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.