It’s about execution, not coaching

March 18, 2013, by
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Rangers succeeded last year because they executed. They followed the system, they executed and they won. Many are looking at the coaching staff for the three game slide, but in reality it’s about execution from the players.

It’s been widely known that coach Tortorella uses a 2-1-2 forecheck, which is not a defensive system. It’s a bit of a misnomer, stating that Torts does play defense first. Many assume that defense first means trap, but our system is the exact opposite. The 2-1-2 means aggressive forechecking to create turnovers. It means attacking, not sitting back. I am not sure how attacking translates to stifling players ability to produce offense, as some angry fans have suggested.

In reality, this team does not need to change coaches or systems. They just need to outwork the opposition below the dots. When executed perfectly, it’s a system that creates offense (i.e., turnovers create offense, zone time leads to offense).┬áThis style was working when the Rangers were on winning streak, as they consistently sent two-three men deep to force turnovers and create offensive chances down low. This benefits offensive players.

Looking at some stats, the Rangers are one of the top teams in the league at generating shots and shot attempts. How exactly is the system stifling the players if the Rangers are able to put the puck towards the net? In other words, the system is working as they’re in the right positions and they’re generating chances, but they are not putting those chances away. Execution is on the players. With that said, if they continue to put pucks on net, their goal totals will eventually catch up.

Let’s also remember that this club had a lot of turnover with no preseason to get adjusted to new teammates and for some, a new city. When that happens, the newer Rangers need more time to get acquainted with playing hockey in NY. For most, it is not an easy transition, especially with the key injuries the Rangers have had. When there is this much turnover, time is required to adjust.

The fundamentals have not changed. The style of play has not changed. The bottom six have changed. The top six have changed. In the end, that requires a lot of time to adjust. The coach and his style do not need to be overhauled at this point. Sure, the team misses the likes of Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko, and John Mitchell. But the new guys, especially Powe, Halpern, etc. need to time to get acclimated.

Adjustments take time. This is a process that requires patience. Unfortunately, patience also requires living through mistakes. Yes, the Rangers have had a slump, but the big picture is a Cup. If the system itself is followed, the wins will come. Just ask Joel Quenneville. Chicago fans were itching to get rid of him last season when the B’hawks were struggling. Look at them now. Same coach, same system, better execution. Patience is a virtue, even in a long season.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Mikeyyy says:


    1. The ramgers FAILED last year. Getting knocked out by the Debbie’s because of their inability to keep up,with 4 rolling lines….and we stuck with the same game plan and lost.

    2. During the winning streak they played totally different coming out of their own zone. Give and gos along the wall. To move the puck up. The last 3 games…dump and chase.

    3. If you manage a team, or catch a team. And the entire team is not executing….it’s the coaches fault. Period. In the word of the great Trump. Your team lost, and your the project manager….you’re fired.

    4. When your offense sucks, and you point blank admit that you don’t work on it with your team, then the coach is negligent in his duties to his team and the fans….negligence….your fired.

    5. When you have a top line of Nash, Richards, and Gaborik. And you can’t motivate them to play better… aren’t a good motivator. Guess what. You get fired.

    There really is NO excuse for this season. Torts got everything he asked for and has failed….period.

    • Dave says:

      1. Depth has nothing to do with execution. That team overachieved, and did so with 3 lines and 5 defensemen.

      2. That’s our point, they are getting away from what helped them win. The post on Sunday is an extension of that.

      3. It’s a 3 game losing streak. You said it yourself in point 2, they weren’t playing like this during the 4 game win streak.

      4. See point 3.

      5. See point 3.

    • rickyrants13 says:

      Look at all the thumbs down for this great retort. Just going to show once again that if you dont kiss ass. What you say is mute.

      The origional post would be a great one IF THE COACH hadnt lost the team. Torts has lost this team. And it shows.

      I cant wait for all My thumbs down

      • Dave says:

        Again with the unnecessary sarcasm. Why don’t you enhance the discussion by replying to it, or to my reply?

    • rickyrants13 says:

      Wow look at all of the Thumbs down for this retort. Once again proving My point that if you dont kiss ass in here. And prove only to be a cheerleader. That your opinon is mute.

      The origional post would have been a great one if Torts hadnt allready lost the team. But he has. This team no longer wants to play for him. And it shows.

      I cant wait to see all the thumbs down I get.

      • VinceR says:

        So we aren’t allowed to disagree with you? Your word is final say? That’s pretty ballsy.

        Yes we are kissing ass because Dolan will see this and give us free tickets…it’s a shame you are missing out. There is no way that this is just our honest opinion.

        I am sorry we disagree and post as so. I guess we should have to be silent since you don’t like to be disagreed with?

        • Spozo says:

          It has been stated in the past that all his thumbs down are from people who can’t open up their eyes and see what he sees. All this mention of the thumbs sounds like people feel the need to get other people’s approval.

