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Torts talks about coaching offense

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.

Until now…

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.

41 Responses to “Torts talks about coaching offense”

  1. Ray says:

    When Tortorella took over at Tampa Bay, Martin St. Louis was both small and unproven. Most did not foresee his future. Torts did not exactly stifle him. I think that like with most good coaches, two kinds of players prosper — really good ones and reasonably good ones who play a style the coach likes.

  2. VinceR says:

    I think that defines the system versus execution perfectly, great post Suit. Like I mentioned yesterday in the comments, Torts isn’t telling his players not to use touch passes, give and goes etc.

    The system helps create goals both pretty and garbage (in Tort words creative and manufactured). The system helps score the manufactured goals and also makes space for creativity.

    I also think that this post shuts down the “stifling” argument very well. Not that it would stop some…

    • Joe says:

      only problem with this is that they have not manufactured, nor created goals this year!!!!

      • VinceR says:

        Agree, I just think it has to do with execution. But this is in response to folks who say he is stifling the offense by forcing them to grind and “not letting them play”.

  3. mikeyyy says:

    Bah.

    Torts is so full of it.

    Your transition and defensive systems constrain what you can do on offense…if you tilt more offensively then you give up more 2 on 1s and if you tilt defensively you keep the extra forward back.

    If its a priority to sit back and guard against the odd man rush vs pinching and trying to get in tight for a good shot…then you have to work your priorities. If a dman pinches and a forward needs to come back to cover, then you are just cycling.

    The system run in Tampa was totally different than what is run here, and the rules of the NHL were different then than they are now. We tried that, it didn’t work. Hank couldn’t stop the odd man rush shots.

    The game vs the flyers, the rangers were playing totally different than any other game this season and it wasn’t execution….They were executing something different. If I was as smart as Suit I would know what was different in that game. Besides a lot of one touch passing.

    And even the comment its up to the players to execute within a team concept places constraints on them already.

    And I have already heard from Torts how he coaches the offense.

    How about the player quotes on the system. “I’m not the coach I don’t make those decisions”

    So obviously there is a break between Torts and the plane of existence we call reality. If we were winning, I would be fine with it. But we aren’t so where else can I point the finger at? Someone has to be accountable for a carpy season where all your star players underscore.

    • VinceR says:

      Execution…not a different system, go reply to my other post on the previous game wrap comments…I spelled it out. If you want to keep responding with generalities, you can, but if you want to spell out goal by goal how it was systematically different it would go a lot further to making a convincing argument. You can respond directly to the game wrap post I made yesterday.

      Not saying I’m an expert, I am no where near it and I could very well wrong, but at least I tried to spell out the argument instead of making generalities, saying someone is full of bull, and not listening to their explanation of previous statements. I am willing to be wrong, but present a real argument.

      Your above comment is seems like a pretty simplified analysis of defensive schemes vs. transition and how it restricts offense.

      “And I have already heard from Torts how he coaches the offense” So you didn’t even bother reading on how he expands on that? “He’s so full of it”…right, you don’t like the guy so any details he gives are nothing but bull. C’mon dude:

      Money where the mouth is mikeyyy…present your detailed argument on how the Philly game was a different system.

    • VinceR says:

      Also “I’m not the coach I don’t make those decisions” – what professional athlete doesn’t say that? And the context is important to…where are you pulling that quote from? Give me a direct quote and context.

      Here’s a direct quote and context…after a convincing win over Tampa, Rick Nash:

      “You look at that first period and after, we stuck with the system and obviously the system works,” Nash said. “So if we can all buy in to that and stick with the system, we’re a good team.”

      I’m willing to be convinced about the negativity on Torts, but let’s get real facts or analysis, not generalities and opinions.

      Not trying to war with you, I believe you have all this, but present them and we can have a real debate. Again, not generalities, details, facts, sourced quotes, etc.

