Slats: Style of play had Tortorella fired

(Gerry Kahrmann, The Province)
(Gerry Kahrmann, The Province)

Pat Leonard of the Daily News sat down with Glen Sather yesterday, and the Rangers GM was very candid about the decision to relieve former coach John Tortorella of his duties. Slats said that the “style of play had a lot to do with it” in reference to the dismissal of the coach. Leonard was able to get more details from the GM as well:

“If you look at these playoff games (like the Stanley Cup Finals matchup) you’re gonna see, the style that they play, I mean there’s not a hell of a lot of dump-ins,” Sather said. “I mean, (if) you have to dump the puck in, you have to dump it. But there’s a lot of puck control and hanging onto the puck and moving the puck out, and there’s not stopping behind the net to gain control. There’s a lot of things that are done differently than what we were doing. So you have to look at the style of play. That had a lot to do with (the decision to fire Tortorella), too.”

It’s a very interesting quote, and there are a few things that –if you read between the lines– certainly changed Slats’ opinion of the direction of the team. For the sake of the post, we are focusing on the on-ice product on not on Torts’ personality. From this quote alone, you can see that the organization shifted direction on Torts in a very short amount of time, and it all had to do with on-ice performance.

Slats specifically calls out the playoff games, when the Rangers were just atrocious at maintaining puck possession and generating offensive chances –especially against the Bruins. The interesting aspect of that is that this was actually one of the best seasons in a while for puck possession for this club. They posted their best CF% in the Torts era, and were a top-ten team in CF% and FF% (more details on those metrics here).

There’s one specific quote that is likely to get overlooked, and that is “There’s a lot of things that are done differently than what we were doing.” Simply put, the Rangers got away from zone entries and instead decided to play dump-and-chase. That’s two-fold: First, Torts game-planned for the Bruins in a way to avoid the 1-2-2/1-4 that Claude Julien uses by focusing on a dump-and-chase, and the Rangers simply not executing by gaining possession after dumping. This is something the Rangers did not do during the regular season.

Focusing on another bit of that quote: “and there’s not stopping behind the net to gain control,” is just a lack of execution on the dump-and-chase. That could be the fact that the Bruins were just better, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Rangers couldn’t execute.

When a team gets away from the style that wins –like the Rangers did in the playoffs this year– and they fail to execute on the new style of play, then the coach will find himself on the hot seat. If you think the fact that Torts was mean got him fired, then read this little nugget:

But they don’t say, ‘I don’t like the assistant coach, I don’t like (for example, goaltending coach) Benoit Allaire. I’d tell them to get the f— out of the room if they did that.”

That quote, directly from Slats himself, should dispel and rumors that Torts’ relationship with the media got him fired. It should also quell the “player revolt” discussion. Now in a situation where the coach may have lost the room, a GM will rely on the veterans and captains of the team to get a gauge of the locker room. That’s the level of impact the players will have on a coaching decision.

There doesn’t appear to have been any player revolt, and old-school GM’s like Slats won’t even listen to player complaints. Considering the make-up of the team, you have to wonder if these players even complained. Hockey players are better than that. In the end, it was the style of play in this year’s playoffs that cost Torts his job. Whether or not you agree with the decision, it’s tough to argue with the GM when he gives legitimate on-ice reasoning for the dismissal.

Show More
  • In that article the brooks wrote after torts was fired he specifically stated that the players had no problem with the coaches style of play but it was his personality and how he handled the players that they had a problem with. He also said that Sather had no intention of firing Tortorella until after the end of year players interviews.

    Up until this point that article was pretty much the only insight we had in the firing. Is it safe to say now that everything Brooks said was complete BS?

    • Brooks is a chicken choker, and he has zero credibality with me. He didn’t get along with Torts, and had an ax to grind. Slats stated the reason, simple and sweet.

      To the people that cast the blame on Cally, and Hank, eat your words on this one!!

      • That’s my favorite part (sarcastic) about the last couple weeks of arguments on here. Everyone took Larry Brooks words as utter fact. People assumed it was Lundqvist who demanded Tortz’s head. Then people just decided to lump Cally in to the discussion and called him selfish. The amount of misinformation out there was comical and people took one Journalists article (who is known to be full of crap, who also has a very public distaste for Tortorella) added their own opinion to it and then argued that opinion as if it were fact.

        I said it several times. We did not know what really happened and the only person who did was Sather.

        Also, does anyone else think it was coincidence that Sather, who rarely speaks with the media, did so a day after Lundqvist felt it necessary to defend himself? Sather stuck up for his players and my respect for the man just went up a notch because of it.

