Some movie lines become famous because of how catchy they are, or how they coincide with a memorable moment. "I'll be back" is one. "Say hello to my little friend" is another. But others, such as The Joker's, have their true impact in how applicable they are outside of the context of the movie. If/when the Mets win somewhere between 70-75 games this season and finish well out of the playoff picture, not much beyond the usual cynicism will emerge. But here are the Rangers - a team that is supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender - struggling. And suddenly some have, indeed, lost their minds.
"All human errors are impatience; the premature breaking off of a methodical procedure, an apparent fencing-in of what is apparently at issue." -Franz Kafka
A quote that beautifully paints the picture for how Glen Sather acted as GM for the first part of his tenure. Complete impatience. An inability to look at long-term growth. Total disregard for a methodical procedure geared towards building a strong franchise built to sustain. Instead, attempting to address flaws with radical trades intended to immediately salvage a sinking ship. Instead of the typical five-year plan, Slats insisted on a "now" plan which lacked any foresight for long-term goals and building in favor of them. He never seemed to learn, and Rangers fans wanted him banished for it.
Slats did learn eventually. A large part of that was simply a much improved scouting department. But John Tortorella was also a significant influence. Hellbent on building the team through free agency and depending on Lundqvist to single handedly will the team into the playoffs, Tortorella came in late during the 08-09 season and insisted on establishing a base internally. While Renney relied on Malik, Rozsival, and Redden for top minutes, Tortorella soon exclaimed after being hired that Staal and Girardi were no longer going to be treated like children and were going to be featured players. Callahan and Dubinsky saw their roles increase. When the Rangers exited the playoffs in the first round in the Capitals with a roster officially constructed by Sather though obviously heavily influenced by Renney, a total of five homegrown players could be found in the locker room.
Fast-forward to last season; a season in which the Rangers finished first overall in the Eastern Conference and was two games away from their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1994. The number of homegrown players was now a majority; 12. And that's withholding Zuccarello and Sauer. For the first time since Brian Leetch, the Rangers had a homegrown captain in Ryan Callahan. A complete culture shift, one that reaped the reward of pretty significant success, and one that was built to last long-term.
Of course, the scouting staff, coaches in Hartford, and Sather himself deserve immeasurable credit for the turnover. But John Tortorella is far from irrelevant to the change. The Rangers have clearly begun drafting towards the philosophy he has. The Lightning won their cup with homegrown players as their backbone, and it's clear the Rangers, under Tortorella want to do the same.
Which leads us back to Franz Kafka and the irony of how some Rangers fans are thinking. Nobody is pretending that the Rangers have been playing well this season. Nobody is pretending that Tortorella does not deserve blame for the results. But when we are talking about something drastic like firing John Tortorella, we're talking about a move intended for the sake of an instant gratification which might not even come - a move in which the intended result is to save this current season - without taking into consideration the long-term ramifications. Without considering how, as Kafka says, we're "breaking off a methodical procedure" in order to rectify what we view as an all-encompassing present. The Rangers have slowly gone from a team built on misfits, free agents, and whatever Sather could scrap together at the deadline to a young, homegrown team that is viewed as a serious long-term contender and has the resumé of last season to prove it. We can talk about failures of this current team, how Tortorella is to blame for much of that. But that is a discussion about what is current. To suggest a coaching change is not a discussion about what is current at all, but about long-term change. And that is exactly where the irony kicks in. For all the years we spent bashing Sather for refusing to stick to a long-term, carefully mapped plan, now that he is we insist he do the opposite.
The reality is that, to an extent, we got spoiled by last season. While disappointing and perhaps even somewhat unacceptable, this is the nature and reality of building a contender. Rarely is it a smooth ride to success. After an awful first-half of the season for the Bruins in 2009-2010 and barely squeeking into the playoffs, Boston fans and media alike were calling for the dismissal of Bruins' head coach Claude Julien. Out were the claims that he was "holding the team back" and that the system wasn't working. Of course, in spite of three underachieving seasons on top of the underwhleming, lifeless one the Bruins were experiencing, and all the media and fan pressure, the Bruins stuck with Julien. Guess which head coach lifted the Stanley Cup at the end of that season?
By no means should you infer that I'm claiming Tortorella will do the same this year. Or even any year. It may very well be the case that Tortorella has taken this team as far as he could. But to think about how Julien was afforded the time to fix this situation himself and eventually got it done while Tortorella is on the hotseat, as far as the fans are concerned, thanks to a couple dozen bad games despite the best season the franchise has had since 1994 only a year prior?
I'm not pretending everything is rosy. Because it's far from that. Changes need to be made, but those are changes that need to be made internally. The team has an incredibly talented, homegrown backbone that many teams around the league would be grateful to have. Regardless of what happens this season, the Rangers have an enormous pool of young talent who could theoretically make the Rangers potential contenders for the next five-to-eight years. And Tortorella has played his part in that. Of course he has not earned himself a lifetime pass by any measure, but surely he has earned himself more time than half of what essentially amounts to a 40-yard dash season. As Kafka would say, surely disposing of a main component of a long-term plan because of a blip in the radar would be an irrational "fencing in" of what the problems might actually be; to make a change that would dramatically change the direction of this team's "methodical procedure" with the idealistic hopes the grass is greener on the other side of the immediate future.