  2. Bob says:

    Great post. I Didn’t know about the shot attempts stats. That’s pretty compelling. Hopefully that means the goal scoring will progress to the mean!

    • Dave says:

      The Rangers are shooting well below their career averages right now. That stuff eventually rights itself.

  3. SalMerc says:

    So in any major sport, when a team has the talent and they fail to execute, who ultimately is responsible?

    • Dave says:

      Everyone. But this is just 3 games. Remember, they were executing during their 4 game win streak.

  4. ranger17 says:

    We only need to tweak it a bit . Pick someone like Ott from from the Sabres

    • Dave says:

      Ott has another year on his deal (at a little under $3 million), so I’m unsure if that will work. The Rangers look for guys with expiring deals. I like the way he plays though.

  5. Walt says:

    I could be patient if there were light at the end of the tunnel, but there doesn’t seem to be. Get back to where we were having some success, playing Gabby with Step, and Callie. Put Nash back with Richards, and Hags, and leave them alone for a few games, not a few shifts.

    And there in is the problem, you ask for patients, but where is Torts when that question is asked??? The man is constantly tinkering, how can anyone develope chemistry at all??

    If we can’t win the next 3-5 games, then make trades, bring up Kreider again, this time under a new coach, and play out the season. I read that Gabby has given the team a list of 10 teams he would accept a trade to, and there have been discussions with the Cancucks. I also read that PJ Strock stated that Gabby was unhappy with all the bad mouthing by Totrs about him. If this is true, that may explain why he is going through the motions, and not playing with any emotions at all!!!!!

    Look, I love this team, have followed them since 1958, and have seen too much crap over the years that seem to be resurfacing again. Torts may be a good coach for another team, but not this team. You just don’t go public and throw your team under the bus like he has, and not expect some resentment.

    Bottom line, prove me wrong, that’s not hard, I don’t claim to know it all. Show me some life, or even a pulse, and start playing like you can. If Torts can’t get these guys to play that way, then he should be gone. If he can get them out of this funk, and play like that should, then keep him. At least then he proved he still has it as a coach, and that I’ve been proven wrong. PLEASE, prove me wrong Torts!!!!!

    • Mr. Snrub says:

      ” If this is true, that may explain why he is going through the motions, and not playing with any emotions at all!!!!!”

      Except we’ve seen Gabby slamming his stick several times recently. obviously frustrated with his own play. Or his comments on 24/7 last year when he praised Torts’ honesty?

      • Walt says:

        I just reported what I read, don’t kill the messenger. He may have said good things last year, but after being benched, and scolded publicly, he may be pissed off, and not playing for the coach!!!

  6. SalMerc says:

    Only 21 games to show us if they are a contender or pretender. Look at this article:

    Larry Brooks points out another reason why Torts needs to start packing.

    This wait-and-see and “we’ll be alright” attitude works for a 80 game season, not a 48 game season.

    • Walt says:


      Thanks for adding this link, it proved what I read, and the fact that Gabby is being shopped around. The article also points out that Torts has his favorites, and when you make the poo poo list, you stay there, Kreider being the next example of this!!!!!

    • Dave says:

      Brooksie made some good points, specifically about keeping Gaborik at LW when it wasn’t working.

      That said, take what Brooksie says about Torts with a grain of salt. It’s no secret they hate each other. Journalists are supposed to be unbiased, but they sure as hell are not.

  7. Eric says:

    This shortened season was recipe for disaster with this team. No training camp and roster turnover are killers. They also came out of nowhere last year and this season there are expectations.

    The 4 game winning streak where against teams below the Rangers in the standing. The Rangers have been getting crushed by the better teams in the east. The are just not that good right now. Torts needs to be held accountable for this team. Torts will survive because Dolan is loyal and the short season with no training camp will be the excuse. The King’s proved last year just get in the playoffs with a hot goalie and Lord Stanley could be yours.

    I just think the players are not playing for him the way they played last year. I think guy’s are over his combative nature. We may be watching the final act in his tenure.

    • Dave says:

      I have to admit, I didn’t think the turnover and lockout would have affected them this much. It’s a problem, but it can’t be an excuse. Same with the injuries to pretty much everyone on the roster.

  8. paulronty says:

    You look at the bottom 2 lines and there is no scoring there at all. Powe & Halpern don’t score period, Boyle is useless, Miller is not NHL ready & Pyatt & Asham will give you the odd goal. I’ll bet these two lines generate few shots. With all that speed this team should work on fast odd man breakouts with Hags, Kreider(he’s more NHL ready than Miller) & Gaborik. I like the Messier philosophy of having to make the high risk-high reward play sometimes. We might generate chances off the forecheck but we need more chances on the rush. Gaborik should not be playing left wing-how about trying Cally on the left, he might make the adjustment better.

