With Henrik Lundqvist telling the New York Post's Larry Brooks that he had no involvement in the firing of John Tortorella the fire was once again stoked. If Lundqvist did not request the change, then who did? Did anyone? Glen Sather sought to clarify that when he spoke to NYDN beat writer Pat Leonard. Sather said that no player specifically asked for the move but that he and management could feel that the attitude in the locker room changed.
But it was the offense and puck possession - or lack thereof - that Sather chose to focus on. From the article:
"He also knew that the Rangers' style of play needed to evolve to contend with other top NHL teams, or in his words, 'the game has changed.'
'If you look at these playoff games (like the Stanley Cup Finals matchup) you're gonna see tonight, the style that they play, I mean there's not a hell of a lot of dump-ins,' Sather said.' (I) mean, (if) you have to dump the puck in, you have to dump it. But there's a lot of puck control and hanging onto the puck and moving the puck out, and there's not stopping behind the net to gain control. There's a lot of things that are done differently than what we were doing. So you have to look at the style of play. That had a lot to do with (the decision to fire Tortorella), too.'"
It's a fair point at face value from Sather. The Bruins and Blackhawks and Penguins and Kings have had successful seasons and deep playoff runs in part because of offense, obviously, but also puck possession. And in both areas the Rangers struggled heavily.
But here is where things start to unravel for the 69-year-old GM. Coaching has something to do with it for sure, but perhaps the biggest reason that some of these teams have such success offensively and in holding the puck lies in player personnel and not necessarily a tactical philosophy. The Penguins have Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. The Blackhawks have Kane, Toews, Hossa, Seabrook, and so on. The Bruins don't really match that, but then again the Bruins don't play too different from how John Tortorella's Rangers did. The difference being that their personnel play the system better than ours did.
And this is not to absolve Tortorella and Sullivan of any blame. There is no doubting that their philosophies were more rigid compared to some how some other teams play. Certainly we had enough talent to not have an embarrasingly ineffective powerplay. But it's awfully difficult to pinpoint the outgoing coaching staff as the main source of inefficiency when the team hardly faired any better under the Renney regime. Sure, the Rangers had a top-10 powerplay in Renney's first two years on the job; Renney's first two seasons also held the Straka-Nylander-Jagr line at a time where it was arguably the best line in hockey. The three had the right combination of instinct, skill, and chemistry that allowed them to possess the puck in the offensive zone for long shifts and ultimately make the other team pay. Then Jagr and Straka started to show their age and break down, and Nylander was sent packing. And thus started (another) long list of failed signings. Ever since their departures the Rangers have completely failed to put together three players capable of gaining the offensive zone with the puck, then holding onto it, then stringing together a few passes before putting it on frame the way that those three could.
A coach like Joel Quenneville or Claude Julien deserves plenty of credit for the offensive powehouse he has turned the Blackhawks or Bruins into. But he is not doing that without an ample supply of players capable of that type of play. Joel Quenneville was given Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Renney and Torterella were given Scott Gomez and Markus Naslund/Vinny Prospal. Claude Julien was given Zdeno Chara. Renney and Tortorella were given Wade Redden.
The reality is that John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan, while perhaps underwhelming in their own right, could only work with what they were given. It's not in spite of Tortorella and Sullivan that the Lightning had the top powerplay and second-ranked offense in 2003-2004 when Tampa Bay management gave them a primed Lecavalier, Richards, St. Louis, and Boyle with which to work. In New York they were handed much less, and the results showed it. Now, Glen Sather is handing the keys to Alain Vigneault, who, along with assistant coach Newell Brown, has received all sorts of praise for his offensive intuition. Bringing these guys to New York certainly is a step in the right direction. But again, it's a lot easier to look good when you have the Sedin Brothers working their magic and a whole slew of defensemen capable of making plays on the powerplay. Do the Rangers have some attractive pieces? Absolutely. But if Glen Sather fails to address the glaring issues and Dan Girardi, Mats Zuccarello, and Anton Stralman continue to be the best we have to offer in terms of a powerplay quarterback then we're never going to mirror the output of these puck possessing, offensive juggernauts that Glen Sather is so admiring of. And Alain Vigneault will become the sixth coach to take the fall for the team's failures under a GM who manages to stay unscathed himself each and every time.
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It is a quite interesting PR blitz Slats is running. Slowly but surely building the case that firing Torts was anything other than the owner deciding he wanted a coach who was nicer and more cuddly. The bullpoop smells smellier than ever.
