A few minutes to catch up this morning while waiting for my 8:55 flight to Toronto for tonight's game (if everything goes perfectly, I'll make it to the Air Canada Centre for the tailend of this morning's skate - and that includes a short line at customs and a cab driver who can understand my directions to the media entrance at the ACC).
Hectic day yesterday, obviously, and here are some notes and quotes that fell through the cracks (either due to space considerations or my scrambled mind just forgetting to mention them, you match up the tidbits with the oversight reason):
- One of the first things Tortorella did was have the training staff remove the standings and statistics boards near the dressing room that were a staple of Tom Renney's regime. Renney liked to break the season down into five-game segments with a point goal for each segment. Tortorella wants to free his players' minds and there was a noticable release of tension in the room yesterday.
- Tortorella mentioned several times that Renney and assistant Perry Pearn (and, for that matter, the re-assigned Mike Pelino) should not be held at fault. Tortorella called Renney a friend and lamented that two good men were out of jobs. He also warned his players against claiming they'd now play better as individuals because Renney was out and Tortorella was in. Tortorella said that was "disrespectful."
- A little bit on the Rangers' pursuit of Lightning associate coach Mike Sullivan, who Tortorella initially targeted to be his top assistant. When a deal couldn't be struck with Tampa Bay, Tortorella turned to Jim Schoenfeld, who was the Coyotes coach when Tortorella was a Phoenix assistant.
Sullivan has a clause in his contract that allows him to pursue any NHL job if he can "better" his situation and the Lightning will not file tampering charges regarding Sullivan. Look for Tortorella and the Rangers to re-visit the Sullivan situation over the summer with a deal that will be better for Sullivan than what he has in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning, also paying off ex-coach Barry Melrose, should be happy the Rangers hired Tortorella. By doing so, Tampa Bay saves $325,000 in salary off the $1.3 million Tortorella was owed for this season. Hey, in this economy, every little bit helps.
- Tortorella cautioned himself not to forget about defense while implementing his attacking style.
"I made a major mistake with my team in Tampa last year where I was too aggressive and our D couldn't handle it and it cost us. I need to learn from that and see what these guys can handle with the change of style we are going to play." (Perhaps I did mention that on the blog yesterday, sorry for the repeat if that's so).
- Some interesting NHL trivia now that Tom Renney has been fired:
All three Staal brothers have gone through coaching changes this season, Marc in New York, Eric in Carolina (Paul Maurice for Peter Laviolette) and Jordan in Pittsburgh (Dan Bylsma for Michel Therrien).
All four coaches whose teams opened the season in Europe have been fired: Rangers, Lightning (Rick Tocchet for Barry Melrose), Penguins and Senators (Craig Clouston for Craig Hartsburg).
- Some additional player reaction:
Nikolai Zherdev: "Practice is practice, it's just different."
"I know he was the coach before in Tampa, that's it."
Chris Drury: "We've all played for different coaches, different systems. We all have to be ready to change on the fly."
Scott Gomez: "When a guy gets fired, it wasn't like it was Christmas morning in here. It was like, 'Hey, we've all got to wake up.'"
Brandon Dubinsky: "I played for him in the World Championships last year. He demands a lot out of his players. He's intense. I don't know if you look at him with more respect (because he's won the Stanley Cup) but it's a tough trophy to win. When you've been there and done that, you realize he's got what it takes."
Henrik Lundqvist: "He's strict with things. I like his style. My job doesn't change. My focus doesn't change. It would be a mistake for me to change my focus. For this situation, it could be a good fit. I really liked the first meeting. It was really good.
Lundqvist just smiled and laughed when I brought up that Tortorella tended to be tough on his goalies and was not afraid to give them a quick hook in games.
"I know (Johan) Holmqvist)," Lundqvist said, laughing again.