Takin' a T/O with BT: How Big of a Job is John Tortorella Facing in New York?

xx yySenior Writer IFebruary 25, 2009

Unlike Barry Melrose, when John Tortorella entered the world of Television, many thought that he would be back soon.

I don't know how many people thought it would take only eight-and-a-half months to get Torts back behind an NHL bench though.

With the recent struggles of the New York Rangers though, something was bound to change, and easier than firing a General Manager mid-season or trading twenty-one players at the deadline, former Rangers' Head Coach Tom Renney got the axe.

Should it have been Glen Sather's head on the chopping block instead of(or at least along with) Renny's? That depends on who you ask, but it's hard to dispute that this team needed something to shake the cobwebs and help get their play back on track.

So John Tortorella, it's time to polish up your skates, get your motivating voice back, and start getting your message across and pushing the New York Rangers.

As of today, Tortorella has already started. Torts hadn't even stepped on the ice or blown his whistle once and most of the Rangers were out there ready to go for practice, wary of the war stories from those who have dealt with the fiery American.

Going even further, Tortorella did something that many people take for granted in sports these days: He laid the groundwork for developing a strong sense of pride.

In other words: Keep your feet off the New York Rangers' logo on the floor of their dressing room. Pretty straightforward, but effective nonetheless.

But that's just the first day. He's still a day away from his first game with the Rangers, and there's still 21 games to go until the end of the season. He's also just one point out of eighth right now (The Rangers sit sixth in the East with 69 points) and two points away from missing the playoffs entirely.

So where does Tortorella start with the Rangers? Well how about two "abilities".

The first ability is respectability, something that will stem directly from the "no stepping on the logo" rule. The Rangers have looked like a team that's laked intensity, fire, and commitment over the past few weeks, and if Torts can remind the players that they play for one of the oldest franchises in the league and of the honor that comes with it, it could do wonders for refreshing the Rangers' efforts down the stretch.

The second ability is accountability. You can call him loud, harsh, crass, annoying, and indelicate, but the one thing Torts makes sure of is that his players stay accountable for their actions.

Many don't like putting much stock in the plus/minus statistic because most see it as an inaccurate way of measuring one's defensive ability. When you look at the Rangers though, the plus/minus stat, correct or not, seems to be a pretty good indicator of the Blueshirts futility as of late.

As it stands, only three Rangers have a plus/minus of even (0) or better. One of them (Artem Anisimov) has played just one game this season to earn his even rating. The other two are Nikolai Zherdev and Ryan Callahan. There are also seven players on the roster with a minus-10 or better (worse?) rating, combining for a minus-84.

Once the accountability starts to resurface on this team and the respectability returns to the lineup, Tortorella can start fixing some other aspects of the Rangers game like the anemic power play.

Currently the third-worst powerplay in the league, the Rangers have also allowed the most short-handed goals in the league with 14. If players can learn to remain accountable even on the powerplay, then the futility will start to filter out, and teams will become more wary of taking penalties against the Rangers, a powerplay that has scored only three goals this month.

The Rangers also have a minus-9 goal differential in the third period, which an added sense of accountability late in games will hopefully amend. Along with that, the Rangers are ranked 26th league-wide with regards to blocked shots, and some added inspiration may help the players find the initiative to get in the shooting and passing lanes.

While other coaches take time to get accustomed to their new team, Tortorella isn't that touchy-feely—not like he has the option to be at this point in the season anyways. With the trade deadline around the corner, Torts is going to have to work quickly to get New York turned around with all the issues they've run into lately (and we haven't even gotten to the fact they've lost 10 of their past 12 or the fact they're one of four teams in the NHL without a 20-goal scorer).

Then there's the Sean Avery issue: Glen Sather has said that Tortorella will "learn to love him like I have", but if Tortorella has his way, Avery won't be playing in the NHL unless he's truly rehabilitated—he'll be sure of that.

The hope (and expectation) is that Tortorella's go-around with the Rangers this year will go better than it did last time (0-3-1 in 1999/2000), but whether it does or doesn't, I'm sure Tortorella will be sleeping better at night knowing that he's finished with the TSN Quiz.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan, you can do so through his profile. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.


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