Building a great team with Crosby, Letang and Malkin, Toews, Kane, etc is easy. All you have to do is finish at the bottom of the heap a few years in a row. The Penquins have justifiably earned the Team Tank byline in their short history. Little fish tend to swim really well with big fish in undisturbed waters. When the waters become turbulent as in the playoffs... Under the pre-cap NHL, this was how things worked as big market teams bought beyond-best-shelf-life vets who [almost] always got them into the playoffs with mediocrity masquerading as elite. Unfortunately, it left them without can't miss draft picks - unless you got really really really lucky and snaged a Zetterburg in the 7th round and a Datysuk in the 8th. The cap puts everyone on a fairly even footing, and, in the long run, travesties/aberations like Pitts and Edmonton - three firsts overalls in a row - should never happen again. All teams will have to build the hard way - through sound management. Unless Toronto continues as Boston's farm team... see Rask, Seguin, and Hamilton.
Good read Adam but to me the biggest problem in the NHL is recycling coaches. I just don't understand how Sather can hire yet another guy who has issues playing his younger players?
Sorry AV is a mistake of a train wreck when paired with Sather who isn't going to give AV much say in the roster after listening to Tortorella the last few years.
Man, i cant believe i am defending Sather, but personel wise the Rangers have built a great team over the last eight years withought basement dwelling like some of the other franchises. Sather has been at his best the last three years and I agree with him completely on the torts firing. He wasnt implementing a winning system. he was implementing a system that tried desperately not to lose, which is a completely different philosophy.
Actually, I think we've had some great pieces over the years, though much more so under Torts than Renney. I'm no Torts basher, in fact he really won me over these playoffs. But anyway, I think Torts has certainly had the talent. Nash, Gaborik, Stepan, Richards, and Callahan have all been great. But especially on D we have a superb amount of talent. Del Zotto has shown some brilliant flashes, and I am convinced that Staal and McDonagh have a lot of untapped potential in terms of offense. Now we have Moore. It might not be mind blowing but before the past two seasons who thought Neal or Kunitz or Dupuis were half the players they are now? Before his Hart winning breakout season, Henrik Sedin (and his brother) weren't even point per game players---the difference being their new coach. And in Chicago, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, and Bolland all became great players before they were considered great. And how many Chicago players became soooo good after they were moved? (Neimi, Versteeg, Brouwer, Byfluglein, Ladd)
So what's my point? I guess it's just that I think our rosters have bad plenty of talent that hasn't been brought out. I think we have had bad rosters and very good rosters but ultimately, we haven't found a way to squeeze them for every drop (perhaps with the exception of last season) and not in any way offensively.
Dubinsky once led our team in scoring....we got nothing after that, and I don't think it's because his 20 goal 50 point season was unimaginable.
Hopefully Vigneault can show us our roster has more than we care to notice.
Torts and Sullivan had years to create an offensive system that was efficient and consistent, they failed.
Interesting that quite a few of the concerns I've brought up all season about Torts are written in this article. Great job :) - I respect Torts but I was hoping he'd leave. Simple choice in the end really. Torts brought us back to respectability but has gone as far as he'll go with this team and you can't fire all the players. Thank you JT but time to move on to a different coach with a different perspective to see if that will meld better with this team and help us win. Should be end of story right there. No fault. No foul. Ah, but then there's Sather. The comments from Slats here make me think he's an asshole. Maybe he's the one that lacks vision, creativity, and lack of hockey "depth perception", and here I've been blaming it on the coach - my bad. Yeah the Nylander line was hot, even if they were getting older they still rocked. Letting Nylander walk, the player with the best chemistry of anyone with Jags - not an easy task. then followed by the signing of the younger but most over rated player in the league... and voila! Disaster!! Duh!!! ahh, now there's some vintage Slats for you.
Glen!! this guy would be a good fit. Imagine him pasting Crosby a few times a year? http://oilonwhyte.com/2013/06/19/should-the-oilers-re-sign-mark-fistric/
Straka-Nylander-Jagr is one of my favorite lines, only Jags was really considered a star player but Straks and Lander built amazing chemistry with him, my number for hockey is 82 thanks to Straka
Holy crap, it's NOT the coaching, it's the players! Sather and Dolan must be laughing themselves silly watching the fans and media obsess over the coaching of the NYR being instrumental in their poor performance. The Rangers are NOT THAT GOOD! They didn't underachieve. They overachieved the year before and WITH MORE DEPTH! This isn't about the players not buying in, or not liking Torts. This is about the players simply not being good enough. In typical NY fashion, both media and fans have their sights on the wrong target and Sather has managed to hide in the glare of the klieg lights. Torts was not the problem, just like Sanchez is not the problem. The Jets are terrible because they have literally zero talent - of course your QB is going to perform poorly. When they had talent he was a decent and serviceable QB and they got to the AFC chmp game. A team playing Torts exact system is currently playing (and winning) in the Cup finals. Sheesh...
Man... Jagr, Nylander, and Straka.... what a great line that was. Goes to show you that what looks good on paper (Nash, Richards, Gabby) is not what works in reality. I mean, remember the Czechmates? They were underachievers, until they started playing together, and then returned to underachieving when they broke up and went to separate teams.
