Mid-Season Report Card: John TortorellaJanuary 12, 2012, by
What more can I say about John Tortorella that I haven’t already said? I’ve covered his forechecking system, how players earn icetime within his team concept, and I gave you all insights into his line juggling strategy when many wanted to brand him a fool.
At this point I don’t want to beat a dead horse. I will say this; back in late October/early November we put up poll asking our readers if they thought Torts was the right man for the job and a little more than 50% said no. We are running a new poll (to your right) asking our readers their opinions of Tortorella post-24/7 and the results are staggering. Less than 5% think he’s a bad coach. Fifty percent to five percent. Wow.
It’s not unique, but I am a proponent of Tortorella’s system. The 2-1-2 forechecking, the commitment to back pressure, dump & chase when a play isn’t there, getting defensemen involved in the OZ…it’s all part of his team concept and it is the right template given the makeup of this roster. A lot of other coaches use these strategies, but revert to trapping when they have the lead. Torts tells his guys to “not to let up” and “we’re going to keep coming at them.” It makes for exciting hockey and so far it is producing offense and wins.
Speaking of offense, so far this season our team is scoring almost three goals a game. When Tom Renney was let go, we were scoring just 2.4 goals a game. Obviously having our talent perform up to expectations has helped, but Torts positions his players deeper in the zone than Renney did, he is also great at making in-game adjustments, and it is paying off without sacrificing defense.
Much of the criticism from his bashers pre-24/7 focused around unfair treatment of his players. However, this was defeated thanks to HBO. Throughout those four episodes we saw motivational criticism directed at our star players as much as our grinders. Most of the time the tough love worked. We also saw him praise our defensemen on multiple occasions.
Where He Can Improve:
One reason why some of the fans didn’t see his strengths had to do with slanted media coverage. Obviously NYR beat writers aren’t going to go out of their way to write positive stuff about the guy when he’s constantly short with them. However, now that public opinion is on his side, he needs to do a better job of handling the media. Ultimately it doesn’t change our record, but it may one day influence his job status if we start losing again.
I’m sure some will point to our power play as an area that needs improvement, it does, but the problem isn’t in the formation, it’s in the execution. Pretty much every good coach in the NHL has presided over an efficient power play and an inefficient one at some point or another. Unless you have the Sedin twins, or Mike Green patrolling your blueline, there isn’t much consistency around the league. As young guys like Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Artem Anisimov, & Derek Stepan mature offensively, I believe their power play IQ will only get better. But that’s a post for another time…