Is New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella Still on the Hot Seat?

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Is New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella Still on the Hot Seat?

John Tortorella is the most controversial head coach in the NHL, and like all coaches of this nature, there comes a time when their fiery style no longer benefits the team.

That time may come in the near future for Tortorella, who, for the most part, has underachieved during his tenure as head coach of the New York Rangers, which began in the 2008-09 season.

The Massachusetts native is currently in a challenging second-round playoff series with the Boston Bruins, one in which the Rangers have been completely outplayed in the first two games at TD Garden. As a result, the Blueshirts are facing an 0-2 deficit going back to Madison Square Garden for the second consecutive series.

"We don’t want to lose two games here. No one does," said Tortorella after his team lost 5-2 in Sunday's Game 2. "But there’s no give in the team. There will be no give in this team. Again, we need to go win a game. Not look anywhere else, just try to win our first home game this series."

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"You always have to try to be better as a team, and if we’re going to win a game, and that’s all we’re looking at—we’re going to have to be better."

Tortorella is on the hot seat, but it's not burning just yet. A second-round sweep or a five-game series loss to the Bruins would revive the debate on whether or not Tortorella is the right coach for the Rangers, but the the chances of him losing his job are likely small now that his team is out of the first round.

After a grueling shortened season and a lot of roster turnover from the 2011-12 squad, Tortorella will probably get another chance to help the Rangers reach their potential. Injuries and a lack of depth prevented him from having a roster that was suited for his style of play for a full year.

But a lackluster 2013-14 season could spell the end of Tortorella's tenure with the Rangers.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather has shown a lot of faith in his head coach, and you could even argue that his construction of the team's roster was poor given the lack of depth and talent New York had until it made a few moves at the trade deadline in April.

However, if poor playoff results and distractions continue to mount, his time in New York should not last much longer.

Tortorella is not an easy coach to play for, and there are a number of reasons why.

He's a very intense coach and isn't afraid to speak his mind privately and publicly. His criticism is direct and honest, and some guys, regardless if they are a star player or a third/fourth-line grinder, are better motivated with more encouragement than harsh criticism.

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His comments about Rangers forward Carl Hagelin on Saturday were unprofessional and unnecessary. Here is what Tortorella said about his young winger:

He stinks, I don't know why. I wish I could put him on the power play, but every time I put him on he stinks.

I think he’s too quick; I think he’s a jitterbug and he screws it up. But I may use him, I’d love to. And I’m not trying to be a smartass. He stinks on the power play every time I put him on there.

First of all, Hagelin is far from the biggest problem on the power play, evidenced by the fact that the team has converted on just two of its 36 opportunities with the man advantage during the playoffs, including an 0-for-20 success rate on the road.

To embarrass Hagelin in front of the media when he's not even the real issue in the team's inability to score on the power play was a poor decision from Tortorella, and this is a good example of why his style of coaching can often be counterproductive.

Instead of criticizing a young player such as Hagelin, Tortorella should look at a veteran like Brad Richards, who has one goal in the playoffs, no power-play points and is getting paid a team-high $12 million (via Capgeek) to produce offensively (which he has failed to do in 2013).

We are now in an era where the players have the majority of the power. Very rarely do we see players shipped out of town before coaches are fired. Tortorella's my-way-or-the-high-way kind of style isn't the best way to interact with this generation's players. This is why he's unique in today's NHL—there are no other coaches like him.

In addition to his poor methods of handling his players and the media, Tortorella's style of play also makes it hard to come to work every day.

The high amount of shot-blocking that he demands from all of his players and the rigid defensive system he uses gets tiresome, both physically and mentally, after a while. It's tough to come to work every day when the players' roles requires the kind of physical wear and tear that results from Tortorella's style of hockey.

While his style of play has resulted in the Rangers achieving some impressive regular-season success (171-115-29 record since 2008), it also increases the chances that his players will deal with injuries when the playoffs finally arrive. Playing this style of hockey for a full season, plus the playoffs, is incredibly difficult, and it's one reason why the Blueshirts have advanced past the first round just twice with Tortorella as head coach.

Another concern about Tortorella is his inability to help correct the Rangers' weaknesses offensively. They have scored the second-fewest goals of the eight remaining playoff teams, and he changes his lines way too much, including the foolish decision to play Richards on the fourth line when he's struggling.

Even though he has more offensive skill at his disposal than most coaches in the NHL, Tortorella's team has struggled to score goals consistently all season. Since Tortorella is unable to find ways for his best players to produce offensively, the team has to rely on star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist way more than it should.

Sooner or later, the players' belief in Tortorella's message will start to decline if the team fails to get to the "next level" and make a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Will Tortorella be behind the Rangers bench at the end of the next year?

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Criticizing players publicly and asking them to play a physically demanding style of hockey only works for so long, especially when the team continues to fail in the postseason.

Fierce coaches like Tortorella often have a short shelf life with each team that employs them, and if he fails to adapt and change his style a bit so the Rangers are better prepared to win in the playoffs, he shouldn't have a job in New York beyond the 2013-14 season.

This team has the potential and enough talent to win a championship right now, and if Tortorella is unable to get the most out of his players and reach to the Stanley Cup Final, Sather will need to find someone who can before the franchise's championship window begins to close.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. Nick was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup final and 2012 NHL playoffs, and he is also a credentialed writer at the 2013 NHL playoffs in Boston. All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.

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