While we all await for July 1st to come and start the FA/trade frenzy that is sure to come throughout the league, let's shift gears for a moment and talk about our coach. Before you jump all over me, a lot of what I am going to say is opinion and subject to your own opinions (not of me but the coach, lol).
I think it's safe to say that if you used simplistic adjectives to describe our coach it would be stubborn, pig-headed, a motivator, and brutally honest. Some of the aforementioned qualities have gotten him into hot water with the league and the media. I have gone on record here stating that the league has it in for the Rangers (agree to disagree with me on this because you will not change my mind) so I cannot blame Torts on his views and comments when it comes to the league.
But when it comes to the media, I think he's a little off base. He's the coach of a professional team and with it comes a responsibility and obligation to answer questions and give out information that is not detrimental to his team. You know that he was wrong in that the Dolans sent him on a "feel good" media tour after the Rangers were eliminated. Surely a tour to repair bad feelings caused during the season, not to mention Torts' and the team's reputation.
It is his stubbornness that may have led directly to the Rangers' elimination in the playoffs. I've been around a long time folks, this team had a golden opportunity to win the Cup this year. They had the team and they were given the perfect route to the Cup with the Pens, Flyers, and Bruins being eliminated. That's why I, for one, was particularly crushed that they lost to the Devs. I really thought the Rangers could do it this year. I think that most of us agree that the Rangers simply ran out of gas due to the number of minutes the main players played and the style that they play. This is where Torts is at fault, IMO.
I have zero problem with the way they play. NONE. The media's criticism of their style of play is just another indication of the jealousy they have for the Rangers and New York in general. Where I have a problem with Torts is the number of minutes he rode 80% of the dressed line-up on any given night. Join me after the jump for my examples.
You have to suit up 20 players per game so suiting up the 20 best players to distribute the minutes and the work load is the main goal, obviously. But this is where I question whether Torts was correct in the players he was playing on a regular basis. Let's take a look at a few players I'm questioning Torts on:
Stu Bickel - I love Stu, love him. I love his passion, his grit, his heart, etc. But let's face it, he's a pylon out there on the ice. Against fast skating teams in particular, he was a lost deer in the forest. He continuously caused his partner to play out of position trying to cover for him. Torts nailing Stu to the bench during the playoffs was all you needed to know as to how much Torts trusted him. While Eminger is nothing to write home about, there is no one that can tell me that he could not have provided at least 10 minutes per game so that Torts could have 3 pairs of D. OR, get a vet D on the cheap to eat minutes. Torts loved this guy a little too much.
The 4th line in general - we really didn't have one. So, as a result, Torts was basically rolling 3 lines for all of the playoffs and a good part of the last half of the season. Kill me all you want about Gaustad (yes a #1 is a lot to trade for a guy like this) but a player like this could have solidified the 4th line. He's a great face off guy and he can play well enough to justify 10+ minutes per game for him and his line. Mitchell tries but he is not capable of being entrusted with meaningful minutes, especially in the playoffs. And putting him the PP? Really? What was that all about? We all know about poor Mike Rupp so I won't even go there. But it's obvious the (misguided) love that Torts has for Mike.
MZA - I don't get it. The Rangers are starved for offense, 5 on 5 and on the PP, and this guy, who has obvious skill, is toiling down in Hartford for most of the season. IMO, this guy should have been playing for the Rangers for most of the year. Start him in Hartford? No problem. But MZA should have been up for good starting In January. Yes he got hurt. But the team, maybe led by Torts, totally mishandled MZA, IMO. MZA looked decently responsible in the defensive end when he came up so I don't know what the issue was there. Not enough love for MZA, the modern day Peter Prucha as Mr. Hoggo accurately named him.
Stralman - Again, why did it take so long for Stralman to get a regular turn every single game? Why? Look what he did in the playoffs. The player has skills at both ends of the ice. He can skate. His decisions, for the most part, are pretty good. God knows Torts tolerates MDZ's gaffes and rides him regardless. Stralman makes a mistake and he's nailed to the bench. I mean come on, that's not the way to handle the guy. Let them play and let them work through their struggles. We have enough players who have struggled mightily that did not get benched. Like MZA, not enough love from Torts for Stralman for most of the season.
I've already turned this into a novel so I will stop here as the examples above are the main ones I wanted to discuss. Torts has to modify (not change) his coaching and not have a "thing" for or against players. If the main reason for losing is that they ran out of gas then Torts has to be a little more flexible in distributing minutes. Yes, the lack of scoring. But it could be argued that if the Rangers weren't so exhausted and worn out that they could have squeezed out just enough scoring to win. We have the best goalie in the world in nets, let's take advantage of it and win the damned Cup. Thanks for reading.