Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Your best players need to be your decision-makers

John Tortorella, who led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup, is the opposite of the coach he just replaced with the NY Rangers, Tom Renney, who was let go after a rough 12-game stretch in which the team came away with just two wins.

According to this article, "In terms of on-ice, Renney was safe-safe-safe, whereas Tortorella is a 'safe-is-death' guy."

Says Rangers veteran Scott Gomez, a former NHL All-Star, "That's normal. You're going to hire the opposite."

An article in the Minneapolis paper from May 2004 said that when Coach Tortorella was in Tampa Bay, he had three signs posted in the locker room, "each intended to remind players of [his] philosophy."

One reads: Safe is death. Another: Good is the enemy of great. The other: Don't think ... do.

In his first day on the job, Coach Tortorella, who as a minor league coach in the mid-1980s "spent a summer hammering nails and painting walls so his guys would have a better locker room," had some interesting thoughts regarding coaching and the role of the coach.


On his coaching style: "I'm not going to stand behind the bench and just calmly go about it. I'm just not built that way. I think honesty is what players want. They're going to get pushed, they're going to be held accountable, and there are going to be some bumps in the road. There may be some conflict, but I don't think we should be afraid of conflict. This reputation that I just kick the hell out of people, it takes on a life of its own. As a coach you'd better understand what your team is right now as far as how they feel."

On the coach's role: "I think the coach is the guidance counselor. That's an important aspect of a head coach, getting the most out of your top people."

On regaining confidence after a losing streak: "Losing knocks you down. I'm gonna push them, but as a coach, you have to understand when you need to be with them. This is a time to get them to feel decent about themselves. They need to get a little self confidence. We're going to allow them to try to work through that and try to find a way to get a win."

On his predecessors who were fired: "There's going to be a philosophical change here, but there's a couple of good guys who are out and I just don't want them blamed."

On team leadership: "Your best players need to be your decision-makers. They're going to get every opportunity to win hockey games for us. If they're playing hard, I'm going to send them right back out there."