The New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers are rivals last time I checked. The teams don't like each other; the fans don't like each other. Devils fans mention Stanley Cups. Ranger fans poke fun at attendance. Martin Brodeur vs. Sean Avery. I can go on and on, though you don't need a lecture; we all know the deal.
But that doesn't stop John Tortorella from speaking his mind and throwing in his two cents about this year's Devils, no matter how hypocritical he is.
Larry Brooks came out with an interesting piece where Tortorella defends former head coach John MacLean after comments made by Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher. Enter Soap Opera Mode. Jump with me.
After the Devils swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in a home and home last week (a 6-3 win in Jersey and a 5-2 win in Tampa), Guy Boucher had nothing but great things to say about the Devils play against his Bolts, Jacques Lemaire, and their recent turnaround.
From Tampa's own recap on their site:
"They had a great start. I have to give them credit," Boucher said. "The Devils are really picking it up in terms of drive and what they need to do."
"When you give Jacques' team a lead, you're asking for trouble," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said.
From the St. Petersburg Times:
Coach Guy Boucher agreed his team must play better against the lower echelon but added about the Devils, who Dec. 23 inserted legendary Jacques Lemaire as coach: "I don't consider them bottom end right now with Jacques coaching. They're totally transformed."
I felt these were needed to give Boucher's comment some foundation and even some precedent (and to feel good about the Devils recent play of course). Yet, it wasn't any of these comments that got Tortorella flapping his mouth. What did, you ask?
"I think if Jacques had been there since the beginning, they would be [up] there again."
Oh No You Didn't Guy! Here's what Tortorella had to say about that (same link):
"It's none of my business, but coaching is tough enough without comments like these coming from people who should know better," Tortorella told Slap Shots on Friday. "I'm sure that Guy was trying to pay Jacques a compliment, but it comes off as a back-hand slap at Johnny MacLean, who certainly doesn't deserve that.
I'm actually positive that's all Boucher was trying to do. Looking at what he said as a whole proves he wanted to give the Devils and Lemaire credit for two very big wins against the Southeast Division leaders, which started the Devils current run of 6-0-1 (the best record in the NHL since January 9th). Tortorella is taking a Scott Burnside-type approach to the Devils firing MacLean. He had this to add:
"Johnny worked his [butt] off over there in Jersey under what weren't the greatest circumstances at all with the [Ilya] Kovalchuk situation, Zach Parise getting injured right at the start, and he lost his job, lost the job he'd always wanted, and now there are these comments coming from another NHL head coach.
Well some of what he said is true. Zach Parise had an ailing knee injury that ultimately put him out for the remainder of the season (pretty much). Even losing stay-at-home defenseman Bryce Salvador can be used as an excuse.But you know what, injuries happen to every team. Coaches need to adjust to that, and bringing up players who maybe shouldn't have been called up didn't help his cause. Putting fourth liners with superstar Ilya Kovalchuk isn't very smart.
Also, If he meant the Ilya Kovalchuk situation as the salary cap situation, then fine - the team was forced to play shorthanded for a handful of games. The game where they had 15 forwards ended up being a win against the Sabres though. By the way, MacLean said he wasn't going to let it be an excuse, so neither should you. It wasn't as if Parise got hurt and the Devils played with a shortened roster for the almost three full months MacLean was coach. 9-22-2 is 9-22-2 no mater how you look at it.
Kevin said some good things to say as to why MacLean needed the boot. John elaborated these facts while lauding the Devils for bringing back Lemaire. Lemaire said this team had no confidence, was out of shape, and had no idea what they were doing at points. Lemaire doesn't have Parise or Salvador either. The fact that this team is playing nothing like those phrases means MacLean was most of the problem.
To finish it off, Tortorella finished with this:
"This is a tough enough job. Stay in your own business. Coach your own team," Tortorella said in reference to Boucher, in his first year behind an NHL bench. "Don't shoot your mouth off about another situation you don't know anything about."
You know what Torts? You're absolutely right. Stay in your own business and coach your own team. Don't worry about what other coaches say about a rival team. I know you and the Rangers will be in an unfamiliar position at the end of the year (ahead of the Devils in the standings), but that doesn't mean you have defend a former Devils coach, who is still with the organization mind you. John MacLean has Lou Lamoriello on his side. He'll be the organization, he'll help out the players, and he'll do what he's told and he'll work hard at it.
So John Tortorella, don't shoot your mouth off about a situation you don't know anything about.