Big Apple Turnover

NYR_Logo “The biggest part of my job is that and how you handle your top players to get them to play, and that falls on my shoulders.” – John Tortorella, on breakup day

Anyone in the market for a head coaching job in the NHL?

The New York Rangers are now accepting applications, as  the club fired John Tortorella  Wednesday afternoon.

Much was made about the Rangers being in search of a new identity, because they were not last year’s lunchpail-type group. The coach, known for his “safe is death” mantra when he arrived in New York, changed his style when the players didn’t fit that mold, but he never seemed to evolve his style when the personnel no longer fit that grinding persona. In the post-mortem, coach John Tortorella admitted that it was his responsibility to get what he can out of the players he was given, and that he failed to do so. Not to harp on the Brad Richards situation, but it was just mind-boggling how Tortorella would constantly put him out on the power play unit, often playing the point, for crying out loud.  It took almost an entire season to drop him to the fourth line, then until game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal to realize making him healthy scratch was the better solution (a decision that was made by the organization, Glen Sather revealed today during his phone conference with the media). It was troubling that it took Tortorella until that same game to realize that maybe he should try Ryan McDonagh on the power play. Or until that game to put together a fourth line that, while it wouldn’t match what the Bruins’ equivalent could bring, could at least give more energy than what it had been.

Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reported that, “multiple players,” including some “top guys,” wanted him fired. If Tortorella had indeed lost the room and more importantly key players, then there was no other choice. To head into the next season knowing that was the potential for a full-on mutiny if he was still coach would have been a recipe for disaster in what is to be a pivotal year for the franchise. As the cliché goes, it’s easier to fire the coach than an entire roster. While true, and his shortcomings might have been factor in his dismissal, Tortorella could look over him and below him for other issues that contributed to him being shown the door.

Sather became President and General Manager on June 1st, 2000. In those 13 years, He’s hired and fired four coaches (Tortorella, Tom Renney, Bryan Trottier and Ron Low) and he himself manned the bench. And here he is, about to select the sixth head coach of his tenure, likely before the entry draft on June 30th.

Let’s take a look at what he did in July of 2012 (and don’t get me wrong, I suspect he did get Tortorella’s input, much as he did when Marian Gaborik was traded at the deadline). Replacing Ruslan Fedotenko, John Mitchell and the popular Brandon Prust with players like Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt turned out to not work out so well (hindsight’s a beautiful thing, huh?). Then he finally got his man in Rick Nash, sending Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon. I still believe that you make that trade every day of the week. It’s the lack of bodies to replace them that became the problem, and it wasn’t until the Blueshirts were in a fight to make the playoffs that the issue was addressed. Even then, a lack of depth was a part of what did them in when all was said and done.

It’s not just this season either. How many free agent flops has he managed to throw so much money at, and somehow wriggle out of, either by trades, buyouts, compliance buyouts or AHL burial? So when is it finally time for him to face repercussions for his actions? Likely never. James Dolan has essentially has given Sather the job until he quits or passes away, and during today’s call Sather said he was going to remain as General Manager for the upcoming season. Keep in mind, this is an owner who kept Isiah Thomas around the Knicks, despite the mess he made of them and the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment suit.

Below him,  the players also bear responsibility for what happened this year. On breakup day, Richards admitted he was ready to play in September, but not after that, and declared, “everything was a mess”  without elaborating on what that meant. Brian Boyle ‘fessed up to “sucking,” regretted not playing overseas during the lockout and admitted to not coming into the season in shape. That’s a lack of preparation (and dare I say it, professionalism) to do the one job they get paid handsomely for.

What does this all lead to? It leads to an offseason with a lot more questions than anyone expected it to.  During today’s conference call, Sather declared that they were looking to fill the coach’s position before the  draft on June 30th. It makes sense to have someone in place at that point, not only to plot the long-term future, but the immediate future with free agency starting just days after that. It means that the team has a little more than a month to decide whether Richards still has something left in the tank worth an almost $6.7 million cap hit (with the cap ceiling dropping to $64.3 million) or if it’s time to own up to yet another big free agent mistake and use its second compliance buyout afforded under the new CBA; figuring out how to take care of their own free agents that they want to retain, restricted and unrestricted while addressing shortcomings.

Wow. Has it really been a year since visions of the Stanley Cup began dancing Rangers fans’ heads? With all of this disarray, if feels like a lifetime ago.

 

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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927

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