In Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over Toronto, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella took yet another “tough love” stance with forward Brandon Dubinsky.
Dubinsky was benched for seven minutes after gaffing on a read that allowed Toronto to score midway through the first period. Torts eventually sent him back out (Dubinsky responded by scoring), but then benched Dubinsky again in the third period, giving him just 43 seconds of ice time.
This isn’t the first time Tortorella’s admonished the 25-year-old. But according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, it should be the last.
Dubinsky has to answer for himself and his largely sour season. By no means is this nine-goal, 30-point year on the coach’s shoulders. But benching and demoting Dubinsky within the rotation (a tactic meant to punish, teach and motivate), which has been part of Tortorella’s approach since Thanksgiving, hasn’t yielded dividends.
The Rangers are going to need Dubinsky to be a reliable, hard-edged and productive player in the playoffs. He has been that. Last year Dubinsky was the team’s best forward in the five-game first-round defeat to the Capitals, even moving back to center when Derek Stepan struggled in his first best-of-7.
The most puzzling aspect of the Tortorella-Dubinsky relationship is that Torts seems to punish Dubi more severely than the other Rangers.
Brooks notes that on Feb. 24, Michael Del Zotto committed a “ridiculous” penalty that Tortorella publicly criticized…yet the young defenseman didn’t miss a shift.
The New York Daily News then reported that Carl Hagelin, who struggled with defensive positioning throughout the Leafs game, got an earful from Tortorella for his lackluster play….but also didn’t miss a shift.