After the Rangers overtime win last night, coach John Tortorella held his usual post-game press conference. This one was a lot different than his previous press conferences, as the coach was very candid and very passionate about his defense of Brad Richards. You can watch the video above for the full interview, but the Richards excerpt is below:
“I think it’s important to spend a couple of minutes on that out of respect to Brad. By no means is this a situation where I take him out where I’m blaming him. I’m playing Brad on the fourth line, he’s playing seven or eight minutes, it’s not good for him, it doesn’t work playing Brad Richards that way. I also feel some other guys have played better so that’s where he is right now in our lineup. It just doesn’t work, I’m not playing him the proper way but I can’t put him on the other lines becausre I think the other lines have stepped up. I look at the fourth line, I’m looking to get some kind of life, some sort of identity on that fourth line and that’s where Brad comes out. You get some fresh legs some enthusiasm.
“I’m sure people will pick it apart. I want to make sure you know, Brad Richards is a hell of a hockey player. He’s had struggles here. It continues, me putting him in that role does not help him. So I’d rather have him out and identify how we’re going to run our fourth line. So don’t put words in my mouth, it’s not blamng Brad Richards, I’ve already heard enough of that crap already as far as this is concerned. He’s a hell of a hockey player that’s having a hell of a time so I need to make decision for what I feel is right for this team to win tonight’s game. This is a Conn Smythe winner, a guy I’ve grown up with, a guy as a love as a person and a player but I have to make that decision regarding this so kiss my [backside] if you want to write something different, it’s not about blaming that guy. I don’t want anbybody to pile on him. This is my decision and I make it for the hockey club.”
Torts and Richards have a great history together, and Richards passed up more money to come to New York and play under John Tortorella. When it comes to winning, Torts will do anything to win, and we now know that includes benching his alternate captain. It came with the territory when Richards signed here, and now he’s experiencing it.
Torts’ logic in benching Richards was that he was being mis-used because of his struggles, and that part is absolutely true. He was getting dominated by the Bruins’ fourth line because Richards is not the type of player to be on the fourth line. When the top-nine were outperforming him, it was only a matter of time before he was in the press box. The utter dominance of the Bs fourth line exascerbated the situation.
No matter what comes of this –expect him to continue sitting– it should be noted that this was purely a hockey move. Torts did what he needed to do, and he deserves credit for making a tough decision. What happens in the future with Richards (note: likely to be bought out) will also be hockey moves.