With his first full season as Rangers head coach, and the Rangers first season of just 82 games since before the lockout, John Tortorella is already on the hot seat. With rumors swirling around the eventual departure of the man who hired "Torts," GM Glen Sather, the organization is clearly looking for change.
Since the lockout, Ranger fans have grown to expect more from their team. Missing the playoffs has gone from an normal expectation, to an utter embarassment. Should Tortorella be expected to shoulder all of the blame? Perhaps not. Glen Sather handed out some terrible contracts to some subpar players (*cough cough Redden *cough cough) that may have handcuffed the Rangers for the time being. However, had Redden's contract been much cheaper, it probobly would not have been a big deal, as he finished with a +8 rating and 14 points. While he may not have been close to living up to his contract, it isn't like he was terrible, often going whole games just not being noticeable.
The organization has taken some major turns in the last few years, as they have been major players in the offseason every season since the lockout. Many of the signings they have made however, have not turned out as the team originally planned.
With nine full time players hitting free agency, six of which are restricted, the Rangers will look to try and keep their core together. This core includes Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Drury, possibly Vinny Prospal and second year forward Artem Anisimov at forward, as well as Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and Michal Rozsival on defense. And of course, Henrik Lundqvist in net.
If Tortorella hopes to coach the Rangers beyond the 2010-2011 season, he will have to do more with this core.
But these core players are only core players if Tortorella allows them to be. If and when any of those players hits a dry spell, will Tortorella continue to throw his players under the bus? At some point next year, the Rangers will slip up, and Tortorella will have to take some of the heat for his players. Perhaps it's not his style to ever admit that he is wrong, and it might have worked for a while with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But these are grown men he is coaching, grown men with more experience playing hockey then he does. Eventually the yelling in screaming will get old, just as it did in Tampa. And if the team is struggling at any point next year, and the players have to keep hearing that it is all their fault, a mutiny in new york could be inevitable.
Should the Rangers improve next season, maybe they will tolerate his madness. His firey style can definetly help at times, as shown in a win against the devils early this season, when the Rangers fell behind 2-0 early in the first period. However, there is a limit to how many times the players will listen.
If the Rangers appear as though they will miss the playoffs again, Tortorella could be handing over the reins as head coach sooner than he expects.