Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers

John Tortorella on Ryan Callahan: Injury is non-surgical, but long term


On the heels of speculation from earlier today, the New York Rangers confirmed their fans’ worst fears that heart-and-soul forward Ryan Callahan suffered a serious injury. It appears that Callahan did indeed break his ankle blocking a Zdeno Chara slap shot, although the team is officially calling the injury a fracture in his right leg.

John Tortorella spoke with media members (including Andrew Gross) about Callahan’s injury, noting that the injury won’t require surgery but will keep him out “long term.”

Obviously, that’s a pretty vague time table, but maybe the Rangers are awaiting more information like the rest of us. As we discussed in the previous post, it’s actually easier to recover from a broken ankle instead of a more nagging injury like a high ankle sprain, so it’s not all bad news for the Rangers. Relatively speaking, of course.

Still, losing Callahan is undoubtedly troubling, especially considering how much he clicked with Brandon Dubinsky. New York played reasonably well in the 19 games he missed earlier this season, though, so it’s not as if they cannot function without Callahan.

That being said, can they make a big impact in the playoffs without him?

In case you’re wondering how the Rangers will cope without Callahan, the short-term solution will be to play Matt Gilroy at right wing on Wednesday to give the team a full set of forwards. The team is also waiting on the return of highly paid captain Chris Drury, who doesn’t match Callahan’s grit but might be able to replace some of his leadership and a little bit of offense.

As always, we’ll let you know if anything chances with Callahan and Drury as the Rangers hope to secure a playoff spot and make some noise if they get there.

John Tortorella says instigator penalty encourages dirty hits

John Tortorella

For better or worse, the controversial decision not to even give Zdeno Chara a slap on the wrist is prompting another bout of discussion regarding hits in the NHL. Such a discussion surely resounds in league circles, judging by criticisms levied from stars such as Joe Thornton and recent statements by New York Rangers coach John Tortorella.

Despite the fact that he (somehow … supposedly) admitted he hasn’t seen footage of Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty – seriously, does he list his address as Under a Rock? – Tortorella told Larry Brooks that rule changes encourage dirty hits.

Some might assume that Rule 48 (the most recent change, which provided clarification that blindside hits to the head are illegal) might be the source of derision, but Tortorella instead thinks the instigator penalty instigated it most of all.

“No one wants to see players hurt,” he said. “There needs to be some sort of honor and honesty in our game and I think we’ve lost that with the rules changes.”

The coach made it clear that while he thinks other rules changes such as eliminating benign obstruction have contributed to the problem, the instigator rule is the root cause. Tortorella is not alone among the hockey community in that belief, but the instigator rule that mandates a two-minute minor plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty for those who start a fight in defense of a teammate, is hardly a recent change, having been adopted in 1992-93.

“It’s not just that, but I think it’s a lousy rule,” Tortorella said. “I think the game has gotten [this] way because we have not allowed the players to police themselves. To me, that’s the bottom line.

“Players need to police themselves on the ice, not the rules, not supplementary discipline and all that,” he said. “That’s where I think we’ve lost honesty. Call me [old school], if you want. It’s wrong. “The instigator creates a mindset for players for players who you wouldn’t even see them if the instigator was not there.”

It’s tough to fault the spirit of the instigator rule, in theory at least. The league created that penalty in part to discourage teams from bullying others by having goons force players to get in fights they have no intention of engaging in.

Yet just about any hockey fan, writer or “expert” probably agrees that the good-natured idea falls flat in practice. There are many seemingly mutual fights that end up with instigator penalties and Tortorella might have a point that the Matt Cookes of the world probably bask in the security provided by the rule.

With the NHL’s latest batch of GM meeting scheduled for early next week, one wonders if the group might discuss changes to the instigator rule and other alterations that might curb some of these hits. After all, we don’t want too many more moments in which a “hockey play” instigates police intervention.

Marc Crawford, John Tortorella should be in mid-season Jack Adams discussion

1 Comment

While mid-season awards won’t hold much weight if things change drastically over the next 40-or-so games for each NHL team, it is an interesting pathway into the general hockey consensus. Both Joe and I provided our picks for the league’s trophies if the season ended this weekend, with two Southeast surprise smash success stories (Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay, Craig Ramsay in Atlanta) earning our imaginary Jack Adams trophies for coach of the (half) year.

Much like perennial “who was snubbed from the all-star team?” columns, sometimes it’s more interesting to see who didn’t make lists than it is to discuss who did. Considering the expansive nature of hockey discussion on the Internet, we cannot say that we read every mid-season awards article. That being said, beyond our choices, names such as Vancouver’s Allain Vigneault, Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma and Detroit’s Mike Babcock surfaced often along with Boucher and Ramsay.

There are two other coaches who haven’t gotten enough credit for their work through the halfway point of the 2010-11 season, though: Marc Crawford in Dallas and John Tortorella with the New York Rangers. We’ve heard a little more buzz for the former than the latter, but let’s briefly discuss why each coach would be worthy of some votes if they kept up the great work.

The case for Crawford

One thing Crawford and Tortorella have in common (beyond a Stanley Cup on their resumes, of course) is that I absolutely didn’t see either one’s success coming. Most of the hockey world viewed the Stars as a talented but flawed team that was strong on offense, awful on defense and fragile in net.

Maybe Crawford has gotten a little lucky with an unusually healthy Kari Lehtonen, but the former Avalanche coach is maximizing the potential of stud talents like Brad Richards to surprising success. The best part is that the Stars aren’t coasting on winnable games and coughing up tough ones either; they are currently on a seven game road winning streak.

