John Tortorella

The FUN In DysFUNctional

There’s this great saying, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

There’s also another great saying.  That the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.

And there you can interchange “Glen Sather” with “insanity.”

Yes, this is in response to the firing of John Tortorella as head coach of the New York Rangers.  I guess like many, it came as a surprise but it was not exactly shocking.  One cannot fire a whole team, so you fire the coaches.  And unfortunately, with Torts, the buck stopped with him many time.

Most notably, now, with the recent ousting of the Rangers in the Eastern semis to the Boston Bruins.

Well here is a novel thought, Slats…GET BETTER PLAYERS YOU FUCKING MORON!

I haven’t yet finished my Rangers season wrap-up (and it’s coming, don’t you worry), yet, I’m already getting agita from this bullshit going on into 2013-14.

Yes, this was a shortened season.  Yes, I wasn’t crazy about the prospect of the whole “half a cup” thing. But goddammit, if I didn’t get excited about the playoffs this year.

Yet, I don’t think it’s Torts who failed his team.  Rather, the team failed Torts.

Give the guy some credit.  In a big media market, Torts took the pressure off his team and put it on himself.  Never a media darling, the fans loved him because he could separate the emotional from the professional.  Or at least the fans who liked him.

The fact is, whatever gave him his relationship with the players was his folly this year.

Dan Rosen of NHL.com wrote about the Seven Reasons Why the Rangers Fired Tortorella, and one of the reasons was that his top guys underperformed in the playoffs.

Yeah, no SHIT.  But here’s a swell idea: How about we actually BLAME the players?

What a novel fucking idea.  Instead of playing to win, they figure skated their way through round one, only to realize they can’t do that when the stakes are higher.  Right?

What’s more, is Torts had every right to scratch Brad Richards during the playoffs.  This is the same guy who underperformed ALL season…and he actually has a GOOD relationship with Tortorella! This is also the same guy who dormant during the lockout.

Sure, he may have kept in shape elsewhere.  But the reality is, he underperformed the entire season.

Not to fucking mention, there was a BIG spot missed without Marc Staal healthy.  Add that to the rising shit, and the Rangers were fucking lucky they made it TO the playoffs, let alone make it out of the first fucking round.

Yet, I have to ask, besides Sather basically solidifying future Stanley Cup runs in Columbus, what has he done that has made him so untouchable?  James Dolan has been in rehab: clearly, there must be some kind of damning evidence that Sather has on him that warrants him to be the GM forever and ever.

Could it have been a fluke that the guys he got in the Marian Gaborik trade were hurt? And where the hell was Rick Nash?  Did he NOT realize that yes, your goals count just as much in the playoffs as they do in regular season?

At the end of the day, Torts wasn’t out there NOT scoring on the power play.  Torts didn’t tell Brad Richards – hey, put your job AND mine in jeopardy by forgetting how to play.

To get canned after a half season when it seemed like the team ran on its moxie and mojo from the year prior is an insult.

 

I’ve only been a Ranger fan since 1989. I’m one of the lucky ones, that I only had to wait five years to see my team win a championship.  Like my dad and Kranepool Society, many other fans have been through some dysfunctional times.  To see the team get so far and to fall short.

I’m not sure if Sather, like many people, expected John Tortorella to turn water into wine, or turn the shit that Sather throws to the wall and see if it sticks.

I can only hope that next season the Rangers make it TO the playoffs.  Because Tortorella’s tenure brought back a legitimacy that hasn’t been seen since 1993-94 season.  And remember how Mike Keenan left, and subsequently, cursed the team.

As long as Glen Sather is in charge, we’ll have fun watching these teams, but we’ll be watching a shitload of dysfunction too.

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Parallels

I hate when I do this.  I start to compare my sports teams.  I start to compare seasons, that shouldn’t really have anything to do with one another.

Besides being a team sport, what exactly does hockey have to do with baseball?

They wear uniforms, they wear jerseys with names and numbers on the back, they have a common goal (to win) as a team.  Each have a rabid fan base (unless you are in Miami).

