Don't Hate The Player, Hate The Coach: Tortorella Should Take The Blame

Jon Neely@@iamjonneelyAnalyst IApril 27, 2009

WASHINGTON - APRIL 15:  Head Coach John Tortorella of the New York Rangers discuses strategy during a stoppage of play against the Washington Capitals during Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington,  DC.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

A funny thing has happened to the New York Rangers on the way to upsetting the Washington Capitals.

They didn't.

Well, at least they have not done so yet, and as bad as some of their top players have been playing in the series, the whole blame should not be put on them.

John Tortorella has always been a coach who voiced his opinion, as loudly as he wanted, and to anyone who wanted to hear it. This is a man who seems to never be satisfied with his team no matter what the outcome.

In fact he generally seems not to be satisfied with life in general.

The Rangers jumped out to a 3-1 series lead against the highly skilled Washington Capitals, shocking many, but proving that he could get his group to play its best when it mattered.

It was during the third period of game four in New York when things took a turn for the worst. A very, very sharp turn.

With 17 minutes left in the game, just after Alex Ovechkin had cut the score in half to make it 2-1 for the home team, the Rangers seemed to simply fall apart. The Capitals took control in the game, peppering Henrik Lundqvist with shots from all angles, ringing a few off the post, before Sean Avery did what he does best.

With ten minutes remaining, while chasing down an icing call, Avery spun around wickedly clipping Caps' defender Milan Jurcina in the nose with his glove and the end of his stick, drawing blood. A selfish and stupid play that put the already dangerous Capitals on the power play.

They killed the penalty off, and were hanging on to the lead with three minutes to go when Tortorella sent Avery out on the ice, again.

That's right; Sean Avery was out on the ice with three minutes to go in the most important game of the season for the Rangers, as they desperately hung onto the lead.

The puck was dumped into Washington's zone, Avery flew in and as the whistle blew he spun around with his stick flailing in the air striking Brian Pothier, defenseman for the Capitals, right in the neck.

Incredibly stupid move by Avery to put the Rangers short-handed right at the end of the game, and the reaction on the bench said it all as the coach dropped his head in disbelief.

But here's the thing.

Avery had just taken a stupid penalty six minutes prior to that moment. He is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a defensive specialist, and it was a shock to no one to see Avery commit a stupid penalty; something he has done countless times before.

So why on earth did Tortorella have him on the ice?

A stupid play by Avery, but an even more stupid move by the coach to even have him on the ice to allow him to do something like that.

The Rangers hung on and won the game, but after Tortorella refused to speak about Avery's actions and then scratched him for game five in Washington. Tortorella was obviously putting the blame on Avery, but he was the one who chose to have the guy on the ice.

The Rangers then went back to Washington, but forgot to show up for game five. The Capitals ran them out of the building, shutting them out 4-0, and things ended with Tortorella getting into it with Capitals fans behind the bench.

As the play stopped the cameras quickly focused on the bench, only to find Tortorella swinging a stick like a maniac at a fan behind the glass that had poured, or wasted, a beer on the coach.

He then went on to throw a water bottle into the crowd, hitting a woman in the head with it. Remember last year, when Avery was fined for, that's right, throwing a water bottle into the stands while in the penalty box?

Well since Avery was scratched by the coach for the game, apparently he thought he should take on the role of team idiot.

The situation was eventually dissolved, but it cost Tortorella a one-game suspension. Ironically enough, after Tortorella had benched Avery for stupidity, the league did the same to Tortorella.

Not only had the Rangers been embarrassed on the ice, but their coach managed to embarrass them on the bench too.

For game six, Avery and Tortorella once again switched spots, the coach in the press box and Avery on the ice, but by then the team was already well on it's way to falling apart.

The Rangers lost 5-3, a flattering score for how the game actually went.

So here we are now, the two teams tied 3-3 in the series, each team going in completely opposite directions. The Capitals have never looked better, and the Rangers seem more worried about what's going on behind the bench than in front of it.

Rangers coaching staff has complained of players being bitten, fans spitting on them, an unfair officiating towards Avery, among other players.

I think Ranger players should be the ones complaining.

But they should complain about their coach.

The man who put Avery out on the ice in a highly emotional game-four in the final few minutes.

The man who criticized him for his play, physically showed disapproval on the bench, and then scratched him for the next game, only to get into trouble himself and get suspended.

The man who finds himself on a team falling apart right before his eyes, having realized he cannot hide his team’s deficiencies while the goalie steals the show.

Usually on a team that under achieves it is the coach that is eventually fired when the players are not playing to their potential, but this time it is different.

John Tortorella should take most of the blame tomorrow night if the Rangers fall to the Capitals in game seven.

His ridiculous actions, calls, and decisions have derailed his hockey club, and he has cost them wins while worrying more about himself than the team.

You can talk all you want about Avery's antics and the performance of the highly paid players on the team not performing.

But this time, all eyes should be on the coach for the blame.


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