    • Dave says:

      From what I’ve heard, they are looking to get a scoring center to play with Miller, and move Miller to LW (Pyatt on RW). At that point, the 4th line is Asham-Halpern-Powe, which is just fine by me.

  9. Sally says:

    Gaborik was on the right wing last game.

  10. Bloomer says:

    The Ranger squad has lost their MOJO. As clearly demonstrated in years gone by with this organization, big names on sweaters don’t automatically make for a winning team. It takes leadership, chemistry and doing all the little things that win hockey games. Players that don’t buy into the team concept should be moved at the trade deadline.

  11. Justin says:

    Good post Dave. I think everyone needs to back off the ledge a little bit. There are tangible factors (no camp, roster turnover, etc.) that could explain why this team didn’t fly out of the gates.

    There is a legitimate concern that if their play doesn’t improve, they will miss the postseason in a year they were favored as Stanley Cup contender. However, while the team’s play has been inconsistent for most of the season, a three game losing streak isn’t nearly enough to conclude this team needs massive changes. It’s been 27 games since this team was in an Eastern Conference Final.

    It stings a little more dropping points to inferior opponents and looking bad while doing so. If this team sticks to the process, maybe tweaks a weakness or two at the deadline, this is still very much a contending team.

  12. Chris F says:

    Dave, I don’t think the argument has been that Tort’s system stifles aggressive play or that it’s overly focused on sitting back (at least for me).

    My problem, actually, is that the system is overly based on aggressive forechecking and dump-and-chase, and that it is this aspect of the system that stifles offensive creativity and production. The strict focus on play along the boards after a dump-in sort of leaves transitional rushes by the wayside.

    Gaborik, Stepan, Miller, etc. can be highly effective if not worn down by constant dump ins and board battles. That style has its place; it was tantalizing watching Dubinsky and Avery cycle the puck seemingly endlessly before finding an open man in the slot. But it doesn’t suit allplayers.

    That’s the issue here. Torts doesn’t stifle offense by demanding a sit-back, defense-first trap. He stifles offense by hinging it inextricably to board-play, smothering creativity and failing to recognize or properly utilize the diverse offensive and creative ability of certain skilled players. The one-size-fits all approach just isn’t working with this group of players.

    That’s the concern, that’s the issue. It’s not an insurmountable problem, nor is it cause to demand Tortorella’s head on a pike. But, system adjustments must be made to open the ice up enough to truly benefit from the tremendous talent that this team, finally, enjoys.

  13. Rob says:

    Well I’m getting a late start on all this today so I just read this great article by Dave and haven’t had time to read any of the comments.

    Dave you brought up a great point and I’m with you regarding this teams need to play an offence with down low pressure, 2-1-2 cycle hockey. I believe that is the intent but it seems like they are having some issues with that. I wish there was some stat that was able to compare the difference between time spent in the O Zone cycling with this team to lasts. Im sure we would see a stark difference in the amount of time we spent cycling from last years team to this years.

    It just seems like we’re having a very hard time setting up the cycle in particular, and that comes with being able to enter the zone, and enter it with success. Last years team also was able to transition in the neutral zone better as well, but more importantly I think this team can improve the type of hockey they need to play to be successful with this coach and that is to show more support when they first enter the zone. The forwards are far to apart from one another, when they initially set up entering. Also they need to be more patient at times in order to start cycling. And like you said the team prob misses Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko, and John Mitchell, but the thing is those players had a knack for playing THIS type of hockey we are talking about. Hopefully guys like Powe and Halpern will…….Soon! I rushed this but gotta get ready for the game LGR!!!

  14. Rob says:

    Chris those exact thought’s go through my mind as well at times and I question Tort’s ability to adapt to what he has in his arsenal.

    You know when Tort’s first took this job, he made it clear to all of us about how the team he had at the time, had to play. To me it seemed like he was insinuating that the team had to play “Hockey 101 for Dummies”, because of the limited talent on the team. I can remember when he first got the job and he was asked about Lauri Korpikoski and he made a snide remark like who is Lauuri…Korpi… who the what?!? And he made a remark that I cant quite remember right now but it had to do with the way he believe the team needed to play with what he had. Basically what he was saying was the team, right now sucked. Now don’t get me wrong I love the type of hockey Tort’s wants the club to play, but this is not the team he inherited, and it’s a team that is far better, and most importantly has some highly offensive players, but yet he chooses to continue to have the team play the same way all of the time. I’m not saying dont forecheck no’r am I saying to Trap, but wouldn’t a good coach be able to adapt to the team and be more versatile to adjust the type of hockey within a game? I’ve seen many teams play different type of hockey within a game, and I’m sure you all have. Why cant we?

  15. HARLEMBLUES says:

    It’s the coaches job to get the players to execute,perform and be ready when the puck drops.The player shouldn’t fit in the coaches system,the system should fit the player and give him the best chance to suceed.Pat Riley w/the Lakers,Pat w/Knicks and Heat system fit the players each time great coach.