Tortorella Reinvents the New York Rangers

Arthur Staple writes about what everyone watching the Rangers has noticed: the team has undergone a dramatic reinvention.

Between the coaching changes and the personnel changes, the Rangers are almost completely different. And it seems like John Tortorella’s coaching is responsible for the success of the personnel changes.

For instance, previous coach Tom Renney religiously rolled four lines, no matter what was going on. If the Rangers were up three or down four, you could count on the fourth line to come out every four shifts. Tortorella sporadically uses his fourth line, unless he’s trying to eat time or make a point to the other three lines. But it means his best players spend a lot more time on the ice.

From a coaching perspective, Tortorella’s has had the Ranger defensemen very involved in the offense. The Rangers have 24 goals on the season and the defense has chipped in with seven while giving up just 12 goals. Offensive-minded coaches often say defense doesn’t matter as long as you focus on controlling the puck, since if the puck is on your team’s stick, it’s not on your opponents’. So far this season, the Rangers are proving this true.

But most importantly of all, by letting the defense get more involved in the offense, the Rangers have allowed their scoring to be spread out across lines. Eight players had at least two points last night against Toronto.

Not that the Rangers are unstoppable. This weekend, they feasted upon the tired Ducks and the severely flawed Leafs. But stronger teams will take advantage of the Rangers’ inexperienced blue-liners and put pressure on the points. The Penguins successfully worked that strategy in their 3-2 win over the Rangers.

The Rangers are finally a fun team to watch, though. Whereas previous seasons were spent dumping-and-changing, playing to keep a tie, now the games are up-and-down, with very little happening in the neutral zone. It’s nice when exciting hockey also results in winning hockey. It serves as positive reinforcement around the league.