Tortorella a good fit for Rangers

Posted Feb. 24, 2009, at 10:02 p.m.

John Tortorella is back as an NHL head coach. He replaced Tom Renney as the coach of the New York Rangers earlier this week.

The former hard-nosed University of Maine right winger led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004.

He was fired four years later after compiling a 239-222-36 record.

Tortorella belongs behind an NHL bench.

He is a throwback to the old-time NHL coaches.

He always speaks his mind, even if it offends his players or management, and every player is held accountable for his performance.

He demands his players to work hard and be on time.

He opened eyes early in his career with the Lightning when he stripped superstar Vincent Lecavalier of his captaincy at the outset of the 2001-2002 season because Lecavalier was delayed coming to training camp due to contract negotiations.

Tortorella and Lecavalier had their share of run-ins because Tortorella insisted on all of his players playing with a sense of purpose at both ends of the ice, not just the offensive zone.

Lecavalier, a perennial all-star, has since credited Tortorella with making him a better all-around player.

His coaching style mirrors his playing style.

He was the toughest player, pound-for-pound, to ever play at Maine.

What he lacked in talent he made up for in tenacity and grit.

Most of his goals were scored within 15 feet of the net.

He took a pounding but he also doled out his share of punishment. He is fearless.

Nobody was going to prevent him from getting to a loose puck.

He took a lot of penalties. He is fifth on Maine’s career all-time penalty minutes list with 218.

But he also drew a lot of penalties. He always played with an edge and opposing defensemen were never comfortable with him on the ice.

They knew they were going to get hit and that would lead to them making hasty decisions and turnovers.

He was a tremendous inspiration and a fan favorite.

He also expected his teammates to play with the same heart and drive.

He epitomized the phrase “leading by example.”

Teammates would be shamed into busting their tails after watching him go toe-to-toe with players much bigger than he was.

If he played for your team, you loved him. If he played against your team, you hated him.

Everybody had an opinion about him.

And he didn’t care how you felt about him.

He would do anything to help his team win.

He isn’t a media darling. He isn’t going to return phone calls unless he wants to.

He was always a reluctant interview when he was a player. He let his play do his talking.

But he is a refreshing quote in the vein of former Maine hockey coach Shawn Walsh.

He doesn’t sugar-coat anything and he always has an intelligent answer.

Some Ranger players aren’t going to like him.

But they will all respect him and that’s all that matters.

The Rangers won’t get outworked.

If they do, look for frequent lineup changes.

He will be in the spotlight. New York, like Boston, is a difficult place to coach.

He will be closely scrutinized.

But it’s a good fit.

You have to be thick-skinned to coach in New York.

He is certainly that. He loves a challenge and this certainly qualifies.

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