        • I agree about not taking Larry Brooks’ reporting at face value (which I never bought). But why are so many people now taking Sather’s public comments as gospel? Sure, he’s more credible than Brooks (low bar there), but the timing is very suspect. If player discontent wasn’t the reason for the dismissal, why wait 3 weeks to come clean? Maybe Sather spoke out now because the original cover story (the players made me do it) was unraveling and he had to come up with another plausible one. (Brooks had to get that story from somewhere, and that somewhere had to be inside the organization. I highly doubt it came from any of the current players.)

          I do think that this latest story line has some truth to it, but I really doubt that Torts was fired primarily because Sather looked around during the playoffs and saw that other teams were playing a different style that was more effective. I think this decision was brewing way before that, and more factors (i.e. the owner) were behind it. Torts is a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, and that grows stale — not just with the players.

          Bottom line, Sather isn’t doing this to stick up for his players. Otherwise, he would have come out sooner. He wants to sign Hank, and doesn’t want to piss him off, so he comes out now to put the final kabosh on the notion that Hank was behind this.

          I have no reason to take Sather at his word after what I’ve seen for the past 13 years. He’s an operator. I just don’t trust him or his motives. But, it’s water under the bridge. Time to move on. Hopefully, we’ll be cheering another Stanley Cup win in the near future. Then this will be just another blip that no one remembers.

          • So it took him three weeks to come up with a better reason? It took him three weeks to basically say “I didn’t think the style of play that he coached could win us a cup”? And he didn’t exactly come up with a “new” reason. He never said one in the first place he just said that it was his decision. Brooks gave the original reason of the players discontent.

            I’m not saying that what Sather says is gospel but if you completely discount the reasoning of the man who made the decision than who can you trust?

            There have been two reasons so far. Brooks and sathers. Either one is lying, or both are lying. And lundqvist also stated he had nothing to do with the firing so I guess we can call him a liar as well.

          • My point is that I am suspicious of Sather’s motives for telling this story now. I don’t think he’s doing it to stick up for the players (if he wanted to do that, he should have said something – or sent one of his minions to do it – right after Brooks wrote that article). He has his own agenda. I don’t believe he’s outright lying, but I don’t think he’s giving the full story either. Only he, Torts and Dolan know what that is. Bottom line, I’m not on the Sather bandwagon. I think he’s the real problem here and needs to go and give the GM job to Gorton.

  • You cite some dopey stat that says the Rangers had increased puck possesion. Your eyes are tge best judge of what is happening on the ice. This season was horrid with regards to puck possesion. They played hot potato with it game in and game out. And Slats gripe is mpre than control of the puck after a dump in. I can also tell you for a fact that Torts lost the room back in late Feb, early March. Trust me on that.

    • Not sure if this is coincidence or not…. but I heard something changed around the same time affecting the characteristics of gravity. I don’t know specifically what, nor do I have sources here for you to consider but objects are no longer falling with an acceleration of 10 meters per second squared. I can’t provide dopey data or lab results, but I’ve been watching stuff fall including, but not limited to, hot potatoes. I can tell you for a fact, that I am backdating my thesis to late Feb, early March. Trust me on that.

      • You are an idiot! Just watch the games and stop reading some phony stats report. To believe that the Rangers puck possession was fifth in the league is laughably naive.

        • Yea. You’re done here. We don’t deal with the whole name-calling thing.

          If you have an issue with this, email me when you can hold a conversation without resorting to name calling. You say you “did player refis” but you act like an 11 year old. We don’t tolerate that.

          So long.

        • You’re right. We would all be fools to believe everything we read on the Internet. ie some random guy commenting on a Ranger blog who “knows players”.

          I dunno if professional hockey players are different but when I signed my mortgage last year I didn’t talk to the bank rep about how much I can’t stand my boss and I hope he gets fired.

      • Thats actually quite funny considering Torts constantly harped about the lack of puck possession during the regular season.

    • ” I can also tell you for a fact that Torts lost the room back in late Feb, early March. Trust me on that.”

      Which Ranger player or coach are you again?

      • No, I just happen to know a couple of the players personally. One of which I originated his mortgage refi. But you can go ahead and make some snide remarks if it makes you feel better.

        • That’s funny. Callahan told me mid teeth cleaning that he loved Torts. I think that’s what he garbled out. Yeah, I’m pretty sure.

  • Good for Sather for at least giving some insight on his reasoning. But just because the players may not have “revolted”, doesn’t mean he still didn’t lose the lockerroom. I have no idea what happened, but there was enough smoke on that front (from other sources than just Larry Brooks) that still could lead to that being a part of the issue. It’s probably a combination of several factors which tends to be the case.