When I start to find eerie similarities with a team not only across sports, but historically too, I get a little scared.

What’s more though?  You know, than just comparing one shitty ass season (one, by the way, the Mets STILL have not recovered from quite yet) to another in a totally different sport?  It’s the expectation level associated with it.

NotGlen thinks that last year was the fluke.  I disagree.  They were built for the future, but when you have to part with guys like Dubi and Prust, the chemistry might be a little off.  The scoring was supposed to be strengthened with the addition of Rick Nash (you know, the very thing that killed them in the playoffs last year).  Oh but Nash is hurt…an undisclosed injury.  Sounds like 2009 for the Mets, right, when Jose Reyes got hurt and was out 15 days to the rest of the season.  And don’t get me started on Carlos Beltran that season.

Here’s the other thing that bothers me about this team.  Hockey guys are preternaturally tough.  Yeah, yeah, haha, they ice skate, how tough can they be?  I call them Smurfs on Ice sometimes.  But then I have to question their toughness…it wasn’t just me.

Marty Biron, a backup flippin goalie, questioned the team’s toughness when they didn’t avenge what seemed to be a dirty hit by Max Pacioretty on Ryan McDonagh in Saturday night’s game.

Funny.  Reminds me of when former Met Alex Cora called out his team in 2009 and 2010…a backup flipping shortstop.

Toughness. Seems like John Tortorella has a problem with it too.  He pulled the plug on their practice the other day, but it could go one of two ways.  One is he made them do push ups till their arms fell off.  Two is that he might have seen a malaise and pulled a Davey Johnson right before Game Three of the 1986 World Series…saw his guys were fatigued, and gave them the confidence to rest.

Either way, there are several red flags for this team.  One is their inability to score on a power play.  Even with a ramped up offense, they still can’t friggin score.  It’s sick.  They should just waive it off.  It’s more of an advantage for the other team, clearly.

But there’s also the underlying element of toughness.  They have skaters standing around holding their dicks while their own go down.  (Where’s Doug Glatt when you need him?)  They show no aggressiveness during a Power Play, and make it too fuckin pretty.  They almost seem afraid to score.

Oh yeah and the whole idea of them clicking on all cylinders, or rather, lack thereof.

So Torts tells us it’s not time to panic. In a shortened season, when every win or every loss is amplified. When losing a three goal lead in the fucking third period along with a shootout win is considered a moral victory, they may need to reevaluate where they stand as a team.

There are no moral victories in a season like this.

So Torts, I won’t panic just yet.  But it does give me pause about what, exactly, you are training these guys to think and do.

So Glatt (remember: it’s Hebrew for “Fuck You” according to Goon) to the 2013 Rangers, and the 2009 Mets.  I’d like to not watch a game with dread sometime this season, ok?  Thanks, bye.

That Was Yesterday

A lot can transpire in 18 years.  A newborn then can now not only possess a license but can vote and is graduating high school.  That same child’s parent may be wondering where the time has gone, as they give their child the keys to the family car or signs the first tuition check.  Someone may be planning their 20 year reunion from high school. A loved one may have passed away, you may be pulling six figures in a job where you were a lowly analyst 18 years ago.  You may be living in a different part of the country.  Or you may have just stayed put from where you grew up, but you don’t recall having a 36-inch waist 18 years ago.

Eighteen years ago, the New York Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in a heated seven-game series.  Prior to that, the Rangers defeated the rival New Jersey Devils, also in a heated seven-game series, in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the word “Matteau” is a dirty word to most Devils fans to this day, though they themselves have had success in winning three cups in response while the Rangers have won none.  In that time period, the rivalries shifted from Rangers/Flyers and Rangers/Isles to Rangers/Devils.

Tonight kicks off the Rangers and Devils duking it out in the Eastern Conference Finals again, where winner continues to the Stanley Cup finals, and the other team goes home to shave.

