After losing their tenth game in the last twelve, and falling to within two points of ninth spot, Rangers GM Glen Sather has elected today to relieve Head Coach Tom Renney of his duties. Renney becomes the first victim of a season that saw the Rangers start hot, only to find themselves wallowing in mediocrity as the business end of the season approaches.
In his place, the Rangers are reported to have brought back former Assistant Coach and Stanley Cup winner (Tampa Bay Lightning) John Tortorella, who was let go last season after new management took over the team.
Tortorella finished out the 1999-00 season with the Rangers as interim Head Coach, but failed to secure the position when Sather opted to go with former buddy Ron Low. Low was unsuccessful as a Ranger Head Coach, but Tortorella went on to build the Lightning into a perennial playoff contender, ultimately winning the cup in 2004, prior to the lockout.
Renney leaves the Rangers fourth in Games Coached (327), fourth in wins (164) and with the third best Win Percentage in franchise history (.572). He also remains only coach to have guided the Rangers to the playoffs since 1997, a period that spans the end of Colin Campbell’s career with the Rangers, as well as those of John Muckler, Ron Low, Bryan Trottier and Glen Sather.
Tortorella will have his work cut out for him, trying to turn around a stagnant offense, and inconsistent defense, but will likely loosen the defensive shackles moreso than Renney allowed.
Also expect to see a difference in philosophy with respect to the way the veterans are treated. Tortorella was noted for his sometimes fiery temper, and confrontational style, and in many ways he is the temperamental opposite of the quiet and measured Tom Renney.
Also expect to see the possibility of a roster change or two between now and the deadline if the Rangers don’t have some immediate success. While Sather has left himself few options, there might still be an opportunity to off-load one of the larger contracts on the team for the right circumstance.
The move also potentially has ramifications on the possibility of picking up Sean Avery. With Tortorella and the “Grate One” both strong personalities, one wonders whether it might be much harder for Avery to avoid a confrontation, and return to the success he enjoyed while playing as a Ranger.