by PuckStopsHere on 02/24/09 at 02:45 AM ET
I don’t think too many people were shocked by the announcement yesterday that Tom Renney was fired as the New York Rangers coach. The team has stagnated lately after a fast start this season. They have only won two of their last twelve games and are sitting in sixth place in the East Conference only two points up on ninth. They are worried that their playoff berth may be slipping away.
Tom Renney was never the high profile media personality that a typical coach in the New York market is. This makes him more vulnerable. He wasn’t a “New York style person”. The next coach John Tortorella better fits the city. He is a much better interview. He won the Stanley Cup in 2004. These are credentials that Renney did not have.
Tortorella’s hiring and the Renney firing will likely give the Rangers a short term boost. Players will be competing to keep their roster spots and playing time under a new coach and that uncertainty often leads to a temporary jump in the standings. That boost might help the Rangers maintain a playoff spot, but there are many deeper underlying reasons to expect trouble for this franchise. With 2.33 goals per game, the Rangers are the second lowest scoring team in the NHL this season. Their top scorer is Nikolai Zherdev with only 45 points. This makes him the third lowest scoring top scorer on a team this year (Nashville and the Islanders are worse). The Rangers have over $32 million per year tied up in long term contracts to Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival and Henrik Lundqvist. None of those contracts come off the books until 2011/12 and three last until 2013/14. Of those five, only Lundqvist has played well enough this year to be earning his money. With the salary cap expected to drop in the future, that should be a significant problem for the Rangers. It is likely to keep them from competing seriously for a few years.
The short-term boost from a new coach might help the New York Rangers this season. It might help to keep them in the playoffs. There are clear long-term problems on the horizon and no coach is capable of fixing them. It will be hard for John Tortorella to succeed long-term in New York.
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