John Tortorella has been head coach of the Rangers since February of 2009. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Happy Friday to you. Hopefully you’ve clicked onto this page on purpose. If not, allow me to explain what you’ve wandered into: full-blown, throw-down mailbag action. People send me questions, I answer a selection of them here, in THN magazine form and on our Sirius/XM Radio Show. Yes, it’s just that easy. Here’s this week’s batch:
Hi Adam. Quick point and question per my Sharks. We have a bottom-six group of forwards that is not much different than last year in the sense of an improvement (it’s actually probably worse). We barely made it into the playoffs last season and this season it is seeming less likely that we’ll be back. I like the move of Brent Burns to forward and hopefully, we can get Jason Demers back on the D.
But we still need to replace two or three others in the bottom half to see a substantial improvement (I know it is unlikely to change that many and more so a 'summer time' situation but, that is the reality). St. Louis totally exposed our lack of depth last season and it seems all are doing so easily this season again. Have you heard some concrete talk on Sharks moves to come, hopefully soon? I mean, Doug Wilson can't be that crazy to not see this. Sharks fans see it plainly and talk about it daily on the Sharks boards. Thanks Adam.
Gianni, Brampton, Ont.
If there’s one thing that’s clear about Wilson, it’s that he values stability as much as any NHL GM. Indeed, he and the Sharks are the polar opposite of the Philadelphia Flyers, who reshuffle their roster often and dramatically.
Now, if you’re not winning, it gets harder to justify sticking with the same core of players regardless of the situation or city. But remember, Wilson’s Sharks have missed the playoffs just once since 1997; yes, he hasn’t achieved the ultimate success of a Stanley Cup championship, but there are so many uncontrollable elements involved in a Cup win (health, hot goalies, etc.), you can understand why Wilson would choose to try again with the same group.
Still, Wilson has some difficult choices looming in the not-too-distant future: 10 of his players are at least 30 years old – and although the team is high on youngsters such as Braun and Tomas Hertl (not to mention Logan Couture), San Jose will need more of them to keep pace in the Western Conference. But based on Wilson’s past tendencies, I’d expect any major moves to come in the off-season.
Hi Adam, following John Tortorella’s two recent post-game interviews (after losses to Montreal and Buffalo), is it fair to say his time is done in New York? Thanks.
Eric Barriault, St-Constant, Que.
No, Tortorella hasn’t used up all of his cachet in the Rangers room just yet. Glen Sather is one of the more loyal GMs in the league and Tortorella does have a Stanley Cup championship to buy him some extra time.
That said, I’m also of the opinion that gruff, old-school coaches such as Tortorella have relatively limited shelf lives with today’s player. You saw players tune him out in Tampa Bay and it’s a fair assumption that eventually he’ll suffer a similar fate in Manhattan. And certainly, if the Blueshirts don’t pull out of their current tailspin and fall to the outer regions of the playoff race, Sather may have no choice but to cashier his coach and shake the team up.
In New York, you don’t fail after going into the season with such high expectations – not to mention, talent infusions like the one the Rangers got with the arrival of Rick Nash – and not have somebody pay a severe price for it. But there’s still time for Tortorella and his team to put it together. The indefinite sidelining of key defenseman Marc Staal makes that more difficult, but as we’ve seen this year, virtually all teams have serious injuries to deal with.
Adam, if the NHL expands to 32 teams, how would American League affiliates work out?
Michael Calcagni, Pa.
For starters, I don’t think you’d see the AHL expand by two teams. That league has a tough enough challenge keeping all its current franchises viable and throwing two more markets into the mix almost assuredly isn’t an option for it right now.
Instead, I think you’d see more prospect sharing among the current teams, as has happened on occasion over the years. It’s not ideal, but given the economic realities of the game at the minor league level, it’s the most realistic outcome.
Adam: After surviving and loving my son's first year of introductory hockey, I noticed he's a bit behind his fellow players in skating/stickhandling department. I never played hockey growing up (I was a curler) and my son is starting to skate circles around me. I was wondering what advice you could give a hockey-inept dad to help his son improve his game?
Jamie Mason, Cobden, Ont.
I’m not going to tell you which hockey schools to enroll your boy in (though you can get free tips from THN.com’s resident professional Daniel Tkaczuk here).
I will tell you it’s important for any parent to (a) not overburden their child with year-round hockey school training; and (b) to allow their kid’s love for the game to evolve naturally. So many kids are turned off from the game by overbearing parents trying to live vicariously through them and that’s the last thing I’d want to see for your or anyone’s youngster.
Along those same lines, I often hear NHLers talk about how crucial it was for them to play other sports when it wasn’t hockey season. It helps develop different hand/eye/body co-ordination skills and can only reinforce the love of hockey for those who really do adore it. Hope that helps – and good luck.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.