We were going to do this anyway, but now it sure will be a lot more interesting.
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I am posting three things I’ve just finished writing … a news story about the firing, a column, and a list of potential coaching candidates. They are all unedited, so please excuse any typos or errors.
Here’s the news story:
By Rick Carpiniello
Like a bolt of lightning – ironic for a man who won a Stanley Cup with a Tampa Bay team with that nickname – John Tortorella was fired as coach of the Rangers Wednesday.
Talk in and around the organization was that Tortorella would get one more season, the last of his three-year contract, due to the lockout-shortened 48-game season, the wild success the team had the season before, and having guided the Rangers to five post-season rounds the last two seasons.
That, injuries and the complete crash of two of his top three offensive players (Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik) were legitimate enough excuses for the Rangers falling from the first seed to the sixth seed, and for falling a series short of the Eastern final they’d reached 12 months earlier.
So then, perhaps, something happened in the 48 hours between his exit meetings with players on Monday and Wednesday’s announcement.
“I’m very appreciative of what Torts has done with the team here,” Rangers GM Glen Sather said in a vague conference call. “Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup and I felt that this was a decision that had to be made to go forward and we made the decision. As far as John is concerned, I think he was a little bit shocked, but he’s a gentleman and he took it very well.”
Tortorella did not return a phone message and text.
What could have happened? There is speculation that some players may have complained to Sather about Tortorella’s tactics or his system. Clearly Henrik Lundqvist is the Rangers’ best player and his comment that the season was a backward step differed from that of Tortorella’s. Perhaps Lundqvist is not a fan of the lack of offense that has ultimately cost his team the last two playoffs, and he has always seemed annoyed by the shot-blocking scheme that causes screens and deflections in front of him.
Maybe it wasn’t Lundqvist at all. Sather said Lundsvist “had nothing to do with it at all” and added that he plans to sign Lundqvist to a long-term extension.
Perhaps it was the Brad Richards situation. Tortorella was fiercely loyal to Richards, his MVP when they won the Cup together in Tampa in 2004, and whom he helped lure to New York in 2011. Richards’ game crumbled, but Tortorella kept playing him until the final two games of the playoffs (Sather said it was an organizational decision to scratch Richards), and the team almost certainly will buy out the remaining seven years of his $60 million contract. Perhaps Tortorella was against the buyout?
Or maybe it is as simple as Sather’s explanation:
“This is a decision that I made,” he said. “Removing anybody from coaching role of the New York Rangers is a difficult decision. I think I made the right decision so that we can go forward in another direction.
“I came up with the decision that I needed to do something to improve our team going forward. And every coach has a shelf life. I’ve told every guy that I’ve hired that in some point in time it’s going to change. In order for our team to win forward – our goal is to win the Stanley Cup and we didn’t achieve that goal this year. I had to make that decision, so I did.”
Sather said he plans to have a new coach in place by the draft, June 30, in Newark.