    • Spozo says:

      Use facts and quotes to back up your argument. Not “this sounds like something a player said about god knows what so I will use it in my argument about why Torts is the devil incarnate”. Who said “it’s the coaches decision not mine”? When did he say it? What was he talking about? His playing time? Line combinations? Or was he talking about how Rangers transitions aren’t allowing him to put goals in the back of the net? I can tell you which one that player was not talking about. Well we don’t even know who you are talking about so this might have not even been said.

      We get it. You hate Tortorella. But atleast use fact, stats, and direct quotes to back up your argument.

      • Chris says:

        It’s pretty simple and straight forward. Philly is an irresponsible team in the neutral zone and their own zone so the Rangers look like an offensive juggernaut when facing them. The Rangers would love to make all of those tic-tac-toe passing plays for goals, just like the fifth goal on Tuesday night, the reality is though that you can’t do that in the NHL. You can play like that in your late night beer league, sure, but in the NHL, no.

        The key to successful NHL offense is board play and traffic in front of the net. Nash’s wrap around goal and Stepan’s knock down – tuck in goal are perfect examples of that. Also, Hagelin’s opening breakaway is a perfect example of how D leads to offense as Torts loves to say all the time.

        The fact is most teams in the NHL are responsible and tight checking. If the Rangers decide to play wide open, unrestricted offense like a lot of posters are asking for then the Rangers turn into the Flyers of last year. High scoring and exciting but ultimately a losing team.

        • Evan says:

          You do realize we are currently trying to play a responsible/tight checking system and we are barely a playoff team? We are not even close to being a stanley cup contender and we cannot put the puck in the back of the net.

          I want torts to open it up so that our guys with speed (nash, haggy, gabby, etc) can actually show case this “creativity” and “god given talent” torts likes to talk about. Our current play book is so easy to read.

          We had NINE goals in 7 games vs the worst teams in the east prior to the flyers game. Is that not a problem to you?

          You cannot compare us to the flyers either cause we actually have elite defenseman and a top 5 goalie. We can afford to open it up cause henrik is back there.

          Your comment makes it seem like we are on the right track, yet we lose to the worst teams in the east on a consistent basis.

          I still believe we can win a stanely cup, but not unless torts makes some adjustments and gets this offense going.

          • The Suit says:

            Evan, every team relies on a forechecking system. Every forechecking system relies on checking. Hence the term forecheck.

            Where the forechecking takes place is generally what differeniates systems. 2-1-2 forecheck takes place down low (what we play), 1-4 takes place in the neutral zone (think Boston).

            Forechecking leads to turnovers. Turnovers lead to scoring chances.

            When players capitalize on scoring chances we tend to win. When players miss on scoring chances we tend to lose. The system doesnt change. The execution does. This really isnt that difficult to understand.

            Apologies to those who get this. I feel I’m constantly repeating myself on this site for the same 5 people who refuse to learn.

          • Chris says:

            How do you propose “opening it up”? The D men are already part of the rush whenever it’s feasible. They pinch constantly. Opposing teams smartly stack the blue line and close off the boards against the Rangers leaving the dump and chase as the only option for creating offense.

            Dump and chase is about hard work. The current Rangers forwards are not working hard enough to retrieve dump ins. When they do win the puck down low they tend to have good chances.

            The Rangers forecheck is terrible to non existent this season which is why there is a lack of consistent offense.

            In the NHL odd man rushes don’t happen by design, they occur because of break downs on the forecheck or mistakes by the attacking D men. In other words you can’t game plan for odd man rushes.

            High skill players in the NHL are only useful on the PP. That’s what’s frustrating about the Rangers disappointing PP, that should be the team’s strength.

            As far as goals, I could care less about goals. What concerns me is the lack of consistent quality scoring chances. Even games where the Rangers peppered the opposition with over 40 shots, like the Florida game from a week ago, most of the shots are long range. If the Rangers want consistency on offense they need to apply a stiffer, more effective forecheck. That is the only way to score goals against quality, well organized NHL opposition.

