November 29, 2013
Dear Mr. Tortorella,
On behalf of New York Rangers fans everywhere, the local media corps and all of those TV people that have to beep out curse words during press conferences, I would like to warmly welcome you back to Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
A lot of things have changed around these parts since you were fired May 29, but there are quite a few things that will look exactly the same to you. Remember that soda ban that Mayor Bloomberg was trying to push on everyone? After you took the job in Vancouver, an appeals court here ruled against it. So if you want a 64-ounce soda to restore moisture to your mouth after a shouting match with a reporter, it is legal to buy one now.
Upon entry into the rink, you may look up and notice the brand-new, massive scoreboard overhead. It’s humongous. There are smaller scoreboards within the scoreboard. You can’t miss it. So when the Rangers show your face on the scoreboard and the fans applaud you for turning the team into a perennial playoff contender during your four years in New York, you can’t pretend you didn’t notice. I know you didn’t acknowledge the fans in Tampa when they cheered you and Brad Richards last season when the Lightning were celebrating their 20th anniversary season, but a little wave for Rangers fans would be nice.
Oh, speaking of Brad Richards, you will just not believe how he’s doing this season.
Remember how you demoted him to the fourth line and then scratched him during the playoffs last year? You know! The guy who was your Conn Smythe winner when the Lightning won the Cup in 2004? Well, you might not recognize him because, man, he’s been really good this year. He has seven goals and 17 points in 25 games. He kept the Rangers afloat when they had all their injuries in October. He’s skating much better too. He’s probably going to be extra motivated Saturday, so I’d look out for that.
(Between you and I, I get why you benched him last season. He looked really bad. But still, maybe you could’ve handled that better.)
Something else that may catch you off-guard is Anton Stralman. That name may not ring a bell because you said you had never heard of him when the Rangers signed him two years ago. He hasn’t scored this season, but his possession numbers are through the roof. He’s got a shot at the Swedish Olympic team, so there are quite a few people who are aware of his name. You could make a case he's been the Rangers' most consistent defenseman this season. Well, you couldn't, as you don't talk about the other team, but you get my point.
Also: He will never say it, but Henrik Lundqvist really misses you. He had his best four seasons in the NHL with you at the helm and has looked way more human without you. I’m not saying Henrik is drawing hearts with your name in them on his notebook during film sessions, but I bet he’d welcome a hug from you. It may turn into one of those long, lingering, uncomfortable hugs, but just let him have it. He hasn’t gotten a new contract from the Rangers yet, so he may be feeling vulnerable.
While some things have changed, there is one thing that remains the same, even without you here—the Rangers are still bad at scoring goals.
The Rangers have 53 goals in 25 games, which would be low even if you were here. Yeah, there have been some key injuries—Rick Nash was out 17 games with a concussion, so be gentle with him—but it seems the idea that Alain Vigneault would get more offense from the team wasn’t a good one. On the bright side, the Rangers play a more wide-open game, which means there’s way more mistakes, so at least we’re not drinking those 64-ounce sodas to stay awake during the Rangers games anymore.
But it looks as though you’ve already put your imprint on the Canucks. I see your club is fifth in blocked shots. That’s very impressive for a team that has never been ranked higher than 24th in that category since 2009-10. You won’t believe this, but the Rangers went the other way in that regard after you left. After sitting in the top five in blocked shots during your regime, they’re 19th under Alain Vigneault.
And as we all know, there is a high correlation between blocking shots and winning. Ha ha, just kidding, John. That was a good one by me.
Well, that’s about it from my end. I hope everything is great with your dog charity. Just follow the signs on the fifth floor of the Garden to get to the visiting locker room. It’s pretty nice as far as visiting rooms go. And if we get to talk Saturday, I promise to have my cell phone turned off, because I do not want to be responsible for you walking.
Hugs and kisses,
p.s. Remember that water bottle incident at Verizon Center when you squirted those fans? I would advise against doing that at MSG. New Yorkers are not going to handle that well.