Anyone who picked the Stars to lead the Pacific Division who isn’t a blind pom-pom waver can pat themselves on the back today, because few saw their impressive start coming.

Touting Tortorella

For everything Crawford accomplished, Tortorella’s work has been just as impressive (even if his results are more subtle). If there’s one word that jumps out regarding the Rangers’ solid start it’s “resiliency.”

Adding Saturday’s win against the St. Louis Blues to an observation made by Lou Korac, the Rangers are a stunning 10-1 in the second installment of back-to-back games this season. Furthermore, the Blueshirts are boisterous outside of Broadway, with a staggering 15-7-1 record on the road.

The best example of resiliency comes from looking at their roster, though. When you look at the club, there aren’t many players you’d point to as stars beyond great goalie Henrik Lundqvist and injury-prone stud Marian Gaborik. Don’t get me wrong, most NHL teams would love to have guys such as Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal and Ryan Callahan. They just don’t jump out as stars.

Yet Tortorella is making it work, as Dubinsky is the only Rangers player vaguely approaching a point per game pace (36 points in 43 games). Coming in third in the Atlantic and sixth in the East might not seem that impressive, but they’re 10 games over .500 with a shaky but spirited group of hockey players. That, to me, speaks to Tortorella’s motivational and teaching abilities.


Again, it’s too early to talk about Jack Adams (and other trophy) possibilities for anything more than fun. Still, voters and fans shouldn’t forget the impressive work by Crawford and Tortorella so far this season.

John Tortorella thinks Marian Gaborik will be back by Monday


Last night, we discussed the dreaded return of Marian Gaborik’s boogeyman (not to be confused with the possibly soon-to-be-returning Derek Boogaard), aka his recurring groin problems. Considering how much trouble he’s had for many years, it was natural for Rangers fans to get a little worried.

(Even if Gaborik’s loss means the gain of Mats Zuccarello, a guy whose nickname is “The Norwegian Hobbit Wizard.”)

Well, if you trust John Tortorella, it sounds like Gaborik’s groin problems are minor. In fact, the Rangers coach believes that he could be back in the team’s lineup as soon as Monday’s game against the New York Islanders. Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants has the story.

Gross also writes that enforcer Derek Boogaard is making good progress in his recovery from concussion issues, although he won’t be cleared to play any time sooner than his upcoming neurologist visit on Tuesday.

Gaborik has been undergoing treatment on his sore groin – it was starting to nag him prior to Monday’s intensive practice and he came in Wednesday saying he couldn’t skate – and also underwent acupuncture today. Tortorella said because of the spread-out schedule with two days off after tonight for Christmas, Gaborik should be ready to return when the team resumes practicing (on Sunday) and playing. Tortorella also shot down the idea that Gaborik, with just one goal in his past eight games, has been playing through an injury.

“He’s trying to get it taken care of,” Tortorella said. “I don’t think it’s been a long-term thing.”

Poll results: PHT readers think John Tortorella is the coach most likely to be fired


A couple days ago, I reacted to a piece about NHL coaches who might be in danger of being fired. Often times in these situations, I like to take the temperature of PHT readers. So I asked the audience whose job they thought might be in the most trouble. Here are the results.


(click to enlarge)

tortsismad.jpgJohn Tortorella earned the most votes even though he is only about to enter his second year as the Rangers’ boss. Many Rangers fans would probably agree that the club’s biggest issues are rooted in their sometimes-befuddled general manager Glen Sather (more on him a second), but Tortorella’s contentious style could wear thin in the Big Apple.

Another high-profile coach on the hot seat is Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last two seasons have been absolutely brutal for the former Capitals and Sharks coach, whose reputation used to be that he couldn’t get good teams over the hump. I’d say he has more pressure than Tortorella overall, but fans might be correct in saying that Torts’ job is in (slightly) greater danger.

Bruce Boudreau is the most successful coach on the hot seat, but it’s not outrageous to wonder if he might get canned after another playoff letdown. Marc Crawford, Cory Clouston, Brent Sutter and Todd Richards also received votes.

A lot of people decided to write-in with an “other” choice. Some were super-cute (“Ted Nugent”), one might have been a Mormon (“Joe Smith”?), a few need to learn how to spell Claude Julien and one must really, really want to fire New York Rangers GM Glen Sather. Here are the 18 write-in votes.

claudejulienhotseat.jpgWrite-in votes

Claude Julien: 7
Lindy Ruff: 4
Paul Maurice: 2
Joe Sacco: 1
Joel Quenneville: 1
Joe Smith?: 1
Ted Nugent (of course): 1
Glen Sather: 1

While Julien and Ruff didn’t receive more results than the lowest ranked listed coach (Ottawa’s Cory Clouston), it’s reasonable to say that they might have gotten more if they were on the actual list. I’m guessing Ruff was a choice for those who simply figure he’ll drop off due to the law of averages. Julien seems like he’s done pretty well with an often-challenging Bruins team, bringing them within one game of the Eastern Conference finals two years in a row, but management might want even more next season.

Now, keep in mind, it’s not exactly as if just one coach could get fired next season. In fact, if only one head rolled in 2010-11, that would break a longstanding pattern of head coach unrest in the league. Just remember that even if GMs and owners won’t necessarily forget the past, everyone is 0-0-0 going into a new season … and some coaches do their best work with their heads on the chopping block.