NY Rangers: 4 Reasons John Tortorella Needs a Stanley Cup to Stay Employed
John Tortorella has done a great coaching job since taking over for Tom Renney in February of 2009. He has amassed a record of 145-97-25 and led the Rangers to within two games of the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Despite that, New York is a tough town, and the Rangers have the talent to win it all. If he doesn't, Tortorella will take the blame, and it could end up with him looking for a new job.
Coaches take the blame when things go bad. Rangers fans, and of course, the organization as a whole, expect the Rangers to win it all. They are one of the best teams in the league.
Because of that, the imperative to win a Stanley Cup is even greater.
Why does Torts need a Stanley Cup to stay employed? We'll tell you why.
The Window Is Now
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The Rangers have a certain window in which to win the Stanley Cup. Henrik Lundqvist will turn 31 in March, meaning that he's entering his prime, but by 34 or 35, his prime could be over.
Marian Gaborik has two years left on his contract, and Brad Richards just turned 32.
Further, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer are restricted free agents after the 2012-13 season. Chris Krieder is a restricted free agent after 2013-14. Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist are free agents after the 2013-14 season.
The Rangers can't sign all these guys. They're going to have to make choices. Even if we assume that they will re-sign Callahan and Lundqvist, it's possible that Boyle, Girardi and Gaborik could be gone.
It's hard to replace the core of your team that quickly. That means that the Rangers have a window, and that window begins to close sharply after 2014.
The core of the team, as it stands right now, is capable of winning a Cup. Assuming health, there are few teams with this much talent. Further, there are few teams that have as good of a goalie.
So the Rangers have a window, and it's starting to close. They need to take advantage; windows like this don't always come around.
And it's up to Tortorella to make sure they take full advantage of this window. If they don't, it's much easier to fire a coach than it is to fire a whole roster. Coaches, fairly or unfairly, take the blame. If the Rangers can't complete the ultimate task before the window closes, then it will be Tortorella who takes the blame.
Too Much Talent
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Rick Nash. Marian Gaborik. Henrik Lundqvist. Brad Richards. Ryan Callahan. Ryan McDonagh. Marc Staal. Dan Girardi. Chris Kreider. Derek Stepan.
The Rangers have an incredibly talented roster. These are just a few of the many talented guys. Up and down the roster, there are few weak spots.
This means that this is a team that should go far. They showed that potential last season, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
But you don't get trophies for making the Eastern Conference Finals. You have to win the Eastern Conference Finals, and then of course, win the Stanley Cup Finals.
There will be no excuse if the Rangers can't get it done. After last year's defeat, one could say that the Rangers still needed more playoff experience. But now they have it. They have a lot of it. They played in a ton of close games, and know what it takes to win in the playoffs.
So if they don't, Tortorella will be to blame. There are plenty of leaders on the team; it's not a problem in the room. It's not a problem of talent. If they don't win, it's going to fall on the shoulders of Tortorella.
Maybe that's unfair, but that's the reality of the business. Rangers fans now expect a Stanley Cup. Anything less is a disappointment. It will be up to Tortorella to bring that promise to fruition. If he doesn't, then his seat will be burning up.
The Rick Nash Trade
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After the loss to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals, the standard line was that the Rangers needed more scoring. Marian Gaborik was hurt, and there was no one to take the burden off of him.
You can't say that anymore. The Rangers made a blockbuster trade in the offseason, sending Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rick Nash.
Nash is one of the best scorers in the league. Nash scored 30 goals last season playing on a bad team. The theory goes that, with Brad Richards as his center, that number should only increase.
So, now the Rangers have their scorer. They have two of the best scorers in hockey, in Nash and Gaborik. They have one the best centers in hockey in Richards. There's no excuse.
But of course, if all this fails, if Nash doesn't play well, then the burden is going to fall on Tortorella. Nash is signed through 2017-18, with a contract worth $7.8 million. It's going to be near impossible to trade that contract, especially if he isn't playing well.
If Nash plays well, then the Rangers will play well and Tortorella's job should be fine. But if he doesn't, Nash won't be the one to go. No one will take that contract. But it is easier to fire Tortorella. And that may very well happen if the Rangers don't win.
He's Not a Savior
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Tortorella is a great coach. But he's not a savior. He's not a messiah. He has a rough-and-tumble style, one that, when the team is going well, works nicely. But when the team isn't playing well, it can get tired quickly.
Tortorella got fired a few seasons after winning a Cup in Tampa Bay, even though he made the playoffs in a few of those seasons. He had clashes with the ownership and with his own players.
This is New York. Tortorella is going to have to win to justify his staying on as coach. Tom Renney turned the team around after a decade of ineptitude. But even he didn't have leeway. He was eventually fired.
It seems unfair to judge coaches based on if they win the ultimate prize. Starting each season, they have a .03 percent chance of winning the Cup. If they make the playoffs, they still only have a .0625 percent chance of winning. That's not to mention so many factors out of his control, such as injuries, a bad bounce here or there, a hot goaltender, a bad call, etc.
But this is the current state of coaching in the NHL. Tortorella knows this. All 30 coaches know this. They are judged by an almost impossible standard. And if they don't live up to that impossible standard, they will get fired.
Tortorella is not immune to that. He's been fired before. And if the Rangers don't win a Stanley Cup, and win it soon, he may get fired again.