After watching John Tortorella's press conference after Game 2 on Wednesday night, the one thing that stuck with me was the reaction of the NBC Sports Network studio crew afterward. In particular, Keith Jones, who noted that Torts carried this exact same schtick through the 2004 postseason, when his Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.
So that raises the question: Is John Tortorella being an ass?
Is John Tortorella being an ass just because he wants to be an ass?
No. Not at all.
This is all very calculated by the Rangers coach. He's been in this situation before, and this becomes a story every single time his team is in the postseason. It's never gotten to this extent before because he's never been this deep in the postseason with a team from New York City, but his track record is clear on this. Tortorella knows what he's doing.
By turning the focus on himself, he's clearly trying to turn the focus away from his players. Sure, when Tortorella fails to answer questions, you can argue that it forces the players to answer those questions instead. But that's not how it works, as generally speaking, the media speaks with players in a post-game environment before they speak with the coach.
Take the Marian Gaborik situation from Game 2 as an example. Gaborik was benched for much of the third period, and when asked by reporters after the game, Gaborik simply told them to ask the coach. So that's what they did, and we all know how Tortorella responded to that question. No means no, you guys.
How's the media responding to all of this? By making it the story. Here's ESPN's Katie Strang:
Tortorella also declined to elaborate on the effort, the necessary adjustments and virtually every other question in a particularly curt postgame news conference.
Instead, Tortorella said he'd rather "keep it in the room," which is exactly where the media now will direct their questions given his unwillingness to answer them.
Maybe that's the desired effect, but for a coach who seems to loathe distractions, he sure is creating one.
And Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail:
Question to my PHWA colleagues: Anyone consider a boycott of JTortorella press conferences? Just walk out en masse when he goes to podium.— Eric Duhatschek (@eduhatschek) May 17, 2012
The New York Post turned Tortorella's press conference into fodder for an entire column.
Steve Zipay of Newsday said it puts pressure on the players:
NYR coach John Tortorella's refusal to answer media questions is a progression writers with team have seen last few years. He keeps more to himself on game days as spring approaches, assistants are closemouthed, and GM Glen Sather rarely accessible. Problem is, together it puts more pressure on players to answer questions and they're naturally concerned about saying anything to disturb the coach.
You get the idea here. They aren't happy, and they feel it's a detriment to the Rangers that Tortorella won't answer their questions.
Tortorella clearly doesn't feel the same. He doesn't want to divulge information -- whether that's the reason why he benched a player or whether it's details on an injury -- and he's not going to give up anything he feels is unnecessary. That's his M.O., and it's always been his M.O. in the postseason. This is nothing new.
And in failing to give the media any of this information, he knows that he is going to become the story. Not his team. Him. It works every time, even despite the media's insistance that this makes things harder on the players.
Do we really, truly believe that Tortorella is just such a giant asshole that he's going to treat the media like complete crap, just because he can? Do we believe that the same guy who befriended 10-year-old Liam Traynor, who suffers from cerebral palsy, is really this big of an asshole?
[Liam] wants to know about the hockey club, and I try to give him as much information as I can. But a lot of it is just checking in on one another. To look at him, and he hasn't been given a fair shake right from the get-go, but to see his attitude, how he handles himself. I'm glad he's part of my life and I'm glad I'm part of his.
Tortorella is not a bad person, and he's certainly not a bad hockey coach. Hell, 90 percent of the time he's even a damn good quote.
While we're all busy talking about how big of a jerk he is, though, we're avoiding what should be the real topic of conversation: That the New Jersey Devils have outplayed the New York Rangers for at least three and a half of the six periods that have been played in this Eastern Conference Final series. Probably more than that.
Even in their Game 1 win, the Rangers looked like utter crap for the entire second period, and they only finally found their legs after taking a 1-0 lead early in the third. In terms of sustained pressure in Game 2, the Rangers did not apply it. Simply put, they were bad.
You want to know why Tortorella has been such an ass to the media lately? There's your answer.