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.