Reports in the New York Daily News and New York Post today indicated that firing John Tortorella may not have been the original game plan following Saturday's defeat and elimination by the Boston Bruins.
It appears that at least some Rangers made it known in their exit interviews, that they felt the coach had become an impediment to progress. Undoubtedly Tortorella's abrasive style is bound to rub some players up the wrong way, but this is the first we've heard of any broader dissent with his approach to coaching.
The chinks first appeared Monday when Henrik Lundqvist made it sound as if he'd consider other options when he becomes a UFA following the conclusion of next season. The comments came as somewhat of a surprise from a player who has typically talked positively of his experience with New York.
Although Glen Sather said Lundqvist's comments did not play into the decision, it's hard to imagine that the potential loss of their best player wouldn't have caught their attention. Sather's comment that every coach has a "shelf life" in the follow-up conference call does suggest that there was a feeling that the players may not be buying into his approach any more.
More pointedly, it appears now that multiple players were less than enthusiastic about Tortorella during their exit interviews, which combined with Lundqvist's comments, seem to be reason enough to make the move.
It's never a good situation when the coach and players aren't aligned, and clearly the Rangers struggled to come close to living up to expectations in this lockout shortened season. At least one player reportedly felt that his team mates were unwilling to make plays for fear of getting rebuked by their coach. If true, then the coach clearly had lost the pulse of his team, and crossed the line from holding the players accountable, and becoming little more than a bully.
Whomever the Rangers choose next will have big shoes to fill. Tom Renney built the Rangers back into contenders after a long struggle, and John Tortorella in many ways maintained the legacy, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
The next coach will be expected to continue on from the recent success in the first round, and put together a game plan that will see the Rangers be legitimate contenders for the Eastern Conference title, if not the Stanley Cup.