            Seriously, I’m not trying to be a jerk, what adjustments would you like the coaches to make?

            • Evan says:

              The fact of the matter is that whatever “systems” you guys are describing are not creating scoring chances. We do not create many odd man rushes. We do not create many breakaways because our forwards do not take many risks.

              You ask for changes i want? For one, move gaborik back to RW. This experiment is a complete failure. I think he is not working as hard as he should be, but he is clearly uncomfortable and not creating at that position.

              Secondly, let gaborik, haggy, nash and some others start cherry picking and taking risks. Packing our zone with 5 guys makes it so easy for teams to defend us. There is a reason pittsburgh creates so much offense and it is cause they take risks, push the tempo and spread opposing defenses.We do none of those things and we have the talent to do so.

              From there, who’s fault is it that our PP has been below mediocre all year? Coaching has to develop a system that players can execute. Ive seen improvement recently, but early on i did not see any form of system that was not being executed.

              From there, many on this blog continue to rag on henrik and blaming him, but the fact of the matter is every goal feels like a travesty because it is such a mountain to climb in every game since our offense is abysmal

              We had NINE goals in 7 games prior to the flyers game. That is all you need to know that our system creates nothing when the worst teams in the east are nearly holding us to shut outs.

              • VinceR says:

                Whatever systems you describe will not work without execution, including completing accurate passes and smart decisions with and without the puck. No system will.

              • VinceR says:

                No odd man rushes or breakaways? Are you kidding me? How many times do you see them make a terrible pass versus shoot on a 2 on 1, or a 3 on two make a terrible drop pass to the third defender coming in on the play? When they do shoot, they are missing the net, including breakaways and penalty shots.

                They get plenty of odd man rushes!!!

              • Joe says:

                Evan Great post. These guys think Torts system is the only system because it is a hockey system….I don’t get it either,….. but they are awesome debaters..!!

              • VinceR says:

                Yes Joe, thanks for trivializing our argument by insulting our intelligence. Right, we think it’s the only hockey system and that’s why we defend it.

                Way to not provide facts and specific examples/coherent argument, but instead just insult folks. At least Evan putting out an argument. I just disagree with some of his opinions.

  4. Bob says:

    Suit, I appreciate your systems posts, to be honest I haven’t seen any others on the internet really attempt to analyze this stuff, but I still think your wasting your time defending JT. Not that I dont think he’s a great coach. He is. But most fans dont get this stuff and never will no matter how much you break it down.

    That’s why Tom Coughlin is always on the verge of being fired, ditto Girardi, Quenneville, etc. Hell even some are calling for Barry Trotz head like he’s the one that let Suter get away. It all comes down to “what have you done for me lately”. Unless JT wins a Cup, he’ll be on thin ice. If he does win a Cup here, he’ll be on thin ice till he wins another! Just the way it is.

    • VinceR says:

      I keep forgetting to use the Coughlin analogy…was “definitely” going to be fired twice, each time won a super bowl the same season. Which shows how patient the NY fan base is…too spoiled by the Yankees.

    • Joe says:

      I’m Sorry, in case you haven’t noticed this is New York, It is about a Cup or nothing….

      • VinceR says:

        Which is pretty stupid.

        • Joe says:

          I apologize if you think I was insulting your intelligence. No Way. You guys obviously know the game better than me. But I have been watching for most of my life. I am just saying, when someone tries to argue another way of doing things, you just defend Torts like there is no other way. Again, I ask, how long does Torts get? no one ever answers.

          • VinceR says:

            No one is saying there is no other way. I’m just saying back it up. Evan presented points 1-3 and another in the paragraph afterwards. I just presented counterpoints. I’m not saying there isn’t a better way, but someone should just present it. If it’s a compelling argument, I’m ready to hear it.

