he cares. He's working hard to get this team on the winning trend. I believe in Tortorella. How can you not?
When your top line can't find affinity for 82, it's hard to win hockey games. The Rangers just don't have the offensive talent to win more than they lose. They are standing on the verge of what would be a great playoff berth, but either way the Rangers have identified who wants to be a Ranger long term and who just wants to cash the check.