NEW YORK -- When Rangers coach John Tortorella arrived in February 2009, he was replacing Tom Renney, who has a well-earned reputation as a players' coach with a kindly demeanor that can endear him to those in the locker room.
Tortorella has been described as blustery, strict and strong in his beliefs, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist remembers meeting him for the first time and wondering how much of his reputation was true and how much was exaggerated rumors.
"Most of it was true," Lundqvist said. "Just how passionate he is. He can challenge you. I like that. I like to be challenged sometimes. It was refreshing to have a different style. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Just that first time he walked in and the first meeting. That's something I remember."
Tortorella guided the Rangers to the top of the Eastern Conference in his third full season with the club after an eighth-place finish last season and missing the playoffs two seasons ago. For that accomplishment, Tortorella was nominated for the Jack Adams Award on Monday along with Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators.
The 53-year-old Tortorella spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, guiding them to a Stanley Cup in 2004. He was dismissed following the 2007-08 season and briefly served as an analyst with TSN before coming to the Rangers for the final 21 games of the 2008-09 season.
Since then, Tortorella has sculpted a team in his image -- tough, physical, detail-oriented and willing to do whatever it takes to win. According to the Rangers' Brad Richards, who was with Tortorella during his entire time with the Lightning, very little has changed in his coaching style.
"The details and structure are all the same," Richards said. "Different personnel, but how the day-to-day things are ran and the accountability issues, all that's identical. You guys know him enough -- he's not going to change his ways too much."
Rangers center Brian Boyle came to the club before the start of Tortorella's first full season in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Since his arrival, Boyle has developed into a reliable third-line center with above-average goal-scoring ability. The 27-year-old had just four goals in 71 games in his first year with the Rangers but has 32 goals over the past two seasons.
"He had a vision, an idea of how he wanted to run the team when he first got here," Boyle said. "I wasn't there for that, but his first full year I was here for. I think we responded pretty well. We understand him pretty well and I think he understands us pretty well. He's helped my game a lot obviously. He turned me into an NHL player. He's very deserving."
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