To this Ranger fan, the only thing that remains similar to that series 18 years ago is that Martin Brodeur is still the goalie for the Devils. And even he’s 18 years older.  And that’s about it.  The ownership has changed for the Rangers, the coaches have changed, the team has certainly changed.

Sure, there are similarities.  But it’s NOT the same.

The Devils have won three cups since the last time these two teams faced off in the finals.  The storied guys that helped them on those runs with names like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko are long since retired.  The last cup was in 2003.  That was 10 years ago.  Eighteen years ago, the Devils were playing in the Swamp.  Now they play in a nice new arena called Prudential Center.

The Rangers have visited the Eastern Conference Finals one other time since then, and it was lackluster.  They’ve since had their storied guys not only retire, but their numbers are now enshrined.  Names like Richter, Messier, Leetch and Graves are now hanging from the rafters at the Garden, where the Rangers have stayed but the refurnishing of it makes it seem like a brand new arena.

The 1994 team was full of mercenaries and then there was Brian Leetch and Mike Richter, who came up with the team.  Neil Smith, then-GM, thought it prudent to trade away the future and try to recapture some of the Edmonton Oilers success.  This ultimately led to changes at the top, such as Glen Sather coming in and trying to do the same recipe.  Until he realized it no longer worked.

Apparently, there is some pact with Sather and James Dolan that we’re not privy to that will only happen if the Rangers make the “big” finals.  Because of that, Sather started to focus less on the free agent mercenaries and allowed the growth movement to start from within.  Guys like Lundqvist, Callahan, Girardi, sprinkled with guys like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.  It’s no longer Mike Keenan but John Tortorella.  Dave Checketts isn’t pissing off his talent, but it’s now

True, those guys in 1994 were very hard working.  But they were mostly established.  Messier had won several championships.  He was the Captain of all Captains.  Callahan wears his “C” with pride, but he believes in the team work ethic that clearly trickles to the rest of the team.

To think that this is some sort of “revenge” match-up, to think this is something of a “torch passing” of a fat overrated goalie to the future of goaltending, diminishes what this series is all about.  To call this is a revenge series is laughable because, I don’t know call me crazy, isn’t three cups in an eight year span one that says, “Hey, we’re not so bad either guys.”

These are two teams that have worked very hard to get to the finals, and will work harder to get to the next level.

To me, the differences are clear.  Yet most of all, 18 years ago was a long long time ago.  Nine years ago was long long time ago.  Then was then.  This is now.

Callahan’s Messier Moment

There’s only one Captain, someone told me. Actually, many have told me that.

But Mark Messier, as celebrated as he is within New York Ranger culture, is and was a mercenary. I know we hate to think of him that way but truth is, he was celebrated and a champion well before he ever came to the Rangers.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Messier brought to the Rangers those years, especially in 1994. I don’t think the Rangers win a goddamn thing without him. The Rangers were a storied franchise before he came to the team, yet he brought a certain something that brought them to the next level.

But for the love of Emile Francis, Ryan Callahan needs to have his Mark Messier moment. And he needed it yesterday.

On my pre-playoff podcast, I discussed with Kevin DeLury from NYRBlogs and Nick Montemagno from Ranger Tribune, that I expected a big series from Captain Cally.

It’s going to take a lot for Ranger fans to accept someone into that cherished Captain fold. It certainly wasn’t Kelly Kisio nor Chris Drury. As beloved as he is, Brian Leetch was never fully accepted into the captain mold. Leetch unfortunately had big shoes to fill. Because he was on the storied ’93-’94 run, it was almost like more was expected of him. Leetch = great player, not a captain.

Callahan is the heart and soul of this team. We point to how blue collar and the hard work ethic that he and John Tortorella have brought to this team. While mercenaries like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards are supposed to add to the goal scoring capabilities of the team, we point to Henrik Lundqvist and his intensity, to guys like Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust for being young upstarts. But Callahan is Mr. Ranger, the guy you look to in these times, when the team heads back to Ottawa for a one game playoff and hope to get that one more win to have home ice that one last time. The reason, you know, for game sevens to exist.

