Earning icetime in John Tortorella’s system

December 13, 2011, by

It seems like there are some common misconceptions with regards to how Torts distributes ice time among his forwards. I figured I would cherry-pick a few of our reader’s comments and explain some of the logic behind how ice time is earned on this team.

Keep in mind I am not trying to call people out for their opinions; I am just using these quotes as a point of reference.

Misconception #1 – Salary Plays A Role In Ice time

“If Torts is gonna have to play guys according to their $$$$$ (think Dubi) he should go back to CT.

Let’s ignore the “sending Dubi to the Whale” comment and focus on the salary part of this sentence. One of the reasons why I prefered Torts over Tom Renney had to do with income being irrelevant when it comes to earning ice time. If the above statement were true, then Drury and Redden would still be on the team and Dubi would not have seen his minutes decrease over the last couple of weeks.

Renney preferred to lean on his veterans, which is why guys like Redden, Rozi, and Gomer were rarely ever scratched, let alone riding pine. Torts on the other hand has proven time and time again that if our youth plays well, they will see their minutes go up. Point in case Hagelin is getting PK time, Stepan’s on the first line, MDZ is on the power play, etc.

Misconception #2- Not All Players Are Created Equal

“My main complaint is not Dubi here, its more the way Torts doesn’t treat everyone the same.”

Gaborik was benched the other night against Buffalo during the second period because his turnover lead to a goal. If that wasn’t enough to prove that no one man is greater than this team, then I don’t know what will. Torts has a very long history on both the Rangers and in Tampa for benching players for lackadaisical play.

Now as far as a guy’s place on the depth chart is concerned, I think people will often have an affinity for a bottom six player, like a Boyle or an Avery, and wonder why they don’t get more ice time if they are playing well. It’s all about what your individual role is on this team and what your expected output is given that role.

Consistent play will earn you more ice time within your given role. Dave had a great example of this yesterday regarding the utilization of Erik Christensen over Sean Avery. Avery’s role is to agitate. Special teams is not a place where agitating is a necessary skill set.  So his total ice time can only climb so high.

Misconception #3- Lack Of Offense Equals Less Ice Time

If another player is doing better they should play. You earn your ice time. If WoWo earns it he should play.

While normally this quote would be true, there are shades of grey here. If a top 6 player isn’t scoring, they shouldn’t be demoted or benched if they’re playing well in all three zones. Dubinsky is a classic example of this. He was playing well earlier in the season. He wasn’t scoring goals, but he was making plays, forechecking, & playing solid defense. People called for his demotion to the fourth line because he wasn’t scoring, but it was premature. Torts had confidence in him and stuck with him.

The last week or two his play away from the puck started to plateau and he was coasting. Luckily other players were stepping up and were more deserving of ice time. The result was his demotion to the fourth line, which at that point was the right thing to do. But now we are getting to the point where we need Dubi to get going offensively, because like I said in Misconception #2, his role is to provide secondary scoring. I think if he plays a few hard-nosed games he will eventually move up.

So I guess to sum this all up, when it comes to ice time things aren’t always black and white. But if you think about these three examples, you should have a better idea of what it takes to see your guy out on the ice more often.

Categories : Analysis, Hockey Tactics


  1. Dave says:

    This post is a fantastic post.

  2. Walt says:

    Your point is well taken!!!

    Only problem with Torts, and his dishing out playing time, if you end in the dog house, the man never lets up.

  3. Sioux-per-man says:

    Great post.

    I like the idea of Hagelin playing on the penalty kill. His speed will help get to loose pucks, and clear the zone. He has been a great two way player, but he has the potential to break away and score a shorthand goal. He has been a great addition to this team. Its evident that the talent is getting deeper. Just think when Kreider comes to town next year.

    I’m not so worried about Dubi, he will earn his ice time. If his line gets hot and is playing solid minutes – Torts will give them the extra shifts they deserve.

    I like the idea that there is compition amoung the lines. Just keep rolling with the “Hot Line” and put 2 points in the bank at the end of each game.

    Game Day …. LGR!

    • The Suit says:

      Great points. I’m not too worried about Dubi. If he continues to play hard, he will move up. I’d like to see him center between Hagelin and Mitchell and put Boyle down on the fourth with his battery mates.

