The Rangers fired head coach John Tortorella Wednesday, four days after the team’s elimination from the playoffs and two days after defending Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist was noncommittal about signing a long-term contract extension.
“Every coach has a shelf life, and I’ve told every guy that I’ve hired that at some point in time, this is going to change,” Rangers President Glen Sather said in a conference call yesterday. “There were a few things that went into this, and it was more of a decision on how we’re going to get better and challenge for the Stanley Cup.”
A year ago, the Blueshirts finished as the top seed in the Eastern Conference and reached the conference finals, but slipped to the No. 6 seed this season. They were eliminated in five games by the Boston Bruins in the second round.
During Tortorella’s four-plus-year tenure, the Rangers made the playoffs four times and recorded 171 regular season wins. But despite the acquisition of right winger Rick Nash, the Blueshirts still struggled to generate offense in the postseason, as the team averaged a mere 2.2 goals in 13 playoff games.
The Rangers undoubtedly aren’t very deep into their search for John Tortorella’s replacement — general manager Glen Sather said during Wednesday’s conference call that the team hopes to hire a new coach before the June 30 draft — but here are a few names the team could consider.
The longtime Buffalo Sabres coach was fired during the lockout-shortened season. Ruff reached the Eastern Conference finals four times, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals once. He also played the final 2-plus seasons of his 12-year career with the Blueshirts. However, his style may be too similar to that of Tortorella for the Rangers’ liking.
Gernander, head coach of the AHL’s Connecticut Whale, has familiarity with young Rangers such as Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller, and during six seasons has gone 243-170-59. He has been with the organization since 1994, but played just 27 games in the NHL. The team’s last coach without NHL coaching experience was Bryan Trottier in 2002.
If the Blueshirts want to make headlines with their next hire, Gretzky would do just that. “The Great One” played the final three seasons of his illustrious career at the Garden. Since hanging up his skates, he had a failed tenure as part-owner and coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. He compiled a 143-161-24 record and never reached the playoffs.