John Tortorella coached his New York Rangers to a 38-33-11 record this season. However, there is much more than just the team’s record to look at when you talk about the hot-headed coach and his performance this year behind the bench. If there were hockey fans out there that did not know who John Tortorella was prior to this season, they now know from watching him pull his antics with the media and on television. If there were Ranger fans out there that thought Torts was the right man for the job heading into the season, most of them have now changed their minds. If midway through the year there were individuals out there that felt Tortorella should be kept for the next season and that he has just been given an underperforming lineup, most of them, too, have changed their feelings.
As we know, though, the Rangers organization is not going to make decisions based on the general public’s opinion. I think that has been made very clear over the years. That being said, should Tortorella be fired and replaced? In my opinion, it would solve one of many problems with this team. Now, will Tortorella be fired and replaced? No, I truly believe that he will be back for the 2010-11 season, again given a lineup to his liking that he will struggle to get the most out of.
When talking to my co-writers on Blueshirt Banter, though, I think we all seemed to agree on one thing when it comes to Tortorella’s future here in New York. He must be kept on an extremely short leash as long as he is in control of the lineup, and these childish confrontations with the media, and the classless language he sometimes uses to describe certain situations needs to go. This is New York, not Tampa Bay. This is the Rangers, not the Lightning. This is an organization with a lofty reputation, and I doubt ownership and management is going to watch that diminish due to the immature actions of the coach.
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I mean, we heard it first hand from Rangers beat writer Andrew Gross
when he came on Blueshirt Banter Radio about a month ago. He said that he is not going to let Tortorella ruin the job that he enjoys doing everyday of his life. It is a shame that it has even gotten to that point, that if the media does not walk on eggshells, they will be publicly attacked and insulted, so they have to live not letting this guy get to their heads. That is not how you want to be viewed by the media as a coach, because they will never write what you want to hear, and really, why should they?
Moving on from the media thing, now I want to look at some of the poor decisions he has made over the course of the season. First off, I felt sending rookie defensemen Matt Gilroy down to Hartford totally destructed any confidence the youngster had. That situation was not at all handled properly. Secondly, his ice time distribution did not make much sense at all. On several occasions, we saw players like Aaron Voros get more ice time than Artem Anisimov or Sean Avery. We saw Enver Lisin dressed, but scratched for an entire game back in November. We even saw our leading scorer in all categories benched in the second period of a tight game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which the Blueshirts ended up falling in overtime.
There is no logical explanation for these decisions, and that is why when asked to give his reasoning, Tortorella simply replies "no" or just goes on a rant and changes the attention to the writer themselves by embarrassing him/her.
And lastly, accountability, which was supposedly a big part of Torts’ coaching style when he came to New York, was a major flaw in his coaching this season. I am not too sure what his concept of accountability exactly is, but I know it cannot be a very good one since he cannot even hold himself accountable for mistakes he makes in his decision making. Scratching Matt Gilroy over Wade Redden? Or Sean Avery over Olli Jokinen? To me, it just doesn’t make much sense.
Oh, and let us not forget about when he elected to go with Olli Jokinen in the final shootout against Philadelphia, instead of Marian Gaborik, or even Vinny Prospal with the entire season on the line. That will be a mistake that will be talked about all throughout the summer by fans, but will Tortorella ever come out and admit he made an error? Not until hell freezes over and pigs fly.
When you take all of this into consideration, and you look at the big picture, you realize that John Tortorella has drawn much more negative attention to this team and organization in one year than Tom Renney did in over five years as the coach of the Blueshirts. Tortorella’s offensive system produced just as many goals as Renney’s defense-first one, and Renney was much more successful than Tortorella has been to this point. You have to wonder if general manager Glen Sather is second-guessing his choice to replace Renney with Tortorella back in February of ’09.
So again, do I think Torts should be let go? Yes, it would probably be the best thing for the organization. Do I think he will be fired? No, I do not. I believe he will be back next year, and quite honestly, he would have likely of been let go already just like the Lightning fired Rick Tocchet yesterday. As fans, we have to deal with reality, and hope he makes changes in his approach for next season. If not, I think management will step in and find a replacement.....once again.