There are problems aplenty, and issues that have to be resolved for the 4-5-0 Rangers, but redefining their identity is not one of them. Though there has been an exchange for more skill players on this season’s team than the squad that made a run to the Eastern Conference finals last season, there is no abandoning the hard-nosed, grind-it-out style that has been the central theme since John Tortorella took over as coach in 2009. “It’s obviously different because there’s different players, but I don’t think the identity changed,” speedy winger Carl Hagelin said. “That’s the way we are and that’s the way we want to play. so I don’t think we’re focusing too much on that.” What has been the focus as the team prepares to play host to the Islanders (4-4-1) Thursday night at the Garden are all the deficiencies that have had Tortorella publicly irked. And none are more infuriating than the team’s lack of mental toughness and its inconsistency throughout the lineup. It led him to make some drastic statements after Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Devils in Newark, saying “we have some guys that look scared to me, and tentative.” Wednesday, the coach might have been softer in demeanor, but not in his ideals. When asked if it was safe to say he had talked to the unnamed players with whom he was displeased, Tortorella had a rare moment of transparency. “It’s very safe to say,” the coach said, smiling. “We’re a 4-5 hockey club, I don’t want to turn this into a criticizing of the players when we lose. “I don’t want us to test the waters, and I think as we’ve gone through it here, we’ve tested the waters instead of trying to make a difference. That’s what I mean by being tentative and scared. Try to make a difference, don’t look for someone else and don’t give your problems to someone else. I think we’ll get better for it” Trading grinders like Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov for a skill power forward like Rick Nash has changed the dynamic of the team in terms of personnel available at certain times. By pairing Nash with two other superstars in Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, Tortorella had established a top-heavy lineup that was getting little support from the lines below it.
Struggling Rangers stay true to identity
New York Post | Feb 7