State of the Rangers

Tortorella needs to change to survive

"Line changes? what line changes?"
“Line changes? what line changes?”

For the sake of himself, the Rangers, and their entire season, John Tortorella needs to do something that is almost foreign to him as a coach and stick to his line combinations for the rest of the season. The Rangers season, and indeed the coach’s own future, may depend on his willingness to do just that.

Against the Hurricanes Monday night Tortorella reverted to Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards-Rick Nash once again being on the same line. While the line didn’t score its reunion coincided with the most assertive game Richards had played in weeks (including some exceptional passes that led to scoring chances) and saw Gaborik look much more dynamic than he had done for the majority of the season. Rick Nash was simply Rick Nash; as the game developed the big winger was consistently dangerous. These lines were left the same for last night’s game, and it was one of the most complete efforts we’ve seen all year. Plus, this mega-line scored.

Tortorella needs to swallow his pride and keep the line together. He doesn’t have any excuses not to. With the Carl HagelinDerek StepanRyan Callahan trio in impressive form and representing a high work ethic, intelligent, and offensively capable second line it’s not like putting the big three together represents a self forged lack of depth. Indeed, attempting to cure Gaborik and Richards’ offensive ills with Nash makes more sense than it ever has thanks to the second line.

Tortorella is a line juggler to a fault. While the coach is (still) the right man for the Rangers his changes are often unnecessary and his players almost reluctantly acknowledge the line changes are part of the Tortorella way.

Tortorella is a proud man and demands a lot from his players. He demands they buy into his system and at times it seems the offensive type players aren’t being utilized properly, but when everyone is on the same page we see what this team is capable of. Tortorella is probably too harsh at times and needs to let his skill guys just do their thing. He has the luxury of a line in the Callahan trio that will be accountable every time they step on to the ice so he does have some scope for offensive license.

If the Rangers miss the playoffs (unlikely) heads will roll. Whether it’s coaching changes, players being moved, or fans jumping off the Garden roof. John Tortorella’s long term future isn’t at all certain at this stage, but keeping together his talented, highly paid forward trio, sticking to lines and letting chemistry truly develop could go a long way in deciding the Rangers’ playoff fate and that of their coach. Tortorella needs to change, not for changes sake but for the better.

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  • Amen to that. He did say something towards leting Nash Gabby and BR having to play their way alittle bit more and giving them some leeway. We will see

  • I also agree. In the preseason and even now you can see how excited those guys where about playing with each other. They all have big contracts and big expectations on them, they want to be the big 3. I think letting them develop some good chemistry would be good. Having more then 2 lines that could score would be nice too though, really missing that depth we had last year.

    • Prust was clearly a good player and an important dressing room presence but think he’s getting slightly too much credit also….

      I think people such as Halpern, Boyle, Pyatt (after a strong start) and Asham (where is he?!) have all been underwhelming. That’s more to do with the ‘performance’ of the bottom six than Prust’s departure.

  • I don’t agree. I don’t think the present line combinations are good enough. The Rangers are not scoring enough goals – one three goal outburst is hardly cause for celebration. It is hard to survive with no production at all from the third and fourth lines; the top two lines must be incredible. The Stepan line is good, but not really exceptional. Some days, perhaps the star line will break out, but a single line can be shut down.
    The Rangers need third line production, either by adding scorers such as Zuccarello and Kreider — or by serious reshuffling of the top three lines (Boyle and Pyatt don’t belong on the same line; Miller is probably not NHL-ready).

  • I liked the Hagelin-Stepan-Nash line a lot, but seeing how splitting up Hag-Step from Nash hasn’t hurt any of their games, and how Richie and Gabby probably need Nash more, I’d say we should keep the “super line” together.

    To those who say that makes the team too top heavy, well, you can always switch Nash with Callahan in the 2nd or 3rd period to create matchup issues. But Torts probably should consider starting every game with GNR and Hags-Step-Cally as the top two lines.

    Bottom six scoring issues are only going to get solved via trade (Ribeiro?), calling up a potentially improved Kreider (maybe), or clearing roster space for some of the wildcard options out there to add a little something (Fasth, Lindberg, Zucc).

