Three things AV should implement that Torts didn’t

September 24, 2013, by
Photo: AP

Photo: AP

By now, most of our regular readers are aware I was a big supporter of John Tortorella and the team concept he constructed for the New York Rangers. To say the least, I was very disappointed with Glen Sather’s decision to fire him.

Although I had an up close perspective of John that most did not, I still disagreed with some of his decisions/strategies. And while AV isn’t the type of coach I really identify with, there are few tactics AV could implement to win me over.

Below are three things AV should change about the Torts-era Rangers.

Give McDonagh a more offensive role

Like Torts, AV likes to use a defensive combo as a shutdown pair to deploy against the opposition’s top offensive forwards. Now that Staal is ready to go, AV should reunite Marc and Dan Girardi to reprise that role. While McDonagh filled in admirably for Staal, Ryan has a higher ceiling when it comes to offense.

Over the past two seasons, McDonagh has shown an ability to make the type of reads on the fly only an offensive-type defensemen can make. He may not be as slick with the puck as Del Zotto, but he can skate as well as any d-man, he has very good vision, and most importantly he can make plays on the blueline. McDonagh never really got offensive opportunities when Staal was injured, but now is his chance to provide a little more if AV affords him those opportunities.

Tweak defensive zone strategies

While I never bought into the media’s narrative that collapsing in the slot to block shots limits offensive potential (the Caps, Bruins and Pittsburgh defy that logic), I don’t think the Rangers always executed this strategy at the right times. With the evolution the game is making post-lockout, hybrid tactics are the way to go. This means d-zone strategies change based on puck location.


The low zone collapse (shown above) should ALWAYS be used when the puck is below the goal line, as you can’t score from those angles. However, when the puck is at the points, I prefer the box expanding and using two forwards to pressure the puck at the blueline. This is something Torts got away from the last couple of years and I would prefer AV use this team’s speed to challenge enemy point players.

Bring stability to power play personnel

I don’t know how much involvement AV will have with the power play and how much is on Scott Arniel. This is where my analysis of Sully always sort of went dark. However, whoever has ownership of the PP should be constantly tweaking strategies and formations, but leaving the same personnel together. 

This is something the Torts/Sully regime got wrong IMO. They pretty much always ran an umbrella PP, but used different players within that same high-low structure. I think AV/Arniel should do the opposite and keep the same guys together, but run different power play formations to keep opposing defenses guessing. Obviously you need a little success early on in the season to commit to this philosophy, but I believe consistency in this area is important.

As a coach, having certain players never sniff PP time despite doing their jobs 5-on-5 probably won’t endear you to most of the team. However, Torts/Sully always rewarded players with PP time and look where that got them — a shitty PP and disloyalty. I wouldn’t have agreed with this in seasons past, but it’s probably the best way to coach this group.

Categories : Hockey Tactics


  1. Dave says:

    McDonagh should get PP time. I think he gets the shutdown role at even strength, but PP time is important.

    • The Suit says:

      Tough to balance out those two roles, but we shall see.

      • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

        Hey suit! Good to see you breaking down the game again. I don’t know if you’re good at anything else in life but you’re great at dissecting the X’s & O’s of the game of hockey.
        In reply to your point about changing PP formations while leaving the personnel alone. I really liked the 1-3-1 last season and how Torts/Sully switched to/from the umbrella set since they’re pretty similar positionally. If it’s done on the fly correctly, it’s very tough to defend. Mac or Moore are good enough skaters to stand alone at the point. Even Staal looks like a beast so far. Call him Norris! I like the 1-3-1 PP set a lot.

  2. rwa says:

    McDonagh should get some PP time, when rested. Can,t give him 30 minutes. Look for a major player movement once AV gets going. All new coaches bring in someone they have trusted in the past. That may mean to fix the PP.

    • AdamGravesIsTheMan says:

      Can you imagine a Boyle to Vancouver trade so Vigneault can bring in one of his boys?

      With this depth down the center, Boyle seems like the odd man out.

      • Dave says:

        Good teams need depth. You don’t make trades just for the sake of making trades.

      • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

        You also don’t trade defensive forwards that can play C/W when you play a wide open strategy. It’s preseason and there’s a bunch of rookies mixed in but NYR giving up too much right in the slot. Having Boiler on the LW of 4th line W/ Moore should help in the defensive zone starts/Draws.

    • Dave says:

      That’s not always the case. Teams make major moves when they need to clean house. This team does not need to clean house.

      • Scully says:

        Agreed. I think we’re much much closer to a cup than people are giving us credit for. Last year’s season was an outlier because it was a lockout year. It’s honestly hard, in my opinion, to hang your hat on much of last season’s facts with almost no camp, a season that began out of no where, and a team that didn’t start to hit their stride until about 30 games in.

      • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

        Everyone hates Boyle and DZ so trade them away for pucks, they’re worthless. Meanwhile that’s the last thing any level headed GM would do for a Cup contending team. Unless the right deal comes around but only 7 teams have more than 4 mil in cap space. That makes the right deal seem more unlikely.
        Everyone has some big contracts with 1 year left being traded but to who? No one has money so salary has to go both ways. Who is absorbing Vanek at 7 mil? Buff can’t really trade him to dump salary/add young prospects