If there is anything that my readers have picked up over time in regards to my approach to hockey, then I would like to think that it is how I'm not one to get worked up over small sample sizes. Save for extreme cases, you're not going to learn too much from a few game sample size. Nor is a season going to be defined 30 games in.
Still, as the Vancouver Canucks wrapped up a convincing 6-2 win against the Boston Bruins last night, it was a bit of allegorical justice for John Tortorella. The former Rangers head coach was unceremoniously sent packing after a five-game series against the Boston Bruins; a series which summed up the team's offensive woes and ended a season of unfulfilled expectations.
Yes, the Bruins were missing a few players last night. And, of course, it was one game in an 82-game season and one game only. If our benchmark for evaluation is a single game then we could use the Rangers' 5-2 defeat of the Canucks earlier this month and end the discussion there. However, this win continues a Canucks' streak of earning two points which has now reached seven games in a row. After some early season turbulence, the Canucks are now somewhat comfortably in the top third of the league standings. The team also ranks 11th in the league in goals-per-game. Though hardly taking over the NHL in that respect, it's a decent climb from the screams of ineptitude coming from the New York fanbase last season.
Those who asserted that Tortorella was stifling the Rangers' offense often wrote off the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup Lightning as an aberration. That year's team scored the third most goals in the NHL and had the second best goals-per-game ratio in the playoffs. But, hockey was a completely different game pre-lockout, and Tortorella's tactics were no longer relevant to today's NHL. At least, those were the claims of his detractors. But again, here he is doing just perfectly fine with the Canucks in a stacked conference.
Meanwhile, there's the mess that Alain Vigneault is trying to sort out here in New York. Everyone knows the situation but I'll outline it for the sake of review. The Rangers are below the .500 mark and out of playoff position; largely thanks to the second worst goals-per-game average in the entire league. The team has amassed a 1-15-0 record when giving up the game's first goal, which is, by a pretty healthy margin, the league's worst. The team's leading scorer, Brad Richards, is on pace for a whole 22 goals.
One could conclude, given this information, that maybe Vigneault is just the wrong man for the job. But then we can look at his track record. Under Vigneault, the Canucks had the league's fifth best offense during the 2011-2012 regular season. The season prior was even better. The Canucks led the entire NHL in goals and Vigneault chaperoned his team to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. And, just for good measure, the Canucks had the second best offense the season prior.
The simple observation to make is that head coaches seem to have much more success, both in terms of offensive production and advancing in the playoffs, with teams other than the Rangers. There is no doubting that John Tortorella made his share of mistakes while in New York. There's no doubting that the powerplay was unacceptably incompetent. There's also no doubting that Vigneault has perhaps made a few errors himself this far into his tenure with the Blueshirts. But in these nine seasons since the 04-05 lockout the Rangers have had only two seasons in which the team had any sort of offensive success; 05-06 when Jaromir Jagr was invincible and and 11-12 when everything just clicked.
So, thus, it is time that the fanbase, media, and Glen Sather apologize to John Tortorella. Clearly it is not he who is stifling offense or holding the team back from anything. One could point out that his success in Tampa Bay and now (so far) in Vancouver can be largely attributed to the talent he was handed, but that is exactly the point. Any reputable, successful head coach succeeded with a repertory of talent at his disposal. Joel Quenneville, as good of a coach as he is, goes only so far without Kane, Toews, Keith, Hossa, etc. Phil Jackson had Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman among others in Chicago and then had Kobe and Shaq in Los Angeles. Hell, Glen Sather himself, who coached arguably the best dynasty in NHL history in Edmonton, should understand that he doesn't do so without the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, etc. He better than anyone else should know that a head coach can only work with what is handed to him and that there is only so much that can be improved upon within the locker room and practice rink. With that experience himself, one has to wonder when Glen Sather will stop blaming the coaching and tactical approach - first from Renney, then Tortorella, and let's not even get into the pre-lockout years - and start to acknowlege that he hasn't even given his coaching staffs a chance.
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After the way Richards played last season, the fact he's the leading goal scorer on this team right now should really say something to management about their failures in bringing an actual professional quality team together. And I was always (and remain) a fan of John Tortorella. He was fired unjustly, and the success he's had in Vancouver is not surprising.
There are different types of "trying", and I'm not saying there is a lack of effort overall. When I coached kids hockey teams, I told them that when they didn't have the puck they could either be "dog walkers" or "prison breakers". Dog walkers keep one hand on the stick, stretched out with little leverage, trying to break up passes and deflect the puck, looking like you are walking a small dog. Prison breakers have both hands on the stick, leaning in and forward, like they are digging a tunnel to bust out of jail. THOSE are the guys that win the battles for loose pucks, don't let anything stop them. The Rangers need more Prison Breakers and less Dog Walkers.
You really can't think that Silverspoon A**Hole Dolan, a guy who never made a penny in a competitive business in his life would have a clue about hockey. He is dumber than a rock and lower than worm piss, so don't expect any change to come from his empty skull.
I didn't like Torts ( except for his entertaining exchanges with the press) but I don't like how he got thrown under the bus either. It's got to be frustrating for any coach when your team stops trying.
Well said. I was and always will be a big fan of Torts. He was under appreciated by a lot of fans. Those same fans are now complaining about the mess of the team we have now. What did you expect when your leadership bitches and moans about their boss being too tough on them?????Waaaahhhh.
