Reasons to retain or dismiss the Blueshirts Head Coach
Another year without a Stanley Cup for the Rangers is in the books. This season the Garden faithful had their sky high expectations dashed by a team that never seemed to find its groove. Should that underachievement result in a change in leadership?
A coaching change is a less drastic change than it used to be – head coaches are axed all the time nowadays. But what makes the case of John Tortorella interesting is that the team didn’t finish at the bottom of the table. No, disappointment for these Rangers was sixth place in a lockout shortened season followed by a second round playoff defeat at the hands of one of hockey’s most balanced teams, the Boston Bruins.
The loss came with both assistant captains at Suite level – Marc Staal, who continues to recover from an eye injury suffered in March and Brad Richards, who’s uneven and often times atrocious play that had led to rampant buyout talk among the fan base. It’s always difficult when the team’s top players are unable to produce or unable to play, but it’s impossible to succeed in the postseason this way.
The Bruins series lasted just five games, with New York scoring only two goals per game. The Blueshirts were outshot 185-157, including 48-35 in the decisive game five loss. That shooting deficit was even more concerning because the team was +2.7 in the regular season in shooting margin, compared to -4.1 in 12 playoff games. They seemed unwilling to push the tempo or grind it out throughout the series. The famed Tortorella system wasn’t enough to control the puck or protect Henrik Lundqvist in the near sweep.
When they got chances on the man advantage, the special teams faltered to a 4-for-44 finish (15th among NHL playoff participants). That power play squad was 23rd during the year, and better only than Boston among playoff clubs. The team was hesitant to shoot and over cycled without providing a strong net presence. Interestingly though, the Rangers held a 1.16 goals for/against ratio in 5-on-5 scenarios, best among teams that have already been eliminated. Power play aside, the Rangers were a solid team – it was special teams, a point of contention for the Torts administration, that was the Achilles heel of the team.
All of this said, the Rangers were decimated with injuries. Defenseman Marc Staal missed all nine games, Anton Stralman was injured for two games, big bodied forward Ryane Clowe missed seven playoffs games, while fourth liner Darroll Powe was injured the entire postseason.
Also, look at the incredible turnover from last season. Brandon Prust left in free agency, Rick Nash entered, but with the loss of Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. Chris Kreider underwhelmed, Marion Gaborik was sent to Columbus and Marc Staal missed half the season. Like I said months ago, the Rangers drastically altered lines from the third round team of a year ago and in the shortened season never quite recovered.
The defense has plenty of talent, even with Staal‘s injury, and the goaltending remains incredible. Henrik Lundqvist was Vezina quality in the postseason. It wasn’t good enough. And now he must ponder signing an extension with New York or waiting until he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2014. Is he interested in resigning with a team headed by John Tortorella?
Further, is a lockout-shortened season a good enough reason to fire a coach that guided his team to the playoffs? Or a coach that won a playoff series over the higher seeded rival Capitals?
So where do the Rangers go from here? Give your reaction on twitter @WFUVSports, in the comments section below, or vote in our poll!
@wfuvsports He will be back.Good coach\system.PP woes troubling but due to lockout n postseason succ he will be back n Tm will be better— Steve Simineri (@SSimineri) May 26, 2013
@mikewattsonair Caps saved him..if I had a say, he's gone, why delay the inevitable? They play no skill hockey,& he's too stubborn to change— Ricky Cibrano (@RickyCibrano) May 27, 2013
Mike Watts covers the NHL (Rangers) for WFUV Sports.