New York Rangers v Boston Bruins - Game Two

I’m of the mind that John Tortorella would make one hell of a junior coach. I’ll elaborate on that in a second.

Today came news via ESPN’s Katie Strang that John Tortorella has been fired as the head coach of the New York Rangers, after a tumultuous, disappointing season for the blueshirts. Many, including myself, had them pegged to win the Eastern Conference before the season, yet they limped into the playoffs as a six-seed, snuck by round one and got dumped in round two. He’s been behind the bench since 2008-09, taking over for Tom Renney.

Here’s why I said Torts would be a great junior coach: he treats players like kids. His motivational tactics are very similar to what you see used with 16-20 year olds. If you aren’t doing what he wants you to do, he takes away your ice time so now you can’t get a college scholarship and makes it harder to get out of his dog house. He takes a small, bad snowball, and rolls it down a hill of awful snow.

Is it coincidence that his star players struggle after a couple years with him? Of course not. He ran the extremely gifted Marian Gaborik out of town after jerking him around, and was on the way to doing the same with Brad Richards, which probably didn’t make Glen Sather, who like all GMs, knows how hard it is to acquire elite talent, happy. I’m sure part of the reason they sent Torts packing is that they didn’t want him to do the same with Rick Nash, and they want Brad Richards to have a fresh start with them, not somewhere else.

The thing is, John Tortorella isn’t a terrible coach. He’s just an old school coach unwilling to adapt the kid gloves that some others, like Ken Hitchcock, have learned that they have to do in today’s NHL.

John Tortorella has a shelf life with NHL players, because NHL players have made it. The best players don’t have to prove they deserve being there anymore, they have big contracts, and they go through slumps and hot streaks. You have to find new and better ways to motivate them – more as a peer than an adversary – and ride it out until they’re on the right side of average.

This is the right move for the Rangers. Many will say he should be given one more season with that roster, it was a shortened season and so on, but this is the right move. Torts, for the Rangers right now, has become toxic, and it’s best to cut out the problem before it infects a larger area.

I’ll miss him for sheer entertainment value, as will many others. But I think this is the best thing for the Rangers.

Comments (24)

  1. Agree 100% with everything you said. Have been telling all my buddies for the last few months they were going to fire him, I get to pull a Don Cherry now :D

  2. Breaking news… NY Islanders fire Capuano and hire Torts! Woo!

  3. Torts is like Keenan. Gets great things out of a team for a very very shot time. 2-3 years max. Then the act wears thin as you said. I have no issue with this firing.

    But, as in Vancouver, they also missed one person who needs to go. How the hell Sather has kept his job this long beyond belief. He must have pictures of his boss(es) with goats…

    • I was thinking exactly that. Keenan and Torts are the same type of coach. Bring them in to rehab a team for a year or two, but do not keep them there any longer than that.

  4. Will be very interesting to see which players stay and which ones go in the off season.

  5. I agree Jason. Torts style seems like it would burn players out after awhile, and would also rub some the wrong way. It’s interesting how vastly different his approach is to another recently fired coach, Alan Vigneault in Vancouver, who basically handed over most aspects of the leadership to the veteran players (Sedins mainly) to create a sense of internal accountability within the team. Essentially, AV left it to the vets to enforce a culture of accountability. He wasn’t really the type to go in and yell at the players after a bad loss.

    I’m sure there are many people who think Alain’s style wasn’t a good idea, but I think it’s interesting to look at 2 vastly different approaches to coaching.

  6. AV just found his new landing spot. if so gotta like their chances if they are able to resign those crucial RFA/UFA’s they have.

  7. Might we see Messier behind the bench?

    • Has Messier coached? I am sure he knows a lot about many aspects of hockey, including of course how to play at the highest level and how to cajole, flatter, and threaten players into doing things the right way…but…surely there are many technical, political, and administrative aspects that need to be taught at a lower level before being an NHL head coach. It is not enough to be a playing legend (see Gretzky, W)

      • I would point out that Mess won The Cup twice without Gretzky who didn’t win it without Messier.

