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Current Rangers' Coach John Tortorella
In the case of John Tortorella, there is perhaps no more damning indication of just how quickly he should be let go than a comment he made during the team breakup over this past weekend. The quote is as follows;
“I know I’m supposed to feel it was a disappointing season, but I don’t buy it and I won’t,” the coach said to the New York Post. “I don’t think we took a step back. I think it was a sideways step.”
As any observer would tell you, this season was by no means a sideways step. The team struggled all season to gain any kind of momentum, and it wasn't until after the trade deadline that the group showed itself capable of sustaining a winning approach night in and night out.
The trade deadline brought in talent, no doubt; however, it could be said that the Rangers possessed enough talent from day one to perform consistently over the course of the season. The deadline acquisitions of Ryan Clowe, Derick Brassard, John Moore and Mats Zuccarello were compelling - and to a relative degree each of these players has the ability to positively contribute in the years to come if they remain with the team—however, had the players on the roster from day one been utilized properly there would not have been the need to overhaul the team so late in the season.
Specifically, Marian Gaborik, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller were perhaps the most poorly utilized assets in all of hockey this year. Gaborik was inexplicably asked to switch wings, despite potting 105 goals over his first three seasons as a Ranger and despite the fact that he was arguably the only asset that opposing teams needed to focus on for the first two of those seasons.
As for Kreider and Miller, two of the most promising talents to come out of the US Hockey program in many years, they each spent more time looking over their shoulders waiting for their coach to harass them than they did concentrating on what they do best, which is create offense. And in the case of Miller specifically, Tortorella refused to allow the young center to gain any momentum, instead relying on an obviously overmatched Brad Richards for the entire season.
Did the Rangers lose some key personnel between last season and this? Yes, they did. With this said, though, Tortorella should have been able to overcome the loss of key role players like Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky simply because he had the assets to do so. By trading those players or letting them walk the implicit message was that the team could thrive without their services. And with the exception of Prust, who received an absurd offer from Montreal, the Rangers had every opportunity to decide to keep each of these assets.
Tortorella knew these deals and decisions were being made, and to imagine that he fought tooth and nail to keep Rick Nash from coming to New York is equally absurd as imagining that the Rangers power play has been an effective weapon for the past three years or so.
Lockout or no lockout, and Tortorella is sure to take every opportunity to mention the lockout, this Rangers team had the same opportunity to prepare for the season as every other team in the league. That the team began the season woefully unprepared to compete with the assets available is a testament to Tortorella's stubborn refusal to adjust to his roster.
It was a fatal flaw of his, perhaps his most profound fatal flaw, and though he is responsible for putting together some teams that achieved some great moments the reality is that he is not the man to coach the current roster of the New York Rangers.
His collapse defense approach, as well as his tendency to stifle offensive creativity, works well with a roster of lunch-pail players. The current Rangers are not the lunch-pail type, though, and Tortorella's preferred offensive and defensive schemes only serve to ground his best players and place them in physical jeopardy with the shot-blocking demands imposed on them.
Tortorella should hold his head high as he exits, but he should exit nonetheless.