  • At least this has enough specificity to be credible, but I don’t believe in my gut that this is the only — or maybe not even the main — reason why Torts was fired. (P.S. I don’t think it’s because he “lost the locker room” either.) I do think the opinion of the owner was a major influence in the decision. But it doesn’t matter. All coaches have a shelf life and Torts went past his expiration date. We move on. What I am glad about is the story that Hank got Torts fired is being debunked, by Hank and now by Sather. Having players dictate the fate of coaches is a very bad precedent, and this put Hank in a very bad position in terms of his personal brand. Now, go get him signed!

    • One more thing — Brooks is a tool who is easily deceived and has his own agenda, so I don’t trust most of what he writes. But, I don’t trust Sather completely (or maybe even a lot) either. Just because he’s saying it, doesn’t mean it’s the whole truth and nothing but. Proceed with caution.

      • You shouldnt trust Sather completely he pretty much said the same shit when he let Renney go. Go call Rangers Mom. This whole thing seems off.

  • I’ve been complaining about the dump and chase not working for years.finally some satisfaction that they seen it wasn’t working up to par.the rangers never really won the battles .

  • I find the timing of these comments to be more than a mere coincidence given Lundqvist’s recent statement. I’m even willing to give Lundqvist the benefit of the doubt since if Torts didn’t get canned the narrative of Lundqvist giving the team an ultimatum of “he goes or I go” obviously doesn’t get drummed up.

    I’d like to believe that Lundqvist’s comments were more done as a way to keep his cards close to his vest about his new deal and not a thinly veiled message to the MSG “braintrust”.

    Even if it does ever turn out that the players pulled out their knives in the exit interviews, it wouldn’t be the first time the Rangers were accused of letting the inmates run the asylum.

  • It was a byproduct of a singular devotion to one playing style.

    Remember torts never coached the offense. So it must have been the players fault for the dump and chase.

    Ever see a Canucks zone entry. It’s nice. Can’t wait to see it here.

  • What were the rangers puck possession metrics against Ottawa, Islanders, Penguins, Bruins, Maple Leafs, and canadiens in the regular season? Those were the other 6 playoff teams that mattered and we should see how we match up.

    (I am leaving out the capitals because they are mediocre and only made the playoffs because they feasted on their awful division, much like the rangers had to do to stay in the playoff race.)

    Our record against playoff teams this year was horrendous and I am sure that factored into sather’s decision when he watched torts try to beat boston at their own game and get decimated.

  • This is the disclaimer used in the stats web site you linked to. offers no guarantee of the accuracy of the stats presented on this website. Use at your own risk. by David Johnson
    � Copyright 2013

    Certainly a credible source.

  • Puck posession where? We were tied for 5th in FF% is that only oZone or neutral or what.How does it relate to total goals and goals per game.Pens 15th,did they score more goals per games than us. If so i’ii take the goals per game and total goals.The winner always out scoresB the loser.BS stat.

    • FF% is Fenwick For %. Total shots + missed shots for the Rangers as a percentage of total shots and missed shots combined for each team. When the blog writers mention possession they’re discussing metrics that measure (typically) shots for vs. against and the various ways to calculate that (Fenwick, Corsi, etc.).

  • Once again we find out the Rangers were playing in the playoffs all beat up. Avoiding injuries has more to do with winning the Stanley Cup than many would like to admit to. Frankly, it was time for Torts to go but I think he’s a way better coach than AV, although I want to be wrong. Not hiring Mess will turn out to be yet again another dumb decision by the most over-rated GM in the NHL.

  • Everyone says we play the exact same way as the bruins but they were just better – ur not paying attention.

    1. The bruins rarely have two fwds chasing the puck behind the net. The staple of tort o.

    2. their d are always in shooting position.

    3. their transition game as a team is so much better.

    4. they dont play defense like 5 shortstops out there.

  • I honestly feel like the these were little things that led to Torts being fired, but the main thing was Slats wanted AV to coach. It is rare when a coach of that caliber hits the market and Slats jumped on the opportunity.

  • Take a look at the style of play in this years Cup finals. Skill set on both teams is excellent on bringing the puck up from own zone. Our guys either try the homerun pass resulting in icing, the dump in, or the give away. Can Leetch please come out of retirement.

  • Yeah, I was heavily vs. Torts for a lot of reasons and this analysis as to constant dumping of the puck is just some of them.

    Good riddance, between this, ruining/wasting Kreider, the arrogance — good riddance, you overrated blowhard!

  • Back to top button