John Tortorella: Coach of the Year
John Tortorella: Coach of the Year
Forget all pretenses you have about John Tortorella. Forget that he often fights with the media and fans, how abrasive he can be and his prior successes and failures.
Forget that he won a Stanley Cup and a Jack Adams award, and forget that he was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This season, the New York Rangers are playing their best hockey since 1994. The Blue Shirts have the third best point percentage in the entire NHL, thanks to Tortorella and his team. They are arguably the best in the league; a position no one, including myself, thought possible.
Let's take a look at some of the reasons Torts is the best coach in the league:
The Rangers have been winning games and to their coach, that's all that matters. Tortorella has never been afraid to make unpopular decisions with fans and management if it means his team will win. If Gaborik and Richards had to be reduced to fourth-line minutes this year in order to have a great season, Torts would do it. He won't shy away from an unfashionable choice.
When Gabby and Richards were on the same line, it worked for them—but not for the rest of the team. While Richards and Gaborik played together, the Rangers went 3-3-3. Much to the disappointment of fans, they were separated in order to balance the lines, and it worked like a charm.
After the first-line schism, the team has played very well; Gaborik and Richards have 25 points in 28 games. This move also boosted the production of Callahan (21 points, 28 games), Anisimov (19 points, 28 games) and Stepan (20 points, 28 games) after their slow starts.
Falling on His Sword
At the start of the season, fan-favorite Sean Avery was placed in the minors because his relationship with Tortorella was shaky at best, and because he was unable to perform in the pre-season. But after Torts saw that the team lacked a certain je ne çe pas, he swallowed his pride and called Avery back up.
Avery has greatly helped the team, in 15 games he has three goals—already as many as he had all last season. It may sound like a low number to non-fans, but he's brought back a much-needed flair. Tortorella was able to put aside his bias against Avery in order for the team to win.
The Rangers are third in the league in point percentage this year with a record of 17-7-4, and are currently second in the Atlantic Division with 38 points in 28 games, behind their Winter Classic foes, the Philadelphia Flyers, who are flying high on their current six-game winning streak.
The Rangers also have a plus-minus of +22 and seven wins in their last 10 games. If the Rangers keep up their insane pace, they would end the season with 111 points—their best season since the 93-94 season, when they finished with 112 .
The team has managed all this without their No. 1 defenseman, Marc Staal, who has been out all season with concussion-like symptoms.
Tortorella has coached his team to great success this season. And although it is nearly unthinkable the Rangers will be able to keep up this insane pace, the team's faithful are confident they are in the elite of the league and will compete for the Atlantic Division crown.
For your consideration: John Tortorella, the Jack Adams award.
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