  • I totally agree with you Chris on the personnel opinion here. But just aside from all this personnel talk. It just seems like from an X/O’s standpoint we’re just having issues with pressure in our end, and in the neutral zone. This is disrupting flow and amount of offensive chances entering the offensive zone. Now dont get me wrong, I think our D-Men our doing great in transition, and since about a dozen games or so ago we made adjustments on our break-outs and it definitely shows. However It just seems to me that this team started to have trouble furthermore with their offence since the first round in the playoffs last year. Paul MClean brilliant coaching had us pinned in our end the majority of that series. Ever since then teams have picked up on it and I can clearly see them trying to take advantage? Maybe I’m wrong. What do you guys think? I’m just saying we need need more flow on offence, and that starts from our end.

  • I am with you, the line changing needs to stop. Consistency comes from there. Players need to play with linemates and be able to anticipate what each is doing. There will be good and bad days. I do think that Hags playing with Cally and Steps has been a great fit. Let the big salary guys play together, Nash will be a factor in getting Richy and Gabby going again. Only player that has not impressed me is Halpren, I would prefer Betts over Halpren. Miller Boyle and Pyatt are a very good grinding line for a third line. Betts who is also great on faceoffs centering Haley and Powe would be a fine 4th line. If Kreider comes back then Pyatt would move to the 4th line in exchange for Haley. I have no idea how Asham would fit in but that makes it a good problem to have.

  • I agree the changing needs to stop. But so does this putting all the tallent on one line. Its a sad sad day when you have to put ALLSTARS on the same line just to get them to play.

    Both Gabs and Nash were all 30 goal scorers with players no better then Hags and Stepan. And should be just as dangerous now.

    This team can not go far with one line. And everyone here knows it. As games go along and teams start to put the clamps on them. All Torts will do is use them more and more. And when they get worn down they will have nothing else to rely on.

    This team just like every other team THAT wins. Has to be able to roll atleast three scoring lines and one checking line. And the only way this team can do that is to split up its stars.

  • Chris

    Agree 100000000% with this article. I, for one have bitched all season long about the lines skating 2, or 3 shifts before Torts changes them around.

    I would have prefered the big three be split up, and skate on two lines, but the Step, Callie, and Hags line is working well, leave well enough alone!!!!!

  • So what happens if Gabby starts floating on the perimeter again? What if Richie starts making blind passes and coughing up the puck again? What if any of the big three get cold and Stepan continues his pace? Should lines stay together just for the sake of consistency? Too many variables to etch this in stone.

    • Suit

      The point is Torts has a short fuse, and at the drop of a hat, boom, line changes. The main issue is “How the heck is anyone ever going to develope any chemistry skating a few shifts together”???? The man has zero patients!!!

      • Walt you didn’t address any of my questions. Torts changes lines because he has to make adjustments due to the many factors that happen during the ebbs and flows of a game, or a series of games.

        I’m sorry guys, but if a situation calls for line tinkering, any coach is going to do it. That’s hockey.

  • It would seem, from the outside, that the “big line” is in hopes of getting Richie and Gabs going more than anything, cuz without those two producing the only thing left to fight for is tee times.

  • Top lines need to stay together. The only chance of Richards and Gabby turning it around this season, undoubtedly rely on playing with Nash.

    I also think bringing back Zucs should happen. He looked real good at the end of last season before he got hurt. Honestly, I think had he been with us for the playoffs, we’d have gone to the finals. I’m not over-valuing him, I just think his contribution would’ve helped that much the way he was playing then.

  • Do you people watch this team? Torts will never keep lines together more than a few minutes. He is a dictator who finds fault with every shift and has an extreme need to punish and show who the boss is. Bye Torts, he won’t be back next year

  • If Torts stays with what is not working, he is a fool. If he modifies things after 3 shifts he is pathological. Probably need something in between, but either way, the PLAYERS need to DELIVER, no matter what happens.

  • With Hags, Step and Cally playing like a 1B line, keeping Gabby, Richards and Nash on 1 line is not putting all our talent out at once. We have 2 very strong lines getting the most ice time. I don’t understand why Gabby is still at left wing; he is more comfortable on the right and Nash has played lots of left wing. Looking forward to Kreider’s return.

  • No good. Torts has gotta go. The biggest issue is NOT the line but the 8a6!@#$^! system that has too much shot blocking, = excessive injuries + too much exhaustion into the playoffs, all of which is avoidable and unwarranted.

    That is on top of other issues.
    He has legit, bonafide stengths but he is overrated, we should replace.

    At this point, I’m for Callahan as temporary player coach.

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