by Patrick Hoffman on 09/14/12 at 07:00 AM ET
When talking about hockey coaches and the impact they have on their respective clubs to be better, one name that should come to mind is legendary Hockey Hall of Famer Herb Brooks.
Brooks was behind the bench when Team USA won Olympic Gold in 1980 and finished with the Silver Medal in 2002. "Herbie" was also behind the bench for the New York Rangers in the early 1980's (1981-85), who could have gone on to do great things had it not been for the terrific New York Islanders' dynasty.
Brooks was a head coach that always seemed to get the most of out of his players, even to a point where they played above themselves. This is exactly one of the reasons why Team USA won gold in 1980. They played their absolute best hockey and the absolute best kind of hockey in the world to beat top powerhouses.
This is one of Brooks's sayings that fits exactly what he tried to do with his hockey clubs:
"I dare you to be better than you are. I dare you to be a thoroughbred."
Believe it or not folks, this should also sound a lot like someone you already know. In fact, this someone is the current man behind the Rangers' bench.
If you have not figured it out by now, it is John Tortorella. Tortorella has not always been with or around the most talented hockey clubs but when has the reigns, he can make a hockey team do some pretty amazing things.
Yes, when Tortorella won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, he had the likes of Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle and Nikolai Khabibulin. With that said, however, they were nowhere near to being a Cup contender and yet, they managed to win it all.
With the Rangers last season, Tortorella came five wins away from doing something the Rangers have not done since 1994. This was a team that struggled to score, struggled to cash in on the power play and had trouble finding scoring combinations and yet, they all came together to win a lot of games, finish first in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference and advance past the first round of the postseason since 2008.
Tortorella may be short with the media, say or not say a lot of different things and make some strange decisions. There is no doubting that as that is just a part of who Tortorella is as an NHL head coach.
That other part of him knows how to coach. He has made the Rangers a viable force in the NHL again and he has done so by being able to blend the right mix of youth and veteran leadership to form a more than competitive hockey club.
Tortorella has been able to get a lot out of the likes of Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto, Brian Boyle and others by getting them to believe that they can be a lot better than they already are. More importantly, Tortorella has gotten his team and the rest of the Rangers' oragnization to believe in his hockey philosophy and system and last season, that belief almost ended up paying off in spades.
Like Brooks, Tortorella is a tough head coach to play for. Tortorella demands a lot and is not afraid to be blunt to get what he ultimately wants. Heck, some players may not even like him that much.
With that said, under Tortorella, this Rangers' team seems to play its absolute best and last season, almost accomplished the impossible. Obviously the play of the players themselves had a lot to do with that but there is no doubt that Tortorella had a huge hand in this team's success last season.
Tortorella will more than likely not go down as a coaching legend like Brooks did but there is no doubting that Tortorella is a terrific NHL coach who knows how to get the most out of his players.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.