By Steve Silverman
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One more year.
John Tortorella has one more year on his contract that will allow him to stand behind the New York Rangers’ bench and direct the Blueshirts in the direction of the Stanley Cup.
If we were taking a long-term view of Tortorella’s stewardship with the Rangers, you could see a steady rise through the first three years of his reign that peaked with the Rangers securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12.
The playoffs should have been their crowning glory last year. The Rangers should have been able to run through the Eastern Conference and at least get to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
That didn’t happen, as the Rangers were bounced by the Devils in six games.
The climb stopped this year, as the Rangers never found a consistent stride during the regular season. They made enough progress after the trade deadline to secure a playoff spot and they surprised a lot of their followers by beating a pretty good Washington Capitals team in seven games.
However, they were dispatched with ease by the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are a good-but-not-great team, and the Rangers were never able to put their signature on the series.
Tortorella is a confrontational guy who likes to project his toughness. He is fairly straightforward and he has a defensive philosophy that supports goalie Henrik Lundqvist. He wants his players to block as many shots as possible before Lundqvist takes over and stops the rest.
It is logical and makes sense. But will it ever win a championship?
The last two Stanley Cup winners, the Los Angeles Kings and the Boston Bruins, were also defensive-oriented teams that were tough and responsible. However, both became legitimate Stanley Cup contenders when they found enough offense to score goals in bunches.
There is every reason to question both Glen Sather and Tortorella’s approach to building a winning team. Both men need to do their jobs a lot better.
But if Sather improved the roster with a couple of key moves, would Tortorella get the most out of his new players or would he have them sit back in the zone and try to block shots?
That scenario seems quite likely. Tortorella is locked into his philosophy. He may be able to discuss having explosive and free-wheeling offensive players, but it seems like they scare him.
He brands them as not effective enough. That’s why the Rangers shipped Marian Gaborik out of town this season, and it’s why Brad Richards dressed in a suit — and not his uniform — during the Rangers’ last two games.
Tortorella is intractable and hard to work with. His team peaked last year, and it doesn’t seem likely that it will get any better under his leadership.
Sather and the Rangers need a new philosophy and a new leader. Tortorella’s hard-edged discipline serves a purpose, but it’s not going to bring the Rangers a championship.
This team needs new leadership. It needs a coach who is committed to offensive creativity as well as defense.
It’s not simply about shot blocking.
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