What this tells you is only Sather, Dolan and Torts know why Torts was fired. All the wizards that write about our team know a lot about conjecture and opinion and they know little, very, very little about what is going on with the team.
What I do know from meaningful, direct and personal business experience Dolan can be threatened very easily and dismisses subordinates even faster. I am thinking out loud what if anything was behind Torts' mini feud with Dolan regarding The Cup aspirations of the team?.......remember that!
For some reason Sather has never addressed having a QB on the PP. Rangers have great Defensive D-men. They need a offensive Dman to move the puck.
Excellent job, Adam. Look at some of the guys Torts had to work with: Powe, who played 37 games with the Rangers and had less points than Lundquist who had one assist. That's right: An NHL forward who played 37 games and didn't have a single point. Then there was Halpern and Rupp and Bickel and Hamrlich and Gilroy. There were also the abominbly slow MDZ, Richards' Ashem and Pyatt. It's a miracle to me that this team did as well as it did considering that Staal was missing for most of the year.
Good piece, Adam. Sather is full of it. Dolan told him to fire Torts and he's now changing his tune since Hank came out with his statement today -- all to save his own skin and cover up his incompetence. Don't get me wrong, Torts certainly wasn't perfect by any means and he deserves some of the blame for the team falling short (which, by the way, he put on himself on break up day -- unlike the rest of Ranger management), but he's not at fault for having an inferior team to work with than the truly elite teams in the league. Look in the mirror, Glen.
I agree with this article wholeheartedly... it is everything I have felt about the Rangers for years, but put down onto paper... nice piece.
what the hell...?
@TheProspectpark He hasn't even started to coach and you are down on him already? Would expect more professionalism from you Jess.
You have got to be kidding! Tortorella never adjusted the tealent level of his players not ever! He insisted on his style and only his style of unimagmitive boring hockey. Block a shot and hope Hank saves the rest. He got what he deserved. He constantly threw the players under the bus and never held himself accountable until his last presser when they got eliminated by Boston. Then he made a curosory comment about getting the players to play better, well he should have put them in a position to succeed not fail.
As far as Sanchez not having any talent around him althought that is somewaht true, what talent does Sanchez have exactaly? He can't throw and can't run. Still makes rookies mistakes so is that because of the lack of team talent or lack of talent in Sanchez?
@jmacwilli I agree except I think we're better than you state. (A coach is a small fragment of a team puzzle but the right one can give you a decent tilt. ) We're not there yet to being a top team but closer than you make it sound IMHO. You also bring up an interesting point in the end. Teams are winning playing the same system as Torts. Boston's play was different in a few ways as they adapted well to us and pressured the puck more but yeah, the system looked pretty much the same. So Boston plays our system - tort's system only they're bigger and play tougher than us in a system that requires hard gritty work so basically they're better at playing this system then we are, something everyone knew before the puck dropped. so obviously the coach had to know this as well. But did he adapt his system knowing that it would be impossible to win against a team that plays your system better than you? To quote the great Mr. Spock "this is not logical" Were there counter-strategies, appropriate adjustments with his system?? adapting to meet and beat the opponent, who, with help from the King were quite beatable. Or did he keep doing the same things over and over again that weren't working. You can blame the players but damn, we looked absolutely stifled out there. It was so hard to watch trying the same thing that hasn't worked over and over again until game 4 when they finally made a few adjustments. This is why I've never liked Torts and why I've wanted to see Torts go this season. I respect him, he's a fine coach and he brought us back to respectability, great coach on paper but in the real world he lacks vision, depth perception, imagination and ability to think out of the box, IMHO
you seriously believe that? the difference is the boston bruins are built to be a grinding team. the rangers have a mixed bag o players and the coach has to work with what he has, not force skill players to become grinders. sorry i respectfully disagree with you.
@Josh6 Go Rozsi! I always liked the guy and he is proving me right.
@Josh6 Thought Rosy was always an underrated player, and was treated very unfairly by Ranger fans at the end of his time here.
@EHBIGAPPLE Yup. It was Dolan. The rest -- players revolting, "style" outdated -- is cover.
@pronasty71 Well, Redden was supposed to be that, and we all know how that turned out. NYR could also use a bruising clear the crease d-man too.
@shishya100 Yes...lots of things. Players and management underachieving alike, unlike last year, which was the polar opposite.
@Josh6 Don't you believe it, Msg is just finishing a zillion dollar overhaul and it will noy be moving .
@Not So Nashty I agree with you with regards to Torts, but 'd like to remind you that this is a hockey blog and most of us don't care about dirty Sanches of the woeful Jets so please keep your comment on hockey.
Don't jinx it. Very similar thing happened with the dodgers... And we all know how that turned out... Dolan would rather move then eat all the money he just spent on that stadium in my opinion...