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Rangers GM Sather on Tortorella firing: ‘Every coach has a shelf life’

Harrison Mooney
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Glen Sather doesn't imagine the New York Rangers will be without a coach for long.

"That process is going to start very soon," the Rangers' General Manager told the media Wednesday after announcing the firing of John Tortorella, just four days after his club's elimination at the hands of the Boston Bruins. "And I'd like to have it over by the time the draft is here."

If that's the case, then Sather has less than a month to hire his fifth coach since he took over as president and GM in New York in 2000. That's a short timeframe, and the task is doubly tricky, since he's no doubt tired of hiring guys that manage to screw up the flawless job he's doing.

While Sather wasn't willing to throw out one or two options as he spoke to the media, it's a safe bet that veteran coaches Alain Vigneault and Lindy Ruff are at the top of the list. Sather is familiar with Vigneault, as the ex-Vancouver coach was on the Rangers' shortlist over a decade ago when Bryan Trottier won the job in 2002.

But if prospective head coaches were looking for a list of mistakes to avoid in Sather's post-firing presser, they won't come away with much more than don't not win the Stanley Cup.

"I think that if you're not in the Stanley Cup and you're not in there winning it, our season has not been a success," Sather said. "Any time we don't get there I don't think we've achieved our goal."

That's all Sather would offer about the specifics for John Tortorella's dismissal.

By our count, Sather refused to get into specifics -- specifically using the word "specific" -- on 12 separate occasions in the 20-minute presser, so our apologies if you came here looking for, you know, specifics.

"We had an evaluation at the end of the year like we always do, and we sit and talk about the future, and where we plan on going, and how we're gonna get there, and our goal is to win the Stanley Cup," Sather said. "I felt like this is a decision that had to be made to go forward, and we made the decision."

Tortorella was surprised.

"John was a bit shocked but he's a gentleman and he took it very well," Sather said.

Certain members of the media were likely equally shocked by the characterization of John Tortorella as a gentleman. Did the fiery Torts' tendency to clash with the folks on the other side of the podium have anything to do with the dismissal?

"I think in dealing with the press, it's imporant that you have a relationship, whether it's good or bad," Sather said, not entirely helpfully (unless you prefer his approach to media relations, which is to take twenty minutes to say nothing, rather than saying nothing in twenty seconds). "That's an individual choice and like I said before, I'm not gonna get into any specifics about things that happened or didn't happen."

Tortorella's relationship with the players was similarly downplayed. Sather denied that the comments of Henrik Lundqvist -- who spoke of his time in New York in past tense, that most terrifying of tenses -- played a role. But he was clear that Lundqvist, unlike Tortorella, is in his organization's future.

"[What Lundqvist said] didn't have anything to do with it. We plan on signing Henrik to a long-term contract and I'm not gonna make any public comments about the negotiations, when and how they're gonna take place, but it had nothing to do with the decision. This was a decision that I made."

In the end, in a glorious irony, Sather characterized the decision as a matter of wearing out one's welcome.

"Every coach has a shelf life," he explained. "I've told every guy that I've hired that, at some point in time, this is gonna change. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup and we didn't achieve that goal this year.

"I had to make the decision, so I did."

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