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Very well-written and well thought-out, Adam. I really can't disagree with anything you've written here.
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@kicker75 I liked Renney very much as our coach from day 1, I equally disliked both Slats and Torts from day 1 and though they were successful last season I still disliked Torts' coaching style. I could see why they felt a change was needed when they brought Torts in but I thought Renney was handed a raw deal. On the note of Jagr, at the risk of being repetitive (I don't remember if this was Renney's doing) but I think playing him on Nylander's line was a true stoke of genius. Jagr is hard to coach as you say, and even harder to play with and Jagr and Nyl made for an amazing tandem. It was beautiful to watch and the results were 52 goals if memory serves. Knowing Jagr's personality and difficult ice style how in a million years could a GM who's not on drugs possibly break those 2 up?? Because Nylander was aging?? Letting him go and signing the most over rated player in NHL history (IMHO) had very predictable results. Gomez sucked ass and Jagr baby'd out and stopped playing half the season because no one could get him the puck and play with him anymore. Thankfully he got over it and made a nice run at the end of that season but just another typical Slats sabotage...
This is great info Adam and thank you for writing it, as one of the fans who's been very outspoken on this blog to fire Torts( though I never said to fire him this season as that type of disruption would only hurt the team, but rather do it after the season). Personally I never liked him as a coach, even when they were winning, and his failure to adapt to his players this year encapsulates the reason why I never liked him. I'm no hockey expert, but as a fan I see a coach who is reactionary, short-sighted and thinks in 2 dimensions in a 3 dimensional game (the human dimension being the one he seems clueless to). His reactionary inconsistent benchings for just one example make the players stiff and not able to flow in a fast game where you cannot think but must react instinctively. They hold their sticks tightly not knowing if a cross checking penalty to clear the net or a marginal boarding that happens to get called will earn them praise for toughness from this coach or a benching. I'm just a fan but from where I sit I see no consistency, just emotional reaction and no matter how brilliant he is he appears to react out of emotions rather than logic and instinct behind the bench. I think he's stubborn and would rather prove his way is THE way rather than make the necessary modifications to his system to match his changing personnel. It appears to me that how he looks in the eyes of the press outweigh the overall success of the team. This is how it looks to me, I'm not saying this is how it is. Also he promised us an "attacking uptempo defense first" system but he has only delivered on the defense first part.
If what you say is true Adam is there any chance they would lose Slats and make Torts the GM? From your commentary that would seem to be the job he's best suited for. BTW if you recall when Slats came in he promised us he'd develop homegrown talent and not over rely on the free agent market. Most of his moves made no sense to me, with predictably disastrous outcomes. There were a few good ones but not many and he abandoned his "youth movement" talk big time. Anyway this was an enlightening read. Thank you
And I can write a rhetorical on how Tortorella is egotistical, belittling, stubborn, and disrespectful, to name a few. Are these qualities you like to see in our coach? Just because he's the coach of the Rangers, why keep giving him a pass and make excuses for his performance. I am tired of the way he treats the press, his players, his constant line changes, his punishment and humility to the players for making a mistake or taking a penalty ( glued to the bench). He runs his players to the ground by constantly shortening the bench, runs a torturous training camp, demands everyone block shots (inducing injuries) and has a horrible offensive system (dump and chase).
We are free-falling in the standings, so why the hell keep him, because it all might work out next year, or the next year?
We don't have time to wait. We had one or two seasons before this team blows up due to free agency. It will be too expensive to keep everyone for more then one more season. In less then three years, we have to pay Hank what he's worth. The Dolans will NOT pay that.
The fact is, this was golden. One of our biggest stars out for half a season? No half the season! A new sniper who has really lived up to the hype. Hank standing on his head.
Instead, we have no scoring, no game, lack-luster defense, beaten up players, and a losing attitude.
This isn't drafting. Drafting has been good. This isn't the players - indivdual efforts have mostly been good. It's coaching. And that's Torts. It's mindless line changes that shift every night. It's forcing players to change to the coach. It's the mindless grudges.
Do I advocate firing him right now? no. This season is insane, he can't be fully judged on it only half way through. But if we don't make the playoffs comfortably, damn right I would after the season. I don't want another scrape-in-by-into-the-8th-seed-on-the-last-game-or-a-playoff followed by a first round exit. That would be the ultimate proof he can't handle this job. Torts gets us the 4th or 5th seed and we go past the first round? I'll give him another year.
Bottom line, I have lost a lot of faith in him. His regular season last year was brilliant. But his playoff coaching is so lack luster, I can't desire him if he doesn't produce when it counts.