I can’t say it’s happening.

So in the first round, I’m wondering if Cally will have to break out a page from the Book of Messier, where he said, “We will win tonight.”

Is that too dramatic? It may be. After all, some people may be happy with the way the season went and take the playoffs as rationalizing that whole “it’s about who gets hottest at the right time,” that the Rangers have laid the foundation for years to come and blah blah blah.

That’s just fucking bullshit, as far as I’m concerned.

I want all that but I want them to fucking grab the bull by the balls and kick the Senators’ ass all the way. They should have by now. They are not.

I’m saying that anything less than an Eastern Conference final visit is a failure for this season. They have the goods to do it. They just need to see Lundqvist can’t do it all on his own.

That means it’s time for Captain Callahan to wake the fuck up and slap these fuckers into reality.

It’s down to two games now. Let’s do it already.

RANGER PLAYOFF PREVIEW TONIGHT!!

Yes, I know there are other teams in the hockey playoffs…but it’s round one, we just finished the regular season, and I need some New York Ranger fix pronto!  If you don’t like it…join the chat room to heckle me and my guests.

I’ll be joined by Nick Montemagno from Ranger Tribune and Kevin DeLury from the NYR Blogs, two of the best Ranger blogs out there.

We’ll be going live at 7 pm ET tonight, join me at the Gal For All Seasons podcast on NDB Media at BlogTalkRadio!!

Topics include: regular season finish, John Tortorella, rivalries, predictions for Rangers and first round.

The Shores of Tripoli

I guess in John’s world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can’t do the same here…He’s either got short-term memory loss or he’s a hypocrite.” – Pete DeBoer, New Jersey Devils Coach (March 18, 2012)

“I figured he was just blowing up. I’m sure he’ll apologize today about it and everything will be forgotten.” – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, in response to John Tortorella’s blowup post-game last night. (April 5, 2012)

What did I hear?

WAH WAH WAH WAH WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

Gimme a break, you crybabies.  This is NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE, not Big Boy Pants Day Camp.

Again, gimme a fucking break.

The first quote was in response to Tortorella starting a line of tough guys at the get go in the game last month against the Devils.  Now, this is pot meeting kettle over here.  DeBoer knew exactly what he was getting into, and when Torts played fire with fire, he got mad about it.  Especially when it worked in Torts’ favor.

Last night was the biggie.  Look, if this was a game that truly meant anything at all, playoff ranking implications, whatever, well, teams need to do what teams need to do to survive.  Reality was, the Rangers are locked in #1 seed in East, whereas Penguins are also in playoffs.  OOOOH do I suspect a little bit of **SHOCK HORROR** JEALOUSY from those igloo dwelling babies?

Look, I didn’t see the game last night as I was (shameless plug) on a baseball podcast and needed to prepare some notes for it.  Plus, I had posted (another shameless plug) on the Rangers getting top seed on YouTube two nights before.  I was riding high on a Mets win in Flushing, then I had to hear about this bullshit.  And it pissed me off.

But you know what made me happy?  Things aren’t that bad.  I mean, of course I hope that D-Step isn’t hurt from that dirty play by Brooks Orpik (look, no matter what side of the fence you are on, you see that move, and it was DICK MOVE no question).  But when I heard what Tortorella said after the game…made me love him even more.

He called them out on the Penguins double standard bullshit basically, calling them the most “arrogant team in the league,” and “whiners.”  You know what?  Every team, no matter what sport, has their crybabies.  I might root for a few of them in my lifetime.  But only look at what Sidney Crosby has to say in response (calling out Ryan Callahan, saying Tortorella spoke in the heat of the moment, dismissing what the real issue is here), let alone the “WAAAAAAAHHHH” mentality of their owner Mario Lemieux.

See, Lemieux makes some very good points, as illustrated last season, the Islanders got fined a shitload of money for disciplinary action against the Penguins.

But you know, he comes across as that kid who grew up across the street with you.  You remember him, right?  He was kind of a douche but he has a pool (inground!), a mom who bakes cookies and lot of cool toys.