            Torts will get the beginning of next season at least, if the Rangers actually do not turn things around. But they are not going to throw out the baby with the bath water in an shortened season in which the team had major turnover one season removed from an over achieving trip to the ECF. The leash is a little longer than a yank this season.

  5. Evan says:

    I really do not understand how people are not being more critical of torts.

    A couple of points

    1. Columbus almost has as many goals as we do. That is completely unacceptable
    2. Our PP has gotten worse every year. Does Torts not need to coach that either or does he just place blame on his assistants for that? It does not seem we have had much of a “system” for that so does torts let our guys improvise? It has improved in recent games, but we should be a top 15 PP with ease.
    3. This experiment of moving gaborik off of his regular wing has been a complete and utter failure. He continues to shove it down gabbys’ throat and he is being stubborn by not changing it.

    And how can our guys be creative when we are trying to play a grinding system with guys who are anything but grinders? We finally have some freaking talent and torts is choking the life out of the game. If he thinks we can beat the penguins playing a grinding style, he has another thing coming. Open up the game and let our new found speed and talent show case itself. He talks about letting players show their “creativity”, but I think he is stifling it on a daily basis.

    Let the boys play, we have the talent to win it all.

    • VinceR says:

      1. Apples/oranges…our offensive players are not effectively executing, our bottom 6..Asham is the only player since Feb 10th to provide a goal while playing on a bottom six line until the the goal by Kreider last game. We need more productivity from the bottom two lines, hoping with Richie, Kreids, we will see more productivity.

      2. Terrible execution, they weren’t opening shooting lanes…every pass was a miscue whether from passing or receiving end. No one controlled the puck quick enough to move the puck either pass or instantly shoot. Were horrible at crossing the blue line, making terrible decisions while gaining the zone.

      3. Won’t argue this one. I thought it was a sound theory, but the plug should have been soon a lot sooner as it was not working.

      “And how can our guys be creative when we are trying to play a grinding system with guys who are anything but grinders?” Again, manufacturing goals vs. the creative goals as mentioned in the quote above.

      They have leeway, but if the ice isn’t open enough for a creative play, they are expected to forecheck strongly and get to the net for deflections, not make an impossible pass or to give up on the play. Get a dirty goal, or force a mistake to open the ice for creativity.

      I go back to our passing…look how many passes are into the skates or behind a skater, or sometimes the player receiving the pass has stone hands and needs to make five moves with the puck…passing/shooting lanes close by the time they have control. You cannot make a skill play if you are not executing basics. Making/receiving passes terribly along with incredibly low shooting percentages on opportunities (missing the net) is a huge reason for the lack of offense. When it’s Gabby and Richie doing this, it hurts even more.

      Last game was crisp. Yes the poor defense helps a lot, but the way they moved the puck cleanly stick to stick gives a lot of hope. This gives passing/shooting lanes a lot less of a chance to close and gives the ability to score “skill” goals and not grinding goals. When the skill isn’t there you must depend on the grind. When both are there, it’s beautiful and damn near unstoppable.

      That’s why you hear so much that when we are on top of our game, it seems like we can beat anyone.

      • Alex says:

        After tonight’s game, this comment about execution and the fact that people actually liked this post shows how delusional rangers fans are.

        Torts is done. Even if he has the worst bottom 6 in the NHL, the lack of “execution” on the PP warrants his dismissal. That he hasn’t been let go is a travesty.

        • VinceR says:

          You mean by the way they didn’t forecheck and made terrible decisions with puck and lazy passing on PP? Missing the net on the given opportunities? Like the players themselves said? Yup, delusional.

          • Alex says:

            You are right! The Rangers have had a garbage PP the past 3.5 years. It’s due to players not executing. Now I get it.

            The Torts system is basically pray that Lundqvist saves us every game. No player is more important to their team in the NHL (and maybe all professional American sports) than he is to ours. Without him, we are probably one of two or three worst teams in the league.

