by Mike Chen on 02/23/09 at 04:44 PM ET
If I’m picking a new coach for the New York Rangers, I’m thinking three words: shut yer yap.
That infamous phrase, of course, came from the mouth of former Tampa Bay Lightning coach—and Stanley Cup champion—John Tortorella. Tortorella, a former assistant coach with the Rangers as well, was always a great quote and his no-bull style of talk would give the New York media interesting fodder every day. If you’ve caught any of his analyst work of TSN, you’ll know that he just doesn’t have that filter between his brain and his head—and that’s a good thing. Entertainment value aside, though, Tortorella’s coaching outlook and gruff approach might be just what the Blueshirts need. Let’s look at the Rangers checklist of problems:
-Boring, uninspired hockey—Need a little excitement in your game? Get the coach who yells the most, but who also employs a philosophy he termed “Safe is Death.” The Lightning were one of the first teams to transition from the trap-style of play to a more up-tempo style based on skating. Tortorella’s hard-nosed style gets players to skate hard, hit hard, and work hard (though it eventually wears thin, but hey, all coaches have a shelf life).
-Boring, scoreless hockey—“Safe is Death” isn’t just about staying away from the neutral zone trap. It’s about emphasizing scoring and skill over passive play that hopes for good turnovers.
-Bored, uninspired stars—Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, Chris Drury, you got issues? Let Uncle Torts come and set you straight. After all, this is the guy who turned Vincent Lecavalier from pouty turnover-prone whiner to a team leader and a shorthanded threat. Yes, there were growing pains with Lecavalier, and I’m sure they’re not BFFs these days, but Lecavalier is the first to state that Tortorella accelerated his growth and helped mold him into the player he is today.
Recent NHL hiring trends are shifting towards taking the next generation from the AHL and junior hockey, and part of this may even be a cost issue—those guys, after all, come cheaper than someone with a Stanley Cup on his resume. However, there’s a difference between recycling Craig Hartsburg and his nearly empty resume and a guy who literally took a team from worst to first and helped shape some of the preeminent stars of today’s game.
Safe is death? In this case, John Tortorella may actually be the safe choice for Glen Sather.
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