Harsh reality for Tortorella

STEVE SIMMONS,SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

John Tortorella was answering questions yesterday -- all of them -- which means he officially is back on the job as an NHL coach.

No more Wednesday Night Quiz for him on TSN. No more rolls of the eyes.

"You can tell James Duthie to shove that quiz," Tortorella said at his first game-day skate as coach of the New York Rangers. He didn't care much for hypotheticals. "I have a few other words I can tell you about the quiz."

This is one of those good news/good news stories. Good for the NHL. Good for Tortorella. He is back where he belongs, where he never wanted to leave, behind an NHL bench, being important and visible and controversial and outspoken, able to do what he wants, say what he wants, and now doing it in the largest market in the world.

About his team, well, that's another problem for another day.

You see, one of these days Glen Sather will announce that he actually retired in 1992 but hasn't bothered to inform anyone yet. Then the Rangers may have a chance of going somewhere. The Tortorella signing unusually was clever, even for Sather.

This coming after the Scott Gomez ($8 million US), Chris Drury ($7 million), Wade Redden ($8 million) and Markus Naslund ($5 million) signings were not.

That's like messing up the cycle of free agency for the still irrelevant Sather. But getting Tortorella, man, this guy's a pistol and when he's comfortable enough to be himself, New York will eat him up with a spoon. He will be that delicious. He gives good sound byte. Even if he can't change that dysfunctional roster which got a little bit stranger yesterday with Sather's latest bit of sleep-walking, the claiming of Mark Bell on waivers from the Maple Leafs.

The hiring of Tortorella is different from most NHL hirings.

So often, the outgoing coach or staff could claim to be lost in New York. But not Tom Renney or Perry Pearn or just about the best technical coaching staff in hockey. Tortorella is replacing a coach who is every bit as prominent -- if not more advanced -- than he is.

Now Tortorella is being asked to play another tune, shuffle it up, go from passive to active, try to find some offence in a team whose leading goal-scorer is a fossil and whose leading point getter ranks 66th in the league and whose top two defencemen, based on time played, are Redden and Michael Roszival.

Tortorella won a Stanley Cup with Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle and Brad Richards. All that the Rangers are missing are Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards and Boyle. And a Dave Andreychuk or two.

Which tells you what a great goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is.

If he can guide this high-priced junk into the playoffs, he deserves some Hart Trophy notice.

Tortorella, playing the part of new coach, will tell you how excited he is to be back. Like every good coach who turns television announcer looking to coach again he kept his eye on the market place, a nervous eye at that.

He has seen there was no job for Pat Quinn, no job for Bob Hartley, another Stanley Cup champion, no coaching spot for Marc Crawford, another Cup winner. And in between, Bruce Boudreau got the call from the American Hockey League and John Anderson and then Cory Clouston, whoever the hell he happens to be.

"There are some really good coaches out there not working right now," Tortorella said. "They haven't had the opportunity...I don't look at it as young, old, veteran, experienced, inexperienced. It's what that organization thinks they need. I feel very fortunate that there are so many good ones not working and I get another chance at it."

He learned in Tampa from winning the Cup and then losing his team, and eventually his job. You can be a nut sometimes, just not all the time. You can drive people sometimes, just not all the time.

"I think coaches overcoach," said Tortorella, including himself on that list.

His career do-over began last night. No more Wednesday Night Quiz for him. The hypotheticals he so hated are over.


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