When you have a rotten owner, a bad GM and an ineffective coach, what does it all add up to? A bad team, of course. And that’s what the Rangers are right now, a bad team. Wasn’t John Tortorella supposed to bring a tireless work ethic, accountability and toughness to the team? Well, that didn’t happen. The players are either tuning him out or he’s not doing his job. There’s no urgency, no sense of the season slipping away or sense that the players really care very much that they might miss the playoffs. Where is the “if anything, a John Tortorella coached team will always work hard and won’t get pushed around – or else” sentiment that we heard about when he was hired? It seems the players stopped listening to him a long time ago. Tortorella was hired as nice-guy Tom Renney’s opposite, but that didn’t translate into the team playing any harder or smarter for him than his predecessor.
Of course, the roster that was given to him by Glen Sather is deficient in just about every way possible (though Tortorella most likely had a hand in picking some of the players) – lack of offensive weapons, lack of defensive defensemen, lack of toughness, lack of hard-working players. They only have two players in their prime – Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik – which is fine if you’re rebuilding. Look at how the St. Louis Blues recently buzzed around the Rangers and made them look old and slow (John Davidson, please come back and save the Rangers). But the Rangers have too many players causing salary cap headaches and too many useless parts.
They did have had some bright spots this year – a full NHL season for Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy and Artem Anismov, another year of development for Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky (though he seems to be stuck in the mud and not progressing very quickly) and a (mainly) healthy and successful season for Gaborik (we won’t have to worry if he can handle New York or wonder if he can play more than 30 games a season next year). But the coach was not a positive this year. Tortorella is petty, classless, sometimes acts like he belongs in George Costanza’s jerk store, talks tough but doesn’t always follow through with actions and has not had any positive influence on the team. We briefly had Wade Redden Scratch-Gate and the demotion of Chris Drury but that was about it. He’s picked on Sean Avery and Gaborik a bit, too. But the players aren’t exactly acting like they’d skate through a brick wall for their coach (which also says something about the players, many of whom wouldn’t skate through a brick wall for anybody). Would a better coach have gotten more out of this ragtag collection of players? Maybe, maybe not. But we know Tortorella did nothing to help them overachieve.
The Rangers now have a three-game losing streak, and are in 10th place in the conference with only 10 games left. So much for that homestretch success that’s gotten them into the playoffs the last few years. It surely looks like it’s not happening this year. It’s always something – the power play lets them down (as it did in Sunday’s game against Boston), their effort lets them down, their lack of talent lets them down, their scattered defensive play lets them down. But their coach has let them down, too. I was excited and had high hopes for John Tortorella when he was hired. He surely won’t be fired after his first full year with the team, but if he was, I wouldn’t miss him. I guess everything wasn’t Tom Renney’s fault after all.
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