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      Not just Krieder add in Thomas and Miller as well. I so agree we are on the cusp of a very good thing. Drafting will still be a very important piece to the puzzle as we will see us starting to draft late. Thank God we have Gordie to trust in that.

  4. Bobby Tux says:

    Great post

    I would like to focus on Dibinsky’s role going forward. Switching Dubi and Boyle to create a 3 (Speed/Grind) line of Hagelin Dubi Mitchell and a 3 (Agitate/Grind) line of Prust Boyle Avery really makes the most long term sense. As for ice time Torts can insert Speed or Agitate as needed. As for EC, he really does not fit the mold of a grinding 3 or 4 line so I think the Rangers are showcasing him for a trade for another D or part of a blockbuster for Ryan. (of course all trade conjecture is just that – comjecture)

    • The Suit says:

      I mentioned this on twitter recently. If it were up to me I’d waive Avery to keep Mitchell in the lineup for now. I’d try to trade Wolski for a mid-to late round pick to a team desperate for offense if we can. Then I’d pencil EC in vs quicker, skilled teams, but play Rupp vs bigger, more physical teams.

      • Bobby Tux says:

        Rupp is unproven.

        Avery is a valuable player. Look at the Rangers with and without him in the lineup over the years. Regardless of ice time, he creates some positive force in the Rangers.

        As for Wolski and EC, trade them both to get more depth in D.

        Richards, Callahan, Fedotenko, Gaborik, Stepan, and Anisomov (with Dubinsky and Hagelin as reserves) construct the top 2 lines.

        Mitchell, Hagelin, Dubinsky makes a superb 3rd line and Prust, Boyle, Avery a superb 4th line. Speed/grind for 3. Agitate/grind for 4. Additionally, the great defense of Boyle/Prust covers for Avery shortfalling.

        As for PP – EC can be replaced by Hagelin or Mitchell or potentially Boyle (if they want to clog the front on the 2nd Unit) and we must all remember we are only playing for the Cup and there are no Shoot-outs in the Playoffs so why spend one minute on a “specialist”.

        • The Suit says:

          Rupp’s been a consistent player in this league for quite some time and knows what it takes to win a Cup. He deserves his chance.

        • RangerSmurf says:

          “Look at the Rangers with and without him in the lineup over the years.”

          First tour:
          50-20-16 with him (110.60 pace) 34-37-7 w/o him (78.84 pace)
          Second tour (prior to this season)
          79-72-15 w/ him (85.45 pts per 82)
          46-27-9 w/o him (101 pts per 82)

          • The Suit says:

            You have Mara’s stats? I’m pretty sure his in the lineup/out of the lineup stats were similar if not better.

        • VinceR says:

          As far as numbers with a certain player in the game, I made this post another article:

          From Blueshirt Bulletin’s “Stats to Chew on”:

          “- The Rangers are 7-1-1 since recalling Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell. New York is 11-3-1 with Sean Avery in the lineup and 17-3-1 with Jeff Woywitka in the lineup.”

          Would there be so much hubbub if Woywitka was scratched?

  5. Leatherneckinlv says:

    Ice time at even strength when tied or down by 1 goal should still be a 1,2,3 1,2,3,4 rotation because it is still a very long season and the game is almost never always played at even strength and that is why 4 lines are needed to play the game.

    If I were a coach my 4th line would be made up of specialty players to include Pk guys and enforcers to play in those aspects of the game. This is why in my opinion it is very important to have 3 solid lines and I actually believe we have in place those said 3 lines and people in place for that type of fourth line with interchangeable players such as Rupp, Avery and Wolski for this year.

    Next year there will be an even better upgrade due to the fact that I think we will see at least 2 more rookies cracking the line up early or by years end next year.

    This team is proving that they can contend for the Cup this year already and with the talent still not here yet that we will be a team to reckon with for a very long time. Let’s go Rangers

  6. JordanO says:

    Artem Anisimov-Derek Stepan-Marian Gaborik
    Ruslan Fedotenko-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan
    Carl Hagelin-Brandon Dubinsky- John Mitchell
    Sean Avery – Brian Boyle – Brandon Prust

    Looks good to me. I think Haeglin makes Wolski expendable if they can get something for him in a trade.

    • Bobby Tux says:

      This lineup is best suited to Rangers hockey even of Torts does not trust Avery in all situations.

      The key is that PP and PK use the talent of Hagelin and that Dubinsky is back on track to do PP and PK