Rangers fire John Tortorella

Updated: May 29, 2013, 8:37 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have fired coach John Tortorella.

The Rangers announced the dismissal of Tortorella on Wednesday, just four days after being ousted from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The fiery 54-year-old Tortorella, known for his brash style both with players and the media, led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Bruins. The Rangers were eliminated in Game 5.

The Rangers, who went to the Eastern Conference finals last season, entered the lockout-shortened 2013 season with lofty expectations.

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Rangers team president and general manager Glen Sather didn't go into detail about the reasons Tortorella was let go, but said that Tortorella was "shocked" to hear the news.

"It wasn't one thing," Sather said, declining to elaborate on the reason. "I think I made the right decision so we can move forward in another direction."

Tortorella had signed a contract extension during this past season and was not entering the final year of his deal with the Rangers, a source close to the coach told ESPNNewYork.com.

Tortorella's jagged-edged style of coaching was likely one of the reasons, as it is believed that his tough-guy act was wearing thin on the players.

"Every coach has a shelf life," Sather said. "I've told every guy I've hired, that at some point in time this is going to change. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and we didn't achieve the goal this year. I had to make the decision, and so I did."

Whether Tortorella's abrasive personality was ultimately his undoing is not immediately clear, but there were a few players who made telling remarks during the Rangers' break-up day on Monday.

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist gave a surprisingly lukewarm "we'll see" when asked about signing a long-term contract extension with the Rangers. The 31-year-old goaltender has been stellar in leading the team in recent years, but has rarely received the type of offensive support needed.

Lundqvist characterized the Rangers' underwhelming season as "a step back," while captain Ryan Callahan said the team "underachieved."

Sather said those comments didn't impact the decision to dismiss Tortorella and said the team is planning to lock up Lundqvist to a long-term deal.

"It didn't have anything to do with it," Sather said. "We plan on signing Henrik to a long-term contract, so I'm not going to make any public comments about negotiations, but it had nothing to do with the decision that I made."

Tortorella also may have estranged well-respected veteran center Brad Richards, who was a healthy scratch for the last two games of the playoffs.

Richards, whose nine-year, $60 million deal inked in 2011 makes him a prime candidate for a compliance buyout this summer, has a long-standing relationship with Tortorella. The two won a Stanley Cup together while with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.

When asked Monday if there were any relationships that needed to be repaired after this season, Richards replied: "Obviously, it's another thing in a relationship that will never change now, but I want to play hockey and that's all I'm really worried about. Relationships come and go."

New York added star winger Rick Nash in the offseason but was still crippled by offensive woes throughout the season. The Rangers' power play was abysmal, particularly in the playoffs, where New York went 4-for-44 with a man advantage in 12 postseason games.

Sather did not say who is on his short list of candidates, but said he'd like to have a coach by the end of June.

"That process is going to start very soon," he said. "I'd like to have it over by the time of the draft this year."

Among the list of candidates the Rangers likely will consider are Dave Tippett (if available), Lindy Ruff, Alain Vigneault, Paul Maurice and Mark Messier.

Messier should not be overlooked, as he would provide a prime opportunity for the Rangers to promote from within the organization.

Sather said the team has yet to make a decision on the future of assistant coach Mike Sullivan.

"We haven't made any further decisions," Sather said. "We're dealing with the situation today and we'll get to that as soon as we get into our organizational meetings."

Tortorella was named the 34th coach in franchise history in February 2009, when he replaced Tom Renney.

New York reached the playoffs four times in five years under Tortorella, who recorded 171 regular-season wins and 19 postseason victories with the Rangers.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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