        Everything you say is true. The one point is that the current Rangers are the creation of Glenn Sather, and Messier (Special Assistant to Sather) is clearly a “Sather guy.” This team, with its mix of veterans and young’uns, is ripe for a newbie coach to succeed, especially one with the “ice cred” of Messier

        • I think that Messier and NYR are so well suited for one another that it is one case where an exception could be made.

          There are numerous assistant coaches these days handling everything from video to position-specific teaching and line changes, so technical ability per se is not going to keep a Messier from succeeding.

          However it seems to me that any leader has to have the respect of the underlings to succeed. If he has put in real work behind the scenes as the Special Assistant, then it is possible that he has demonstrated command of the coaching craft so as not to be second-guessed. Equally necessarily, he will have to have sufficient confidence in his own skills as a coach that he can hear input and not automatically reject it.

          • While he always says he wants the GM position, I think he’d take a shot at behind the bench. His main risk is he’d be putting all that good-will from 1994 on the line.

    • Messier would be awful as a coach, and even as an NYR fan, I want it to happen so I can watch it fall apart spectacularly.

  8. This firing was well earned.

    There were a number of problems with the team’s play all season, but Tortorella’s handling of several players during the playoffs sealed his fate. As a tipping point, I think he erred in judgement tremendously not only in sitting Brad Richards for what turned out to be the last two games of his Ranger coaching career, but also for each game he was played on the 4th line. I would guess Sather agrees.

    The Rangers just made their most important offseason move of 2013. Sather will come back with the mostly the same squad, a new coach who couldn’t possibly be as much of a dick, and they will be back to the conference finals again next year.

    An aside, it seems from the post mortem comments at locker clean out day, that the players indicated in various ways they were not interested in playing for Tortorella anymore. There’s your answer about the Ranger’s season.

    • Most of the season under Torts, the Rangers were pretty much where they should have been…mid-seed Easton Conference. 2012 was the outlier season – Lundqvist played all world and the NYR got some good breaks. This was never a team deep enough at C and (until the last 2 years) at D to consistently be a contender.

      @JapersRink just posted a link showing Fenwick Close over the last 5 years. The NYR are 11th. – Its not perfect, but it shows you that this is a middle of the pack team. A C+/B, not an A. So Torts probably did what he could we a decent, but not great lineup.

      They are a mid-pack team who bordered

  9. Obviously, as fellow Ranger fans, we can sit on opposite sides of this fence and still enjoy them being great next season under a new coach.

    However, I’m not sure humiliating a player (Richards) – who basically carried you to the conference finals just one year previous (along with Lundqvist), amongst other credentials – in the middle of the NHL playoffs should enter the coaching books under “did what he could with a decent line up.”

    This is a man who knew he was going to get fired and laid blame publicly, all the while saying he wasn’t. I always put up with Tort’s antics but I lost respect for him as an effective coach, and was very much hoping he’d get fired. I think Bourne is right using the word toxic to describe what he was engaged in during the second round, and at various times with Gaborick and others in the past.

  10. Then how does Peter Laviolette not get fired?

    Mind you, I’m not advocating for this, I am just curious for Justin’s – and everyones’ – view on how Tort goes but Laviolette stays…

    • In a city where they threw snowballs at Santa Claus from the stands, I’m not sure how Laviolette is still employed. If ever there were an underachieving bunch, the Flyers are it.

  11. “John Tortorella has a shelf life with NHL players, because NHL players have made it. The best players don’t have to prove they deserve being there anymore, they have big contracts, and they go through slumps and hot streaks. You have to find new and better ways to motivate them – more as a peer than an adversary – and ride it out until they’re on the right side of average.”

    One of the main reasons why I think Peter DeBoer is an underrated coach – I’ve heard him speak about exactly that before, how to motivate players as peers when the coach is often the lowest paid guy in the room.

  12. Rehab the Rangers?…Lets try a CURFEW!! What a novel idea. Too much trouble to get into. Need to focus on hockey and not all the fan/entertanment crap that goes on. Lunquist is a better than “good” goalie, BUT to be in the catagory of Great (Roy, Brodour, Richter) you NEED to do the impossible, no excuses. Too worried about being the Pretty Goalie”

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