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Blog: Slap Shots
And the best place for the Rangers organization to start to address the fundamental issue the coach alluded to yesterday when he said, “We have to work extra hard to score goals,” is not to rush out and sacrifice a handful of assets in a trade for someone like Rick Nash. It’s for the club to hire an assistant coach to run the power play, which has ranged between dysfunctional and adequate during Tortorella’s tenure.
Neil Miller; AP
TAKING POINT-ERS: Rangers coach John Tortorella, at locker cleanout yesterday, said he would be open to changes, so he should welcome franchise great Brian Leetch as a power-play assistant.
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This is where Tortorella must have the most open mind of all, because if the head coach won’t acknowledge the need or isn’t receptive to the idea of adding such a specialist to his coaching staff, the move would be counter-productive.
Better to do nothing, better to leave the power play in the hands of assistant Mike Sullivan (if he does not leave the organization for a head-coaching job in Calgary), than force someone on Tortorella.
The perfect guy is standing right here, of course. That’s Brian Leetch, who has eased back into the fold doing some television work with MSG.
It is impossible to think of anyone who would be better in teaching gifted, young defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto the art of playing the point than Leetch, truly one of the most accomplished power-play quarterbacks of his time.
It is, however, a long way from the booth to the bench, even in a metaphorical sense and even if Leetch would be willing to commit to such a role.
The relationship between Leetch and general manager Glen Sather, essentially nonexistent since the moment No. 2 was traded by the Rangers to Toronto on his 36th birthday on March 3, 2004, would have to be repaired in order for Leetch to rejoin the team.
But most critically, Tortorella would have to be willing to yield authority concerning a critical component of his team and one in which Leetch (or an alternate choice of pedigree) would be intimately involved with the club’s most talented players.
The Devils have Adam Oates, one of the most proficient power-play operatives of his era, on their staff. When Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray as head coach of the Kings, the Devils’ opponent in the Stanley Cup finals, he immediately invited Bernie Nicholls to work on the power play.
Tortorella affirmed the obvious at yesterday’s breakup day in stating the Rangers did not get enough from their top players in the defeat to the Devils. That was most damaging in the final three games, all of which the Blueshirts lost, as they went an aggregate 0-for-6 on the power play.
This notion that Henrik Lundqvist is somehow an illegitimate King because he departs from his seventh NHL season without a ring is sheer lunacy. It not only took Dominik Hasek nine seasons as a starter to win a Cup, it took a trade to a Detroit team filled with Hall of Famers until he could scale the mountain top in 2002.
Lundqvist, who has the standing to note yesterday, “We went from high to low so many times in the playoffs; it [20 games] was a lot of hockey to play,” is not on the list of topics on which the organization must focus.
Tortorella’s acknowledgment that Michael Sauer, who did not play after being concussed on Dec. 5, is “a huge question mark” and “can’t be counted on [for next season]” means that adding a top-four defenseman becomes a priority. The Rangers will be all in on the University of Wisconsin’s presumptive free agent Justin Schultz as the first step toward filling that void.
But improving the power play also must be a priority. And the place to start to address that issue is by adding a coach with the expertise to direct it.
No offense (well, that’s the problem), but neither Tortorella nor Sullivan attempts to be a goaltending coach.
Brian Leetch, John Tortorella, Tortorella, Tortorella, Tortorella, Rangers, Rangers, power play, power play, assistant coach, Larry BrooksFollow Larry, coach, Michael Del Zotto