John Tortorella passes on criticizing Rangers in return to region
John Tortorella has fond memories of his tenure as head coach of the New York Rangers. He just doesn’t want to talk about what transpired in his final days with the franchise, or how it is fairing without him.
“I’m not getting involved in that,” Tortorella told reporters during his press availability Tuesday morning at Nassau Coliseum prior to last night’s Canucks-Islanders game. “I’ll tell you something — I loved working for the Rangers and I love this area. We’re going to come back here sometime. I love everything about the area.”
Tuesday night’s game on the Island and Thursday’s match against the Devils are the precursor to the Nov. 30 main event at the Garden against the Rangers.
Tortorella was fired on May 29, after four and a half seasons seasons with the Rangers. He compiled a 171-115-0-29 record, and reached the Stanley Cup playoffs four times.
However, he and the players seemed to be on different pages when they gathered to say their goodbyes on Memorial Day following a five-game series loss to Boston in the second round.
Tortorella called the season “a sideways step,” while captain Ryan Callahan said the Rangers “underachieved.”
During the conference call to announce Tortorella’s firing, and in the press conference to introduce the hiring of Alain Vigneault, Rangers general manager Glen Sather described Tortorella as “stubborn.”
However, the organization has come under fire for its 2-5-0 start to this season. The Rangers have allowed the third-most goals (29) and have scored the fewest (11), while adjusting to Vigneault’s favored man-to-man defensive approach.
Presented an opportunity to tweak his former employer, Tortorella passed.
“I don’t work here anymore and I’m certainly not going to criticize,” Tortorella said. “I know nothing about what’s going on with the club. That’s not fair to anybody.”
Vancouver entered last night’s game with a 5-4-1 mark under Tortorella, who has routinely stressed the Canucks need to be “stiffer” in their end and along the boards.
“You need a grind in your game,” Tortorella said.
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.