More youth, fewer personnel changes, stay the course and more leadership.
Those were John Tortorella’s position on the state of the Rangers.
“The exciting part of it for me is the young corps.” Tortorella said yesterday as the team cleaned out its lockers. “I don’t think we need to (make as many personnel changes as the Rangers did last year). I think we added to our corps. There are some really good people here. But there are some very important decisions we have to make on some important positions on our team after our corps.
“I look at some guys like (P.A) Parenteau. He comes up and he’s our second most talented guy. I’m anxious to see (Dale Weise). (Evgeny) Grachev, he’s a guy that we need. I’d like to get younger. I think there are some positions where we can get younger.” Tortorella did say he was pleased with the development of the young Rangers throughout the course of the season.
Despite not qualifying for the playoffs for the first time post-lockout, the coach warned that the organization did not need to “blow everything up” even with the inherent pressures that come with being a professional sports franchise in New York City and, specifically, an Original Six franchise. “You have to be really careful,” Tortorella said. “I think people (within the organization) are going to ask me about a number of other things to fix that I’m going to fight because I don’t think they need to be fixed.
“You can cause even more problems for yourself when you don’t get in and say ‘We got to change this, we got to change that.’ I don’t think it comes down to winning and losing. I think to be a good organization, even when you’re winning, you have to keep an eye on the ball or you’ll lose.”
The coach believes one of the primary issues that must be addressed over the summer is the climate in the dressing room. Specifically, he believes the additions of Brandon Prust and Jody Shelley set in motion a transformation in the players’ dispositions, but more needs to be done in order for the Rangers to be a legitimate long-term contender. The Rangers finished 2009-10 with a 38-33-11 mark. However, the Rangers started the season 7-1-0 and finished 7-1-2. In between they were a less-than-imposing 24-31-9.
“I don’t think the room is a strong room. I think it improved, but I still think we have some work to do here,” Tortorella said. “It’s not one particular issue. You talk about character. We don’t have enough.
“That is certainly shown what our locker room has begun to become with the addition of (Shelley), Pruster and (Anders) Eriksson. I’m not saying it’s anybody’s fault; it’s just what it is right now. We have a young corps that’s going to grow. Now if you get some people sprinkled around them, not just talent but character, it’ll progress quicker. When you bring other people in, other people get knocked out of the bus.
“I think it’s the right people, the right character guy,” emphasized Tortorella, who absolved Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan from criticism about the overall personality of the team. “I think some guys need to be bumped off. That’s the development of the room.”
Leadership cannot simply emanate from one individual. It has to be a collective mindset. The coach singled out Marian Gaborik, Erik Christensen and other top Rangers forwards for criticism by the coach due their collective invisibility Sunday afternoon with the season on the line.
“We didn’t deserve to win that hockey game,” Tortorella said of his team’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers. “That’s what makes my stomach turn, 48 hours after. It’s that we had zero top guys show up. We had zero top guys show up in Philly, which is despicable.”
Tortorella did explain his rationale for not having Gaborik as one of the top three shootout shooters Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia. Gaborik was 1-for-5 in the one-on-one portion of the game and 2-for-18 lifetime. Tortorella settled on Erik Christensen (1-for-4 this year), Parenteau (3-for-3) and Olli Jokinen (5-for-10 overall; 0-for-1 with the Rangers and 5-9 with Calgary). Only Parenteau figured out Flyers goalie Brian Boucher.
“If you look at it, historically with other teams, the three players that were there, they need to take the shot,” Tortorella said, roughly 45 hours after the season ended. “I’m a big believer that your top guy needs to be a part of everything with your team. Would I have loved to have Gabby lead off? Yeah. I’ve tried that (during the year). I also have to make a conscious decision what’s best for the hockey club, too. There’s no way I’d change that. I’d do it again. If it happened tomorrow, those three guys would take it.
“I don’t second guess myself.”