Brad Richards’ contract may not be the only casualty of a second-round exit by the New York Rangers. There’s also reason to wonder if John Tortorella is about to coach his last game for the team he’s led the past five postseasons.
Indeed, if the Rangers are swept by the Bruins tonight at Madison Square Garden, the calls for a new bench boss in the Big Apple will be loud.
Not by all, of course.
Tortorella is a polarizing figure. Some love his no-nonsense style and the way he handles players and reporters; some hate it and would vehemently disagree with the descriptor “no-nonsense.”
But that’s mostly just noise. Wins are what matter for head coaches in the NHL, and three playoff series victories in five postseasons isn’t good enough given the high expectations, not to mention payroll, in New York.
Many critics will point to Tortorella’s inability to coax offense out of a lineup that features no shortage of high-priced talent up front. New York is averaging just 2.1 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.
To Tortorella’s credit, the Rangers almost always play hard, and they’ve shown they’re not afraid to sacrifice for the betterment of the team by blocking lots of shots. But is collapsing in the defensive zone a winning style? Isn’t it better to possess the puck; not be constantly diving in front of it?
Oh, and the entertainment value isn’t particularly high either, if that’s a concern for ownership, which is in the business of entertainment.
All that said, at least one reporter who’s covered the Rangers closely the past few seasons doesn’t believe Tortorella will be fired.
Tortorella has one more year left on his contract and will enter next season with a true contender. If the Rangers struggle in their first 20 games, maybe something happens. Who would the Rangers get to replace him now? Lindy Ruff? Alain Vigneault? Mark Messier? I’ve been wrong before, but there’s just no way Tortorella is going anywhere after this season unless a mutiny happens.