You knew this was coming.
A day after Joe Thornton called the Rangers “probably the softest team we played against” following San Jose’s 5-2 loss at MSG, New York head coach John Tortorella went on the offensive.
It surprised me, and I’ve never heard a player say that. Joe’s a heck of a player, but here’s a player popping off about our team, and Joe hasn’t won a g–damn thing in this league. He could go down as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything. So what he should do is just shut up. It was uncalled for, it was classless, and I’ve never had it happen like that before.
It’s still unclear why Thornton started this flame war — San Jose had an otherwise successful road trip, winning five of six, and the Rangers really aren’t a soft team. (As Greg Wyshynski pointed out last night, the Rangers average 24.3 hits per game to San Jose’s 17.7.) Jumbo also had to know saying something about a Tortorella-coached team is like waving a red flag at a bull. Then poking the bull with a hot iron. Then saying something derogatory about the bull’s mother.
[NB: Thornton has since backed off the comments, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.]
Torts was obviously going to respond, but maybe that’s the whole point. It’s November, the season is young, the games don’t mean as much (especially against non-conference opponents) and let’s be real — boredom occasionally slips in. You’re more at liberty to speak your mind than you would be later in the year or the playoffs. It’s not like the comments are going to come back and bite Thornton, either. The Sharks don’t play the Rangers again this year, unless they meet in the Stanley Cup final (stop laughing.) Jumbo Joe blows off some steam, Torts blows it right back. There’s gotta be a better way to say that.
And hey, who doesn’t love a good soundbite war? Everybody knows hockey can always use a good ol’ fashioned war of words. Remember when Sean Avery tried to start one with Dion Phaneuf?
Okay, bad example.
UPDATE: Here’s video of NHL on NBC analysts Pierre McGuire and Jeremy Roenick breaking down the Torts-Thornton feud. Enjoy!This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!