Rangers fire coach John Tortorella

NEW YORK (AP) - John Tortorella was defiant in stating that the New York Rangers didn’t take a step back when they were knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the second round.

General manager Glen Sather thought otherwise and fired the combative coach on Wednesday.

The fiery Tortorella was let go four days after the Rangers‘ season ended with a Game 5 loss at Boston to the Bruins. New York had reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and was considered to be a championship contender in this lockout-shortened season.

“I came up with the decision that I really needed to do something to improve our team going forward,” Sather said during a conference call. “Every coach has a shelf life. I’ve told every guy that 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 that goal this year. I had to make a decision, so I did.”

Tortorella was unexpectedly dismissed with one year left on his contract. In 319 regular-season games with New York, including a four-game run at the end of the 1999-2000 season, Tortorella went 171-118-1-29. He was 19-25 in the postseason, and reached the playoffs in four of five seasons after taking over as coach in February 2009.

“Every time a coach gets fired, it is a surprise for me, because ultimately, we, the players, are responsible for our own play on the ice,” Rangers backup goaltender Martin Biron told the Associated Press in a text message.

Tortorella, hired to replace Tom Renney with 21 games remaining in the 2008-09 season, achieved some success with the Rangers but couldn’t match the Stanley Cup title he earned in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sather said Tortorella’s contract status didn’t factor into the decision.

“It wasn’t one thing and I am certainly not going to speculate or start to criticize what happened with Torts and give you a lot of reasons why we decided to do this,” Sather said. “After the analytical work that we do every year at the end of the season, trying to decide how we’re going to improve the team and how we’re going to move forward, this is a decision I made.”

Sather didn’t name an immediate replacement, but hopes to have a new coach in place by the June 30 NHL draft in Newark, N.J.

Former NHL coaches Lindy Ruff and Alain Vigneault could be candidates for New York. Sather wouldn’t speculate whether anyone currently employed by the Rangers would be considered. The fate of assistant coach Mike Sullivan will be decided during the team’s organizational meetings in June.

“Hopefully whoever we hire has a lot of the good things that Torts had and a lot of good things that Tom Renney had,” Sather said. “There are a number of good coaches around, and a lot of them have different qualities. It is a little tricky sometimes to find someone who has all those qualities, but hopefully that’s what we’re going to have this time around.

“I am certain that we’re going to find the right person.”

Last season, Tortorella led the Rangers to 51 wins _ the second-most in franchise history _ and 109 points before they were beaten in six games by New Jersey in the conference finals. He finished his Rangers tenure in fourth place on the team’s career coaching wins list.

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