Then comes the day when you realize that he uses this against you.  Like, if things aren’t going his way, he threatens to take all his toys with him back to his house or makes you go home because you aren’t letting him win.

Except substitute “one of the legends of hockey” for that bratty fucking kid down the street, and there’s Mario.  (And you’re talking to a chick who was ALL ABOUT Mario Lemieux back in the day).  You know the league isn’t going to do anything to DARE cross Prince Mario’s path.  Noooooooo.  Especially with this two fucking arrogant bastard players, Malkin and Crosby…the poster boys for double-standard practices in NHL.  I get it — they’re good.  And I always had a philosophy that if you dislike a player, it’s really because you secretly want them on your team because they are good.

Well enough is enough.  Even though those two weren’t involved in the hit (and I do think that Orpik should get disciplined, but that’s just me talkin’), they perpetuate the idea that they are above the law in the NHL and that somehow, the rules don’t apply to them.  Well, fuck that noise.

As for Torts, should he apologize?  Is RYAN CALLAHAN somehow as bad with the dirty plays (as Crosby alluded to) that the Penguins do, and then complain about in the next breath when it’s one of their players?  NO TO BOTH.

I’ll tell you why.  John Tortorella is the MAN.  I can’t say I was his biggest fan, I liked him enough, just was like – whatever – when it came to him.  Now, call me in the corner of Tortorella’s camp.

We’re about to go into battle with this guy calling the shots.  He’d take a bullet for his players, and they would do the same in return.  You gotta love that in a coach.  You really do.

Oh and for the record, fuck Sidney Crosby with a rusty nail.

How Swede It Is

How did the Rangers get so many delicious Swedes on their team?

Besides our King Henrik, one of the unsung heroes of this year’s team has been the young Carl Hagelin from Sveeden, ya?  Hagelin has been getting his due, being named to the NHL All-Star Rookie Roster, and narrowly edging out Colin Greening on the Ottawa Senators (in his hometown for the All-Star Game!) in the fastest skater competition last night. He won’t let this go to his head, these titles are more for the bragging rights of fans anyway (which is why I’m writing about it).

Described as a “precocious rookie” by the Daily News, Hagelin joins his countryman Lundqvist along with Marian Gaborik and Dan Girardi in Ottawa to represent the Rangers in the All-Star Game.  In the short-time I’ve seen him though, I’ve walked away very impressed with Hagelin’s skills on his skates and how he can surprise the competition by coming out of nowhere.

Hagelin seemed to click right away with the Rangers’ senior offensive players, like Gaborik (who, in all fairness, has been clicking with everyone this year).  The New York Times provided some good insight into how Hagelin has come into his own in the NHL, given his background and gritty work ethic from his days at University of Michigan.  I’d say 16 points in 29 games, that’s pretty impressive for a young dude.   The law of averages will give us a better idea of what he can do later on.  You can look at it from both sides of the equation, though.  Does he have great support around him?  Yes, of course.  He also seems to be a victim of being young, but in a good way.  It seems like whenever I watch him, I don’t doubt he’s going to do something daring, and when he does it usually benefits the team.

I’m really liking this team right now that the New York Rangers got going on for them.  I love the tough “I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit” attitude from John Tortorella.  I love the hard-work, blue-collar ethic that these guys show by example, like Captain Cally, Gabby, Henrik, Del Zotto and Girardi.  Just this nose-to-the-grindstone stuff that fans can really get behind.  Hagelin fits right into that ethic.  His teammates at Michigan and coaches all agree that he’s a tough player and went above and beyond.

I’m excited to see how Hagelin pans out.  I love watching rookies as they want to pay their dues, and do so by good old fashioned hard work.  Go Hagelin.  And Go Sweden.  Perhaps we can share in some Swedish meatballs and lingonberries some day soon.

Missing Marc

Ryan Callahan is the heart of the Rangers organization, or so some people think. I wouldn’t entirely disagree with them.  Yet, I think the Captain “C” on his jersey is for being a leader and one of the most respected guys on the team.  There’s no shame in that.

