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Renney out, Tortorella in as Rangers coach

NHL.com @NHL

NEW YORK (AP) -Once the decision was made to oust Tom Renney, general manager Glen Sather knew exactly what coach he wanted behind the New York Rangers bench.

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

The laid-back Renney ran out of time Monday in his quest to turn around the Rangers' sinking season. With only 21 games left and a playoff spot slipping away, Sather fired Renney and replaced him with the combustible John Tortorella - a Stanley Cup-winning coach with the perfectly opposite temperament he sought.

"Torts is going to bring a lot more fire to his game, to his approach. That's not to be critical of Tom's approach. That's just Tom's personality," Sather said. "If you look at some of the players on our team and the past coaches they've had in their history, a lot of these guys have thrived under that kind of coaching."

Renney said goodbye Monday morning to the team he coached for parts of five seasons and led to three straight playoff appearances.

By nightfall, his replacement had a multiyear contract and was en route to run practice on Tuesday morning in advance of the following night's game at Toronto.

Renney was dismissed in the midst of the Rangers' freefall that has seen the team drop 10 of 12 (2-7-3) and slide into a fifth-place tie in the Eastern Conference. What became more troubling to Sather is New York's tenuous position - two points above the postseason cutoff.

The Rangers started 10-2-1 and were in first place for much of the first half of the season. So much promise has turned into desperation.

"He will make everybody accountable," said retired forward Dave Andreychuk, the captain of Tortorella's 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning team that captured the Cup. "It's brutally ugly at times, but it's also the right cause.

"As players, you don't like to hear those things, but those things make you a better player. He is definitely going to get the most out of his players like he has done everywhere he has been."

Tortorella was an assistant with the Rangers, and briefly served as interim head coach, going 0-4 at the end of the 1999-2000 season. He was let go by Tampa Bay following last season, and the Rangers were not required to provide compensation.

In 6 1/2 seasons, Tortorella posted a mark of 239-222-36-38. His new task is to salvage the season for the Rangers (31-23-7).

"To come out of the gate the way we did and play and perform and move the puck and control the play at the beginning of the year ... something happened. Something shifted," Sather said. "You certainly can't point the finger at Tom, you have to point it at everyone. The players need to take responsibility for the way that they've played."

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 lists.

Assistant coach Perry Pearn was also fired, but fellow assistant Mike Pelino was retained along with goalie coach Benoit Allaire. Jim Schoenfeld, the team's assistant general manager, will also serve as an interim coach.

In recent home games, fans had chanted for Renney's dismissal. Sather made the decision during Sunday night's 3-2 overtime home loss to Toronto.

"I've had it in the back of my mind for a few days," Sather said. "Winning or losing that game - as painful as it was to lose it - I'd come to the conclusion during the game that today was probably just going to be the day."

Sather could have retained Tortorella after John Muckler was fired, but decided to hire Ron Low.

"In retrospect you can look back and say, 'You know, it would've been smart to keep him,' but that was 8 1/2 years ago," Sather said. "Things have a way of coming full circle."

Renney is the second Atlantic Division coach fired in a 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 season in Europe.

"Sometimes you have to accept that you need a change and you have to do it," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "Someone had to pay the price, but we're all responsible."

After a two-season stint as 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.

The defensive-minded Renney, who turns 54 on Sunday, went 5-15 to finish that season and took over full-time in July 2004. He waited through the yearlong NHL lockout before officially claiming the permanent job.

In his first full season, Renney was a finalist for coach of the year honors after the Rangers went 44-26-12 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

New York now 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.

"As players, it's definitely on us," forward Scott Gomez said. "We feel 100 percent 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 a way."

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