One of the most debated topics among Rangers fans this season has been whether or not John Tortorella is in fact at fault for the offensive struggles of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. While most of our readership doesn’t seem to make Torts out to be a scapegoat, there are a small, but nonetheless vocal few who do point the finger at our coach.
Among this group, some think Tortorella’s systems and strategies are to blame, while others blame his intense personality. I think if you’ve been reading our hockey systems posts over the last few seasons, and our work on why Tortorella juggles his lines or how he distributes ice-time, you probably already know where we stand on this topic.
Of course, most of these systems posts are based on our own observations and experiences playing the game. However, so far this season, Tortorella hasn’t said a whole lot to the media about how he actually wants Rangers hockey to be played.
If you’ve never seen Behind the Bench on MSG, I’m not sure you can accurately form an opinion of John Tortorella. In this series, he often reveals his assessment of the team and individual players. He also breaks down film and talks about my favorite subject, hockey’s x’s, o’s, and philosophies.
In the latest episode, Bill Pidto asks John about a recent comment he made in a post-game presser which he admittedly doesn’t coach offense. Bill asked John to clarify his comments. Here’s what Torts said in his own words.
I look at offense in two ways. You have the skill set and creativity that these players have and then there’s the part that comes into coaching. I use the word manufacture. Are we doing the job on our forecheck to create scoring chances down low? Are we getting in the blue looking for the tips? Are our point shots getting through?
But in terms of telling them what to do off the rush or where to take their shot, I have no right to even go near that because that is their god given ability! That is their creativity! Anticipation skills are huge for offensive players. You don’t want to get in the way or over coach that. With the team concept you talk about the manufacturing part of offense.”
I don’t know what everyone else thinks, but I found this quote to contradict a lot of the negativity about Tortorella’s personality and how it somehow stifles a player’s creativity. To be honest, I never really bought that argument anyway. You can sell me that some players aren’t right for this system (cough, cough Boyle). But can a personality affect creativity? Perhaps, but this quote says otherwise.
Further, Torts personality and systems hasn’t changed since he’s gotten here. And Marian Gaborik has two 40+ goal seasons playing for Torts. Brad Richards has a Cup and some of the best goal scoring seasons of his career under Torts.
Ultimately, it is on the players to execute within a team concept. This season, the execution hasn’t been there consistently, but before this thing is over, I’d bet we see both players return to form. When that happens, we will be right back on top where we belong.