NEW YORK (AP) - In a span of five days, John Tortorella went from out of the playoffs to out of a job.
The feisty and combative coach was fired by the New York Rangers on Wednesday after four-plus seasons behind the bench and four trips to the postseason.
While no specifics were given, Sather made it clear that it wasn’t just one thing or particular incident that led to the somewhat unexpected dismissal.
“I am very appreciative of what Torts has done here,” Sather said during a conference call. “We had an evaluation at the end of the year like we always do. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. I felt that this was the decision that had to be made to go forward.
“I think he was a little bit shocked, but he is a gentleman and he took it very well.”
The fiery Tortorella was let go four days after the Rangers‘ season ended with a Game 5 loss to the Boston Bruins. New York reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and was considered a championship contender in this lockout-shortened season.
Tortorella conducts business on and off the ice with an iron fist, treating players and media members alike. His abrasive style could have been a factor in the decision to make a change.
“Every coach has a shelf life,” Sather said. “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 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 four times 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 goalie 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.