Head coach John Tortorella was fired by the New York Rangers today with one year left on his contract.
Asked directly, general manager Glen Sather told reporters on a conference call: “It wasn’t one thing, and I’m not going to speculate or start to criticize what happened with Torts and give you a lot of reasons why we decided to do this.”
Let’s try this from another angle.
Here’s an analogy wrapped in a riddle, a versatile favorite of mine:
There’s a pot of water sitting atop my stove. Why is it boiling?
There’s a few ways I might answer this question. The sarcastic answer: “Because I turned up the heat underneath the pot.” The scientific answer: “Because applying heat causes water molecules to move rapidly, creating bubbles and gradually changing the state of water from a liquid to a gas, an observable effect known as ‘boiling.’ ” The not-so-obvious answer: “Because I’m making tea.”
Each answer is correct. Each reveals something different.
In this case, Tortorella was the boiling pot of water, something he’s been compared to before. Only a few people, including Sather, could provide the best answer as to why the pot boiled over. Not many people know exactly what flavor of tea they’re brewing on Broadway.
But it’s fairly easy to take a stab at this one. There was Tortorella’s benching of Brad Richards for the final game of the season, a 3-1 loss to the Bruins last Saturday.1, 2 There was Tortorella’s intense, sandpaper-like demeanor, which will inevitably rub one too many people the wrong way over time wherever he coaches. There were the immense expectations among fans and the front office that never came to fruition (at least not before or after the Rangers’ first-round upset of the Washington Capitals).
And more than anything else – sarcastic answer coming here – it’s what happens to coaches. They get fired. Scotty Bowman doesn’t get fired (as head coach at least; he did get fired as a GM in Buffalo). Mike Babcock doesn’t get fired. I’m still waiting for Dan Bylsma and Barry Trotz to get fired, but I’m not holding my breath.
Everyone else who’s ever stepped behind the bench? They know what they’re getting into. They ought to, at least.
Randy Carlyle was in Anaheim, his first NHL job – his first – when he told me in so many words “it’ll happen to me someday.” Smart man, Randy Carlyle.
You can toss out the arguments about New York being a big hockey market. Getting fired is what happens to coaches, whether they’re hot-headed and mild-mannered, big market or small market, Lindy Ruff with the Buffalo Sabres or any of the nine guys who stepped behind the bench for the Los Angeles Kings between 1981 and 1987.
But before we mourn the inevitable end, let’s take a moment to savor all the bitter moments in between. The New York Post has graciously compiled its top five Tortorella moments behind the Rangers’ bench.
1. Here’s a list of the 15 players scratched along with Richards for Game 5 in Boston:
I was ready with a sarcastic, “what-a-fine-bunch-of-AHLers” comment. But there’s actually a fair amount of talent there. No wonder the Bruins won the game and the series.
2. During an interview with NextSportsStar.com recently, I coined the phrase “Full Tortorella” to describe benching one’s star player in a critical game. Norm Rumack and Tony Ambrogio said I should blog it. Consider it done.