Rangers replace Renney with Tortorella

The New York Rangers have hired former Stanley Cup winner John Tortorella to replace Tom Renney, who was fired as head coach earlier Monday.

Renney is 6th NHL head coach to be fired this season

The New York Rangers have hired former Stanley Cup winner John Tortorella to replace Tom Renney, who was fired as head coach earlier Monday.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather relieved Renney of his duties with the NHL team mired in a 2-7-3 funk.

Tortorella has a career record in the NHL of 239-222-36-38 in over six seasons as a head coach. He coached Tampa Bay from 2001 until June of last year, with the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
John Tortorella, seen with Tampa Bay during a Jan. 18, 2008 game, was once an assistant coach with the Rangers. ((Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press))

Sather said a multi-year deal was struck with the 2004 Jack Adams winner but didn't get specific with details.

The Rangers fell 3-2 in overtime to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday and are clinging to sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 31-23-7 record for 69 points.

New York had been leading the conference into November, but are just 13-15-5 since the beginning of December.

Sather said he had been considering the move for a couple of weeks.

"I could see the team starting to slide," said Sather. "After the start that we had the beginning of the year and the way we were playing and moving and controlling the puck, the game just started to erode.

"I wished it hadn't come to this, but it did," he added.

Tortorella's no-nonsense approach should be a stark contrast to the laid-back, player-friendly Renney. Tortorella, 50, was an assistant coach with the Rangers during the 1999-2000 season, taking over from John Muckler when he was fired in March of that season.

"Torts is certainly a lot more fiery and a lot different in his approach to the game and to the players," said Sather. "I think he's going to bring that fiery attitude, and in a lot of the games, we've seemed to be missing it.

"It's certainly not a slight against Tom. It's [just] two entirely different styles."

The Rangers received permission from Tampa Bay, which had Tortorella under contract through this season, but Sather said no compensation was required.

Assistant coach Perry Pearn was also let go, but fellow assistants Mike Pelino and Jim Schoenfeld and goaltender coach Benoit Allaire will remain.

Tortorella served as an assistant under Schoenfeld for two seasons with Phoenix in the late 1990s.

The Rangers have been linked to the comeback of Sean Avery, who is currently playing with New York's American Hockey League affiliate and getting back into game shape after wearing out his brief stay with the Dallas Stars.

Tortorella has been highly critical of Avery while working as a hockey broadcaster this year, but Sather didn't exactly view that as a stumbling block.

"I think you always have to be cognizant of the fact that coaches have opinions about players and people that are in different organizations at different times," said Sather.

"[But] he didn't have the history with Sean that we do. I think over time, he'll learn to love him, just like I have."

Renney departs New York having led the Rangers to a 164-121-42 record and ranks fourth all-time among franchise coaches in victories and games (327).

In his first full season, Renney was a finalist for the Jack Adams award as NHL coach of the year after the Rangers went 44-26-12 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They advanced to the second round each of the past two years.

"He approached everything [like a] professional, and I can't say enough about the way he worked with us for the last three-and-a-half years," Sather said.

Renney's job security came into question with his team outscored 31-8 during its road slump, but the feeling was that New York should get a bit of a reprieve playing three of its next four games at Madison Square Garden, where fans had recently chanted for Renney to be fired.

Sather said a Dec. 23 loss to the Washington Capitals was particularly painful. The Rangers led 4-0 but were defeated in overtime. The GM also cited a Nov. 1 game in which New York allowed Toronto to score five goals in the third period in a span of just over five minutes.

Signings under scrutiny

Sather turned over the roster before this season, allowing veteran forwards and proven goal-scorers Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan to leave via free agency.

Markus Naslund was brought in to pick up the slack, and he leads the offensively challenged Rangers with 18 goals.

The biggest disappointment has been the signing of defenceman Wade Redden, who was given a six-year, $39-million US deal but now hears boos every time he touches the puck at home.

"I think some of the players that I've brought in are better than they've performed up to date," said Sather.

"I know a lot of these players we have here have played very well in the past, and I expect they're going to play better in the future," he added.

Renney also struggled to get the most out of centres Scott Gomez and Drury, who signed as free agents in the summer of 2007 but never found consistent linemates to work with.

"It's a tough part of the business," Gomez said. "As players, it's definitely on us. We feel 100 per cent responsible, but also, we still have a lot of games left, and we're still in position where we can get into the playoffs. We have to find it. We have to find a way."

Renney is the sixth bench boss to be turfed this season, joining Denis Savard (Chicago), Barry Melrose (Tampa Bay), Peter Laviolette (Carolina), Craig Hartsburg (Ottawa) and Michel Therrien (Pittsburgh).

The coaches of each of the four NHL teams that began the season in Europe have all since been fired: Melrose, Therrien, Hartsburg and now Renney.

With files from the Associated Press