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Silverman: Forget That It’s The Preseason, Rangers-Tortorella Is Must-See TV

Blue Shirts Get An Early Chance To Berate Their Former Coach -- On The Ice
Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella laughs while taking part in an interview after a press conference announcing him as the new head coach of the team, June 25, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella laughs while taking part in an interview after a press conference announcing him as the new head coach of the team, June 25, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

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By Steve Silverman

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If you are planning to be in front of your television Thursday night, you are probably going to take a look at the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams, the NFL Network’s broadcast.

It’s the NFL, it’s on TV, so you can’t go wrong.

But that game means very little to New York fans, so you’ll likely be disinterested before halftime. If you have the energy to stay up Thursday night, do yourself a favor and put on the NHL Network.

Preseason hockey? Normally it’s a supreme waste of time, but not in this case. The Rangers are on a long road trip and they will be facing the Vancouver Canucks in the great Pacific Northwest.

No, we are not about to make a case for going to Vancouver for your next non-winter vacation — you could do a lot worse — but the first edition of the Rangers vs. John Tortorella will be on display.

Preseason or not, it will be a game worth watching. Not only did Tortorella cost the Rangers dearly with his overbearing, defensively torturous ways, he simply lost the locker room.

He was a failure strategically and personally.

The Rangers may not be a lot better under Alain Vigneault — particularly at the beginning of the season — but they will be prepared for Thursday’s game. The players will have a message for their former coach, and it’s unlikely that the Canucks will want to respond in kind.

Here’s why: They are now playing for Tortorella and they are understanding first-hand how much of an authoritarian he can be. They have to live with him every day, and it is not pleasant.

A day after the Canucks won a preseason game against Phoenix, they got trounced by San Jose 5-0. It’s still preseason, mind you, but Tortorella was seething behind the bench. He’s not going to take that kind of game lightly and he’s not going to tolerate excuses.

He makes life miserable for his players and that has already started in Vancouver. His players may not admit it, but they are already getting wistful for Vigneault, their former coach.

That’s because Vigneault is not the same kind of megalomaniac that Tortorella is. He wants to win and he puts his energy into giving his team a plan to do just that. He is not about brow-beating his players.

Here’s where the Rangers get a chance to send their old coach a message. Carl Hagelin is one of those players.

Hagelin is one of the Rangers’ core players, but just before the Blue Shirts took on the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinals last spring, Tortorella told the assembled media that Hagelin “stinks on the power play.”

Would any other NHL coach — Joel Quenneville of the Blackhawks, Peter DeBoer of the Devils, Claude Julien of the Bruins or Peter Laviolette of the Flyers — throw one of his players under the propeller like that? No way.

Tortorella also damned Brad Richards with faint praise when he benched him during the playoffs and told the media how much “respect” he had for him. Tortorella and Richards won a Stanley Cup together in Tampa in 2004. Now, don’t ask both of them to come in the same room.

This is a preseason game worth watching. It’s not going to bring either side two points in the standings, but messages will be sent.

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