The New York Rangers have fired head coach John Tortorella, according to ESPN’s Katie Strang.
Tortorella, 54, had been the head coach in New York since 2008-09, and led the Rangers to three consecutive playoff appearances, including the Eastern Conference finals in 2011-12.
New York’s 2013 season and playoffs were a disappointment to many, though, as the Rangers finished sixth in the East and were bounced in the second round of the playoffs — a five-game loss to Boston during which Tortorella controversially dropped Brad Richards from the final two games of the series.
Many critics have also pointed to Tortorella’s inability to coax offense out of a lineup that features no shortage of high-priced talent up front. New York averaged just 2.2 goals per game in the 2013 playoffs.
Last year, the Rangers scored three or fewer goals in all but one of their 20 postseason games.
According to a source of CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, comments made by Henrik Lundqvist at the end of the season “changed everything” for the Rangers.
What comments, you ask?
“I think it’s a –- it is a step back. We went to the conference finals last year, we had high expectations for ourselves this year; it didn’t go our way. So yeah, this is a step back, but it’s tough to make it there.
“You can’t just expect it to happen. You have to work really hard, and you have to do a lot of things right, and you have to have a lot of good bounces on the way to make it there.”
Lundqvist was also non-committal about signing an extension with the Rangers beyond his current deal, which expires in 2013-14.
This likely drew concern among the Rangers brass, as the reigning Vezina winner (and nominee this year) has been the team MVP seven years in a row.
Update: Torts’ best sound bites…