This team should have grown a sack last year and talked to torts rather than blindsiding him after the season. But instead they stuck their tail between their legs and snuggled up to our horrible excuse for a GM who coincidentally was looking for someone to blame other than himself for going backwards after such a solid 2012.
Oh well, spilt milk now. At least we're finally (mostly) all on the same page... Now if only Dolan could realize the problem.
i'd take tortorella back in a heartbeat. you can't make enabled people do want what they think they don't have to do. in more cases than not the you make ( $$$ ) the less you think you have to work. why should i go out and get knocked around, i've got places to go and people to see. this is the mentality of "most" of todays high paid athletes. i've stopped watching most football, baseball and hoops and if things continue the way they are, hockey's next. they've become SPOILED BRATS !!!!
In other words, it's time for another firing and some trades. . .which will most likely be too little, too late to save this season anyhow. :-P
Sather and the players need to apologize not only to torts but to us. I personally can't stand AV, I think he's the wrong coach for not only this group but also for the conference but he has the rite to take a job, just like anyone else.
@TheNYRBlog I think alot of fans knew that. But the fire Tortorella crowd was the loudest. Strength of bottom 6 got us to ECF.
Stepan is another one, held out for $$, he must be busy counting his $$ because he's invisible on the ice
Never Tots' fault. He doesn't score, check, pass, block, hit, save or not play w heart. Time to look in the mirror and not expect to see the coaches reflection staring back at you!
Queen Henrik rode the coach out of town and got his $. He hasn't won one game since signing that contract and Torts' Canucks haven't lost since the game at the Garden
Coaches like Torts have short shelf lives with teams. He couldn't get them over te hump and the team rebelled. It happens to task masters. Keenan comes to mind.
Yeah, I hated the way Torts' team won more playoff series than any NYR coach in memory. He should have gave more hugs and kissed Larry Brooks' ass more.
Always thought that Torts should of gotten another year. I feel the lockout year wasn't fair to him.
Worst decision ever to let the one coach who led you to the eastern finals in the past 12 years. If you think he was a bad coach your an idiot. How else can you explain his success
Very well put. I wish Avery's taunt were true, so at least there'd be something fun to watch in a game. And at this point, too, I'd be willing to put Talbot in goal more, until Lundqvist finds his game again.
True that his approach to the players and constant berating and personality were starting to be tuned out by the players. My main gripes with Torts were his forecheck strategy which sent 3 guys behind the other goal line, leaving NOBODY in the slot to shoot, and his complete lack of ability to fix the PP. Vancouver has 3 elite players on offense, the Sedins and Kessler to the Rangers' one in Nash, and until the underlying softness of the NYR players is addressed, the problems with the up-and-down play will continue. This team is NOT hard on the puck, not hard when skating into opponents and gets bumped off and knocked down most of the time. Nobody skates THROUGH the opponent, like a Lucic or a Malkin does. It is always 'try to arrive first and get out' which isn't working most nights. The opponents know this and go right at the Rangers, willing to battle because there is little price to be paid. And I don't mean fear of fighting, because Asham and Dorsett will go at any time: I mean constantly being beaten physically in battles for the puck, wearing a team down and banging them around. Nobody is worried about taking hits when they play NYR, so they can break out and dump in without looking over the shoulder. And that is on Sather.
The only problem is that torts started losing his players. I underestimated torts but at the same time how can you keep him if the players don't want to play for him. Not to defend AV because he's been crap and calling out his players worse then torts. I think it's a lot easier for torts to get his team to add more defense to their game then AV changing a total d first to more offensive puck control game. It's funny because they have a heavy in Sestito and weise playing in their bottom 6. The talent isn't that much better then the rangers.
@TheNYRBlog "head coaches seem to have much more success ..... with teams other than the Rangers" My favorite line from the article lol
Very very well put and great insight. I saw Vancouver both last night and Friday and was very impressed by what Torts has done with that team. You are right that Boston was under-manned, but I marveled at the discipline much like what the Rangers used to show. Even longed for it. I had to laugh when he called a time out after Boston scored, obviously "unhappy", and they turned around and scored immediately and really never looked back. Sure don't always agree with his methods, but you cannot argue with the results.
At least with Torts we knew who we were, what kinda team we had. A team that fought with heart, never gave up; came back from being scored on first. Yeah Sather let half the heart and soul go. So blame him not Torts. And yes Torts was a dick, but last I checked so is 90% of the NY, NJ area, we have no patience for anyone , strangers like shit, curse people out, flip people off, and basically think we are the center of the universe. So Torts was our coach. He was one of us. And fuck the spineless players who couldn't handle it, soft in the locker room still soft on the ice. Everyone on this team needs to grow a pair.
@TheNYRBlog Torts' Nucks won 7 in a row! Hottest team in hockey.
Sorry. Not apologizing for anything. Many of us knew Torts was a terrific coach. For me, it was the way he conducted business, acted like an ass with the media, threw guys under the bus, etc. I didn't feel good about the hiring of Torts from the start, knowing his reputation, but had to give him props for an excellent job overall. I didn't like the AV hire, either, but time will tell.
@TheNYRBlog or we could just be having a bad season. It happens in sports
@TheNYRBlog So bad Kreider made team by default & next best call up was Newbury. Lost all Pk'ers. If he lost room AV never had the room.