John Tortorella was fired today as coach of the New York Rangers, four days after the team was eliminated in the second round of the National Hockey League playoffs.
Tortorella, 54, was 171-115-29 in four-plus seasons with the Rangers, helping the team to the playoffs in each of the last three years.
“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 today on a conference call. “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.”
Sather said that the search for a new coach would begin during team organizational meetings in June. He said he’d like to have a new coach by the NHL draft on June 30.
The Rangers were 26-18-4 this year, and beat the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Boston Bruins 4-1 in a best-of-seven series.
On May 23, with the team trailing the Bruins 3-0, Tortorella benched center Brad Richards, the second-highest-paid skater on the team. Richards recorded one point in New York’s first 10 playoff contests and didn’t play in the final two games.
Tortorella also struggled to get consistent production from five-time All-Star forward Rick Nash, the team’s highest-paid skater, who scored one goal in the playoffs, and three-time All-Star Marian Gaborik, who was traded in April to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tortorella drew criticism throughout his tenure for short, often-heated news conferences. Sather said today that his decision to fire Tortorella was not a result of any one specific aspect of his leadership and declined to name specific reasons for the dismissal.
“If you’re not in the Stanley Cup and you’re not there winning it, your season has not been a success,” Sather said. “Our goal, the ultimate goal, is to win the Stanley Cup.”
Tortorella led the Rangers to the playoffs four times, including 2009 when he took over midseason for Tom Renney. In 2011-12, New York won 51 regular-season games, second-most in franchise history, and advanced to the conference finals for the first time in 14 seasons.
Prior to joining the Rangers, Tortorella was coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for seven seasons, leading the team to the Stanley Cup championship in 2004. He won the Jack Adams Award that season as the NHL’s top coach.
Tortorella’s 410 career wins are the most in NHL history for an American-born coach, according to the Rangers. He was an assistant with the Rangers in 1999-2000 and served as the team’s head coach for the final four games that season, with three losses and a tie.