You have to wonder if John Tortorella took a flight to Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, because he certainly has gotten the gift of gab over the past few days.
The curt and coarse coach of the Rangers has become more forthcoming with the media after his 83 second masterpiece presser last Wednesday, using his time with the press to explain some decision and at least provide a sound bite or two.
And today, he took it one step further and ripped the Devils for their transgressions in the series.
After being asked about Brandon Prust, who later in the day was suspended for Game 4, we got to hear why they call Tortorella, “The Torch.”
“Prust has played probably 300-plus games without any hearing, anything going on with him,” Tortorella said. He’s probably one of the most honest players. I look at [Darius] Zubrus’ elbow to [Anton] Stralman. I look at [Zach] Parise launching himself at [Michael] Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stayed down on the ice, we’ll get something.
“We tell our players don’t stay down on the ice. Get up. I hope – I’ll leave it at that. Picking on the power play, set plays, picking on the power play. If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I have a long list here. That’s a set play by Jersey. Picking so we can’t get to Kovalchuk to block a shot.”
This is gamesmanship for Tortorella, who is a master at getting his point across, the picks he was complaining about should be called as interference penalties, instead of allowing Kovalchuk to get open with a clear shot to the net. No offense to anyone out there, but those words were meant for the league to read and not the fans.
And Devils coach Pete DeBoer, responded by calling the comments “comical.”
However, it’s still refreshing to see the coach open up. At this point in the playoffs, Tortorella is hurting his league and his team by not living up to the media obligation. Most New York papers are sending three to four reporters to these games – or covering the series like a Yankees vs. A’s regular season game – with the main columnist not regularly covering hockey.
So, that means many of these guys are not used to Tortorella’s unique style and have quickly been complaining on how he conducts his press conferences.
For a sport desperate for some main-stream attention, this is not good. With the Rangers getting the type of coverage the team received in the 1990s, it’s in the Garden’s best interest to keep everyone happy, so when next year rolls around, the major papers will keep on covering the team like a Yankee game in June.
But if Tortorella reverts back to his jolly old self, the editors may not find it worth the trouble, after all who wants to cover a team where the coach and general manager don’t speak to the media.
So you have to wonder if this transformation was a result of a sit down with the coach, be it from a league or Garden point of view. Since general manager Glen Sather doesn’t speak to the press, except when the team acquires a player and the rest of the Garden higher-ups have strict gag rules, it’s up to Tortorella to be the face of the organization.
And the league, who wants to have as much leverage as possible going into collective bargaining, needs the attention, it needs Tortorella to be a good ambassador for the game with his team going into the later rounds.
So something may have happened there. Of course, we don’t know, and Tortorella could have just wanted to say some things on his own.
Or he could have took a trip to Ireland and kissed the Blarney Stone.