Stick with Torts, wait on Kreider and Miller's development. Losing artie and dubi took a chunk out of our home grown middle of the lineup but with time their spots will be filled. Those two (Kreid and Miller) are character players who, when they're ready, will bring back/reinforce last year's mantra of "the right way" that we all miss so much
This post would actually make sense if Tortorella was the GM and his primary responsibility was to build a successful franchise. Unfortunately, he is not, and his PRIMARY responsibility is to win games. Winning games requires the deployment of effective lines and building an inspired cohesive team. Torts does both of these very poorly. His treatment of both veterans and youngsters is obnoxious and are reflective of an egomaniac. People seem to applaud his rudeness and tough talk but it is simply whining from somebody that does not get his way not to mention not very insightful or productive. If you think Torts is such as great franchise builder promote him to GM and let Sullivan coach. Then the Rangers will improve over time win or lose.
Ah, finally a voice of reason. Well done. Now back to our regularly scheduled lunacy of firing Torts and bringing in a bunch of new superstars.
Very well put. For the benefit of all the Ranger fans, just take a look at the Giants over the past 5 years. Three crappy seasons, for sure, but also two Super Bowl wins. It goes up, and it goes down, without any clear reason. The Rangers strike me as much the same sort of team. Capable of laying a huge egg at times, but also capable of rising up and being spectacular.
Well written. We all know childish impatience is the hallmark of the NY sports fan. It seriously gets depressing sometimes, half the fanbase are nutjobs. There's still half a season left to make it to the playoffs, and we could get hot at any point down that road. Reminds me of last playoffs on this blog when the Rangers went to Ottawa down 3 games to 2. Everyone was shitting their pants, calling for trades, Torts' system doesn't work, that's the end of the playoffs, etc. Ended up winning and bringing it back to the Garden for the game 7 win.
The Rangers need to make a decision. Is Tortorella the solution or a big part of the problem? I still think last years team was not that good and if it wasnt for Hank they would have struggled to make the playoffs.So far to me the team and it's game plans are terrible and that comes down to the coach.
@Muggs62 So what was the difference between last season, where they were 1st seed and made it to the ECF and previous seasons where they had the same Lundqvist yet backed into the playoffs and had an early exit?
Hank won the Vezina last year and didn'r previously! Did the team play better defense and block more shots yes and yes. But can you really expect guys to continually stand in front of 100MPH shots. After awhile you have to become a little gun shy about it. And tha's one of my points, this coach cannot make any changes to the way the team plays. The team was upgraded offensively but he still wants the same boring stlye of hockey playes, which consists of blocking shots and hoping for a shootout win. He wants to turn Gabby into a grinder, he shot Krieder's confidence and I'm really hopefull he doesn't turn Nash into a 3rd liner.
I want to believe in this post. But the Rangers have suddenly turned into the New York Jets. They're a dumpster fire right now, sure the record may end up being just mediocre at the end of the season. But even if they make the playoffs, they're not getting out of the first round.
Good article. Good analysis. Maybe the fan base -- including myself -- would be a bit more patient if we weren't forced to keep milking the 1994 Cup, which is ancient history. This organization has made way too many mistakes for a major market team and the fan base keeps paying for it.
In fact, just watched Seguin score on a rebound against Pittsburgh. Rarely see this with the Rangers.
I'm sure Kafka would agree that if a major component of the long term process is prohibiting growth for the good of the organization, then that component should be removed. Case in point, breaking up lines that actual work. Playing only 5 defensemen till top 4 keel over. Reluctance to integrate players from The Whale who actually add depth. Is this Coach doing something so special that he stands out among other coaches? Subtraction may be addition to the common good of our team if this play continues.
@jslnyr1102 Not sure what you're talking about with reluctance to integrate players from the Whale. What head coach has this team had who has successfully integrated prospects into the team more than Torts has? As for the other stuff, those are things he did last season as well... which led to a pretty damn good season. So it's obviously not inherently those things that are the problem. But nonetheless, you are still citing short-term, immediate, fixable things and justifying a long-term change because of them, which is exactly the point of my article.
Without getting too deep, I think Torts is nuts. I'm willing to wait out this season and see where the chips fall. We are good on paper and unfortunately not winning...that says it all
%s Incredible piece and very true. %s fans can't help but be more patient after reading this. Awesome work.
This is the only NYR post I want to read until the playoffs. Yes, the Rangers playoffs. Overdramatic nuts everyone is being.
Yes it makes sense. Watching such a talented team with high expectations does not. What elements of last year are missing that helped the team so much - other than those "character" players? Europe and HBO. The team bonded, cared and stuck up for each other. They listened to their Coach. Are they listening this year? Why doesn't anyone hang out in front of the net or near it for rebounds and deflections?
I dont care, which way the team goes as long as Brad Richards is gone. He is declining currently, and that contract looks AWFUL in 5 or 6 years. He has to go, but then we need to bring in a first, or if stepan can handle that, second line center to replace him for next year
@Herman_NYRBlog One of the best hockey blog posts I've seen. Great insight. Every Rangers fan should give this a read
Love getting tweets like this RT %s excellent piece. I agree with you 100%%. Will be reading your %s blog in the future.
@djmnyc Appreciate it! Glad to gain a new reader!
@Herman_NYRBlog loved the article, but to call Redden a part of "Misfits" insults misfits worldwide.