Mount Tortorella blows off steam

When the New York Rangers hired John Tortorella to replace the fired Tom Renney last month, two questions immediately crossed my mind.

1. Which European would be the first to be blistered by the notoriously hot-headed coach?

2. When would said blistering occur?

The answers: Nikolai Zherdev and Thursday night.

As a Rangers fan – yeah, I live in Chicago, and yeah, I’ve adopted the Blackhawks – I have been waiting for years for there to be some consequence for laziness and poor play.

General manager Glen Sather, when he’s not bailing his former boss out of jail, certainly wasn’t going to do it. Neither would Renney, who was like the kid trying to show his big brother that he was all grown up and could handle himself.

Except that the players seemed to tune him out, a time-tested way to get a coach axed.

A 5-0-0 start notwithstanding, the Rangers needed a kick in the ass. Well, they got one now. And if I’m one who fails to play hard, smart and with an edge, I surely don’t want to the skating back to the bench seeing that set line of his mouth and the steely glare of a man that commands – make that, demands – accountability.

For the first time since joining New York, Mount Tortorella blew in Music City.

With his team trailing 2-1 after one period in Nashville, Tortorella lit into his team causing at least one overpriced and undersized veteran to sit up and take notice.

“He wasn’t happy after the first period,” Scott Gomez said. “It has been a while since I’ve heard a speech like that. We were playing too timid. Nashville had the 2-1 lead and we thought it was over.

“He let us know what it is going to be like from now on. He lit into all of us. We were feeling sorry for ourselves and he spotted that right away. He called us out. I thought we responded well.”

New York went on to a 4-2 win without the services of Zherdev, who was benched for the remainder of the game after a turnover led to a Predators goal.

Zherdev, tied with Gomez for the team lead with 51 points, is soft. Part of the reason he was dealt from the Columbus Blue Jackets was his inability to get along with Ken Hitchcock, who like Tortorella holds players accountable.

Picked fourth overall in 2003, Zherdev has never lived up to that billing, averaging fewer than 20 goals in his first four seasons. After scoring five goals in first month of the season, he has just 19 so far and it will bear watching how he responds to this latest round of crticism.

I’m thinking turtle.

Definitely not the Tortorella way.

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