            It’s been like that for a while now (and particularly true in the playoffs, where we were consistently outclassed). But the other players on the team clearly aren’t responding to Torts. They also aren’t responding to their best player valiantly trying to salvage the season.

            Torts has no faults here though. His stubborness, his inability to stick with lines more than half a period, his inability to adjust and be creative with how we approach games. Yea it’s all the lack of execution of the players.

  6. Walt says:

    Lets see what happends tonight against the Sens. If we play well, and win maybe we hit bottom, and are on our way up. If we loose, well we beat the Flyers, and you all know how piss poor that team is!!

    System, or no system, the players have to produce, end of story.

  7. Rob says:

    Don’t know if you guys heard yesterdays Michael Kay and Don La Grecas show, but Torts was being interviewed and he made some good points. He basically compared this years team to last years and hit the nail on the head between the differences. (lost the middle of the lineup) but most importantly he stated that he would adapt to the difference in personnel. http://espn.go.com/new-york/radio/show?showId=TMKS#

  8. Joe says:

    Wow, just seen it. Totally agree…..

  9. Marc Weissman says:

    What a bunch of garbage!!

    Yeah, I would be one of those “vocal” ones who absolutely blames Torts’ grinding, along the wall, defense-first style on why Gabby’s and Richie’s and even Nash’s full potential to a lesser extent have not exceled with him as coach.

    Let me get this straight. Torts says, and I quote:

    “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!”

    WHAT?! Offense somehow isn’t coachable?! Are u kidding me?! Did the 80’s Oilers and 90’s Pens coach themselves?

    He sounds like Neil Smith after Game 4 against the Devils in ’94: “I can’t go down in the locker room and tell Keenan how to coach in the 3rd round of the playoffs?!” – to which I say, “Damn right you could’ve!! You’re his boss, for goodness sakes! You hired the fricken guy!!”

    And to Torts I say, “Well if you can’t, then bring in an Ass’t Coach who can, u numb nut?! Not some 3rd line, journeyman ex-player who rarely ever played the PP but somehow is qualified to script our abysmal PP now!!”

    Absolutely, the coach is at least half if not all responsible for not encouraging, tweaking, improving or at the very worst, stifling the offensive creativity of Gabby and Richie if 80 percent of the practices are either about back-checking, or endless cycling along the wall as if the point of the game is to put the puck thru the photogropher’s camera hole.

    PLLLEASE! :(

    • Joe says:

      allot of this I agree with. But, there has been many great coaches in many different games (other than hockey) that have been great coaches after being middle type players. ….

    • VinceR says:

      You thought a GM should tell a coach how to coach a team in the middle of a ECF? (BTW they won the cup so he made the right decision). And you think it’s because he’s the boss he should be making the decisions for the coach. Delegation of duties. Successful bosses don’t micromanage.

      Where did he say offense isn’t coachable? Now you are making up quotes.

      • Marc Weissman says:

        Yeah, we won the Cup. I am quite aware of that. But ya know why we won? B/c Messier “coached” this team to it when Iron Mike almost lost the team several times over, that’s why.

        And, no, I am not asking Neil Smith to go down their and tell Mike who should be on what line before every game. That’s absurd. But so help me, if your coach benches an All-Star, Offensive D-man in the 3rd round of the playoffs when ur only traling 2-1, I’d sure as heck go down afterwards and ask WTH?! Asking a pointed question is not being a micro-manager. That’s simply stepping in and doing your job when called upon.

        HUUUUGE difference!

  10. SalMerc says:

    So the Torts “lovers” think we have a great coach and the “haters” think he is the root of the problem. At the CAP hit we are at, and are floundering in 8th place, something is NOT working well. It could be the system or the mix of players, but whomever is in charge of putting the 20 guys on the ice or team together need to be accountable as well as the players themselves.

  11. scott says:

    the rangers problem is they lack passion.there is no desire,no great effort.someone has to be held accountable.