Then there’s the Sean Avery-Connecticut Whale situation.  I make no secret that I am an Avery fan.  Yet, if you go on Twitter or follow the Blue Seat Hooligan Brigade (hey, I’m a part of it too when I go to games), you’d think Avery was the rug that tied the room together.  I’m not saying he wouldn’t help but…to think that losing a game on a shootout like they did on Saturday and Avery would have somehow avoided that is missing the larger picture.  For one, and I didn’t see the game, but I do notice that as great at King Henrik is, he tends to get complacent with a big lead.  Again, I don’t know how flukey the goals were that scored but I do know that I’ve seen it up close and personal (at the playoffs last year, where I sat through horrific overtime and witnessed a fist fight between TWO Ranger fans who were like 50 years old), so I wouldn’t just absolve Henrik of his responsibility.  Even though, he had been doing his best to carry the team on his back.

John Tortorella might be the bane of existence for certain fans, but not this one.  When I miss Tom Renney, that’s totally my problem (and something that I don’t think any human should admit), but for the most part, I don’t think that firing the coach is going to do much, plus it’s kind of cutting off one’s nose to spite their face.

Sean Avery was placed on re-entry waivers today, but that doesn’t mean he will be picked up. He’s got a lot of heart and soul, and I love his gutsy play, but he’s far from the best player on the team, or someone who is a difference-maker.

You know who has been missing?  Marc Staal.

Staal has been out of commission since after a hit sustained by his brother in a game from February last year.  I’ve detailed that here at this site, how strongly I feel about concussive disorders, especially in sports.  No matter what, they seemed to be handled all wrong.  But with good reason.  I mean, we’re talking about a BRAIN INJURY folks.  They can’t be handled too lightly, in my opinion.

What concerns me though, is how quickly he’s recovering.  Eric Lindros is a perfect example of someone who had a brain of mush figuratively when it came to hits on the ice.  It took him an incredible amount of time to recover.  Same with Pat LaFontaine who had to retire after sustaining too many concussions.  I totally agreed with how the Rangers handled his symptoms by not having him go with the team to Europe, which was essentially the beginning of a long road trip and spending a lot of time in the air.  But I have to ask the question: is he coming back this year?  I know concussions are really tricky, but it suggests to me that perhaps he rushed back last season, or maybe was handled differently.

I know in baseball, players don’t want to be DL’d and some guys would want to play with limbs hanging from their bodies, but at what expense? To hurt the team overall when they play hurt because they are not 100%?  Is that what happened in Staal’s case?  Or did he feel fine, then didn’t after returning? It just boggles me.

Perhaps it’s his durability, since he’s rarely missed a game in these last few seasons, that is missed.  Perhaps it’s that he’s a 6’4″ 208 lb muscle man who can protect his goalie to the extent that Henrik doesn’t have to do it all on his own.  Perhaps it’s the lack of set-up passes to the centers and wingers who can shoot the puck.  Perhaps it’s his leadership, the je ne sais quoi that maybe Cally doesn’t have?  Nothing to knock my boy Ryan, but I’m just grasping here.  Staal is 24 years old, and it would be very tragic if his career had to end suddenly because of a fluke hit by his own brother nine months ago.

At the end of the day, one of the reasons why Rangers fans were so excited about the prospect of having Brad Richards on the team was that perhaps he could pick up Marian Gaborik, who had a noticeable drop off in goal scoring in 2010-11, over a 30 goal differential.  The Rangers no doubt need that goal scoring potential; then again, they didn’t make the playoffs when Gabby was shooting-and-scoring, and they did when he did not.

Perhaps it is Marc Staal who is the missing link, who needs to be back to tie the room together much like the rug in the Big Lebowski.  All I know is whatever it is the Rangers are missing, Sean Avery nor firing the coach nor benching Henke will help.  Staal has been the missing link this entire season.  Yet I have to wonder if he’s going to return this season.