NEW YORK - Tom Renney was fired as coach of the New York Rangers on Monday in an attempt to save a season that has spiralled out of control.
The Rangers opened 10-2-1, but 10 losses in the last 12 games has knocked the team out of contention for the Atlantic Division title and placed it in danger of missing the playoffs completely. In recent home games, fans had chanted for Renney to be fired.
General manager Glen Sather didn't immediately name a replacement.
"Clearly we haven't played well enough this past month," said Chris Drury, in his first season as captain. "On a positive note, there's time left, we're in the thick of things. It comes down to us."
Renney, a former coach of the Vancouver Canucks, was 164-121-42 with the Rangers in four plus seasons and ranks fourth on the team's career wins and games coached lists.
Assistant coach Perry Pearn was also fired, but fellow assistant Mike Pelino was retained along with goalie coach Benoit Allaire, the Rangers said.
Fiery former Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella, who once served as a Rangers assistant, could emerge as a candidate. His no-nonsense approach would be a stark contrast to the laid-back, player-friendly Renney. Tortorella guided the Lightning to a Stanley Cup title in 2004.
Renney stated strongly Sunday that his team hadn't quit and played hard despite its 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto that extended New York's skid to 2-7-3. The Rangers face the Maple Leafs again in Toronto on Wednesday.
The players met with Renney and Sather following a Monday morning workout at the team's suburban practice facility.
"Sometimes you have to accept that you need a change and you have to do it," said goalie Henrik Lundqvist. "It's all about winning, and someone had to pay the price. But we're all responsible for this."
The Rangers (31-23-7) entered Monday in a fifth-place tie in the Eastern Conference, but only two points above ninth-place Carolina. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
Renney is the second Atlantic Division coach fired in the past week, following Pittsburgh's dismissal of Michel Therrien last weekend - a move also made one day after a loss to Toronto. Renney is the sixth NHL coach let go this season, which includes all four coaches whose teams started the regular season in Europe.
Renney went 2-0 against former Lightning coach Barry Melrose in games in Prague. Therrien and the Penguins faced Craig Hartsburg and the Ottawa Senators in Stockholm.
After a two-season stint as the Rangers director of player personnel, Renney became an assistant coach under Sather for the 2003-04 season. Sather relinquished his coaching duties Feb. 25, 2004, and turned the team over to Renney on an interim basis.
The defensive-minded Renney, who turns 54 on Sunday, went 5-15 to finish that season and took over on a full-time basis in July 2004, but had to wait for the yearlong NHL lockout to end before he could officially claim the job behind the bench.
In his first full season, Renney was a finalist for the Jack Adams award as coach of the year after the Rangers went 44-26-12 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They advanced to the second round each of the past two years.
Sather turned over the roster before this season, allowing veteran forwards and proven goal scorers Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan to leave via free agency along with the volatile Sean Avery.
Markus Naslund was brought in, and he leads the offensively challenged Rangers with 18 goals. The biggest disappointment has been the signing of defenceman Wade Redden, who was given a six-year, US$39 million deal, but now hears boos every time he touches the puck at home.
New York ranks 29th of 30 teams in goals per game (2.33) and has scored two or fewer 14 times in 19 games - including their past 12 losses.
Renney also struggled to get the most out of centres Scott Gomez and Drury, who signed as free agents in the summer of 2007 but never found consistent linemates to work with.
"It's a tough part of the business," Gomez said. "As players, it's definitely on us. We feel 100 per cent responsible, but also, we still have a lot of games left and we're still in position where we can get into the playoffs. We have to find it. We have to find a way."