Earning icetime in John Tortorella’s system

It seems like there are some common misconceptions with regards to how Torts distributes ice time among his forwards. I figured I would cherry-pick a few of our reader’s comments and explain some of the logic behind how ice time is earned on this team.

Keep in mind I am not trying to call people out for their opinions; I am just using these quotes as a point of reference.

Misconception #1 – Salary Plays A Role In Ice time

“If Torts is gonna have to play guys according to their $$$$$ (think Dubi) he should go back to CT.

Let’s ignore the “sending Dubi to the Whale” comment and focus on the salary part of this sentence. One of the reasons why I prefered Torts over Tom Renney had to do with income being irrelevant when it comes to earning ice time. If the above statement were true, then Drury and Redden would still be on the team and Dubi would not have seen his minutes decrease over the last couple of weeks.

Renney preferred to lean on his veterans, which is why guys like Redden, Rozi, and Gomer were rarely ever scratched, let alone riding pine. Torts on the other hand has proven time and time again that if our youth plays well, they will see their minutes go up. Point in case Hagelin is getting PK time, Stepan’s on the first line, MDZ is on the power play, etc.

Misconception #2- Not All Players Are Created Equal

“My main complaint is not Dubi here, its more the way Torts doesn’t treat everyone the same.”

Gaborik was benched the other night against Buffalo during the second period because his turnover lead to a goal. If that wasn’t enough to prove that no one man is greater than this team, then I don’t know what will. Torts has a very long history on both the Rangers and in Tampa for benching players for lackadaisical play.

Now as far as a guy’s place on the depth chart is concerned, I think people will often have an affinity for a bottom six player, like a Boyle or an Avery, and wonder why they don’t get more ice time if they are playing well. It’s all about what your individual role is on this team and what your expected output is given that role.

Consistent play will earn you more ice time within your given role. Dave had a great example of this yesterday regarding the utilization of Erik Christensen over Sean Avery. Avery’s role is to agitate. Special teams is not a place where agitating is a necessary skill set.  So his total ice time can only climb so high.

Misconception #3- Lack Of Offense Equals Less Ice Time

If another player is doing better they should play. You earn your ice time. If WoWo earns it he should play.

While normally this quote would be true, there are shades of grey here. If a top 6 player isn’t scoring, they shouldn’t be demoted or benched if they’re playing well in all three zones. Dubinsky is a classic example of this. He was playing well earlier in the season. He wasn’t scoring goals, but he was making plays, forechecking, & playing solid defense. People called for his demotion to the fourth line because he wasn’t scoring, but it was premature. Torts had confidence in him and stuck with him.

The last week or two his play away from the puck started to plateau and he was coasting. Luckily other players were stepping up and were more deserving of ice time. The result was his demotion to the fourth line, which at that point was the right thing to do. But now we are getting to the point where we need Dubi to get going offensively, because like I said in Misconception #2, his role is to provide secondary scoring. I think if he plays a few hard-nosed games he will eventually move up.

So I guess to sum this all up, when it comes to ice time things aren’t always black and white. But if you think about these three examples, you should have a better idea of what it takes to see your guy out on the ice more often.