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Torts responds to questions from fans

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
John Tortorella
Rangers head coach John Tortorella sat down with Jim Cerny of on Wednesday to answer questions sent in by fans via the Rangers' official Facebook and Twitter pages. Thanks to all of the fans who participated by sending in their questions. Here is a selection of these submitted questions as well as Tortorella's answers as dictated to Cerny:

Jbones72 on Twitter asks:

Are you happy and surprised about the contribution of the young guys this year?

Tortorella's response:

I am very happy about the younger players. I think we’ve had some great development in some of our younger players in the past couple of years. I am surprised at some people, other people you knew it was going to happen. You look at Brian Boyle, I didn’t think he’d be on this team this year. But he’s still a young man, and I thought he was going to be in Hartford. Now look what he’s doing here on this level, and you can now see he’s going to be a really good player. His development is coming along really well. Derek Stepan, we wanted him to turn pro just to get in the pro game, and thought maybe he’d start in Hartford to learn the pro game, and he’s stepped right in here and just look at him. You just never know. I am thrilled about our youth and foundation that is being built with youth.

NYCKING on Twitter asks:

What is key to making playoffs?

Torotorella's response:

I think the most important thing in making the playoffs -- and remember only half the teams make the playoffs and half do not, it’s a difficult thing to make the playoffs -- is our consistency and staying with our identity. We have found a way that we can be successful. It’s a hard way to play. I think we have some skill, not an overabundance of skill -- but for us to have a chance to make the playoffs we have to be consistent and play as a team. Some teams make it because they just have enough skilled people in all their positions, and they really don’t play as a team. We have to play as a team. We’re young and developing, so to be as best we can be we have to be together, and that’s playing as a team.

Sal Argano on Facebook asks:

Who are easier to coach? Rookies or veterans?

Tortorella's response:

It doesn’t matter. I think when you are coaching, everybody has a different personality. I think a big part of coaching is to try and figure out what is the best way to get to that particular guy. Obviously rookies are more receptive to your ideas as you teach it. They’re just trying to learn. I think veterans can get stubborn at times. They’ve been in the league and sometimes think they have the answer. But it’s our job to try and get to them and keep on teaching them. It’s our job to figure out a way. It depends on the person. The game is ever-changing, you always have to stay on top of it as a player. And as a coach you can’t stop learning; and we can learn from the players because they see the game differently, they’re the ones playing it. We need to have two-way communication.

Jill Friedman on Facebook asks:

How big a part does the Connecticut Whale play in your team development, and what do you look for in order to call up a player?

Tortorella's response:

In a (salary) cap world, you have to develop your own people. I think you need to develop your own people and have faith in your scouting department, faith in your draft, and build your own team with your own people anyway. That job in the American Hockey League is a huge job, that’s your lifeline. Kenny Gernander, J,J, Daigneault, and Pat Boller -- the whole staff down there -- have done a great job as we’ve gone through some major adversity with the injuries and guys have come up and kept us in the hunt here. They deserve a lot of credit.

Communication is important, between Kenny and I -- and (Jim Schoenfeld) is a big part of that. It depends what our injury is. Do we need a fourth-liner? Do we need someone who will kick in a goal for us and add some skill? That’s a constant communication depending upon what’s going on with the big club. We are always in contact with them.

James R. Keenan on Facebook asks:

Granted that players may not perform the same from one game to the next or during the course of a game and lineup changes are necessary, however, what dictates your shuffling the lines? Do you determine from a shift or a couple of shifts or a period to make changes? Would you be inclined to shuffle the lineup even though you may be winning a game by a comfortable margin but didn't like the performance of a player or players? How do you constructively appraise the performance of the younger players without affecting their confidence and do you appraise the players privately or openly?

Tortorella's response:

To me it’s my gut, I go with my gut, and it’s also perception of how guys are playing. I could sit here for five hours and talk about situations and why you change lines, there are so many things that come into play. My whole situation, in general, is I watch early and get a gut feel as far as which guys are going and which lines are going. You want to keep some continuity, but if you are stale or things are not working well, I am certainly not one to sit there and let it play out. We try to give them some time to work through things, but if you feel as a coach in your gut that it isn’t working then you make some changes. Every coach in this league changes their lines, but I think every coach changes their lines to try and make their team better in that particular game. It’s not just to change the lines, there’s always a reason why. And I certainly won’t change lines when things are going well. I think that’s when you lose your players. I know our guys know when I change the lines there is a good reason for it.

Anders Hershberger on Facebook asks:

What has been the hardest thing to overcome this year and what are your expectations for the rest of the year?

Tortorella's response:

It’s not so much a thing to overcome, the biggest ting we really tried to work at right away was who we are, what type of team are we going to be? How are we going to act on the ice? How are we going to act off the ice? Basically that is developing an identity. That takes a while, and I think we still have a ways to go, but I think we understand who we are. Can we do that consistently? I think we’ve done a pretty good job through that so far this year.

To answer the back part of that question, that’s what’s expected. We have to stay with our identity and be that shot-blocking, hard-hitting, grinding, lunch-pail type team to find our way into the playoffs. It’s a dogfight to get in. I think we have had a good 53 games here, but I think we can look at teams we are trying to catch, but we also have to be aware of the teams below us. That’s the situation we’re in. So we need to keep our level where it was, and then keep on adding as each game comes on by.

Terence Tully on Facebook asks:

What did you see as your biggest challenge when you first came to New York?

Tortorella's response:

The biggest challenge for me coming in at that time of year, with 20-odd games left with a team in a hunt to get a playoff spot, was how much could I get across to (the players) in such a short amount of time. Do you have to wait till the next year to add to it? That was kind of a give and take with me. Certainly, finding out what the team was and what the personnel was. I mean I spent a whole meeting calling Dan Girardi “Joe Girardi” before they let me know his name is Dan. It took me a while, even on the bench, to figure out who’s who. That was a challenge because it was such a sprint and there was so much on the line to get in.

Jeanine Hermida on Facebook asks:

In your career as a coach in NHL, is there one player who sticks out in your mind from the rest who had surprised you the most with their success? Was there one who was particularly difficult who ended up turning it around?

Tortorella's response:

I think one of the biggest surprises for a lot of us when I was coaching in Tampa was Marty St. Louis. He’s a guy who people said would never play in the league, he’s too small, he was sent to the minors, played on the fourth line in Calgary. Rick Dudley, our general manager, then brought him into Tampa. We thought he was a pretty good player. Never did we think that he’d become one of the most valuable players in this league, and has been for quite a while. He’s got a heart as big as the building. He’s a special player. We thought he’d be good, but he’s great. That’s a great testament to him.

It was very well chronicled when I was (in Tampa), that the guy was Vinny Lecavalier ... where we are good friends now, but there was a 2-3 year process where we were trying to understand one another. There were some tough times between him and I, but as a coach you hope that someday the player understands why you did some of the things you did in trying to motivate them and teach them. Now Vinny is 30-plus years old, and I had him when he was 19, and I look at him now and he’s a man, has a baby, and we’ve had a couple conversations where we’ve run into each other this past year, and it’s a nice relationship now. So we’ve come full-circle. We had a tough time early on, but we worked through it. It’s important that when you go through conflict with a player and coach, if you are honest with one another and it’s not personal, but you stay with it and work through it as men you become closer. And that’s what happened with Vinny and I.
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