Rangers Devils Brawl: Why John Tortorella is a Hypocrite and Wrong

The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils opened last night with three simultaneous fights after Pete DeBoer and John Tortorella started an army of enforcers; Who is to blame and is it bad for the NHL?

Let me start by saying I absolutely hate the way Peter DeBoer coaches the New Jersey Devils. He burns out superstars like Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk with double-shifts, penalty kills, and excessive minutes. DeBoer overplays a fourth line of goons while the AHL holds enough talent to put together a halfway coherent bunch of players, and if Eric Boulton is on the ice for one more game-changing penalty I might just snap. Starting said line of buffoons is what got John Tortorella so heated, and in his eyes forced a line that included a defenseman taking the faceoff so that everybody could fight at once. DeBoer called Torts a hypocrite after being cursed out at length on national television. To me, that’s the first thing DeBoer has done right all year. Torts retorted by saying DeBoer needs to shut up. John Tortorella is absolutely incorrect in every single way.

First of all, there is absolutely no way Tortorella truly believes his top line could not have avoided a fight with the Devils’ enforcers. Cam Janssen would not fight Marion Gaborik or Ryan Callahan to open a game. There’s nothing to be gained from that and it would never get to that point. Just because the Devils lump all their enforcers on one line does not mean all of them need to fight at once. This triple-fight, double-fight nonsense of Devils Rangers brawls this year is entirely a product of two lines entirely comprised of goons fighting at the same time by chance. Last night was the exception because Torts wanted a line-wide brawl.

John Tortorella had defenseman Stu Bickel take the opening faceoff for the sole purpose of fighting Ryan Carter. It is true that Carter pounded Dubinsky in what appeared to be a legitimate scrap in their last game. If Torts wanted to get revenge on Carter, and he did when Carter’s face hit the ice and left blood to be scraped from the MSG ice, he should take accountability for his decision to go after him. The fights would have happened without Bickel taking on Ryan Carter, but Torts decided to go for the full spectacle approach to the Devils Rangers brawl. Two fights with Boulton and Janssen were not enough, and Torts wanted someone to fight Ryan Carter. Then, he suggested that the Devils Rangers brawl was someone else’s fault when such a decision clearly and deliberately exacerbated things.

Additionally, how frequently do three-way or two-way fights break out in the NHL? There is no reason to respond with a full line of fighters. If you go out with your top line, the Devils change lines immediately to put their third line out. Since Torts instead chose to counter with fighters of his own, a full-line scrap was inevitable. It takes two to tango, and as I know very well, when the lady you ask to dance says no you don’t simply dance with her anyway.

It also appears Torts has forgotten that he rolled out a full line of fighters at the Prudential Center earlier this year, resulting in an epic two-way simultaneous fight. Unsatisfied with opening the game with two fighters, Torts went with three. He had to know what would happen. This was not a move to protect his players – this was John Tortorella opening the game with enforcers that don’t quite stack up to the goons of the Devils. The Rangers’ fighters, such as Mike Rupp, actually serve a purpose on the ice whereas the Devils sport a fourth line for fighting, taking penalties, and losing games.

I’m not sure why Torts was so upset. Perhaps it’s the way the puck bounces off the stanchion to David Clarkson at the Prudential Center, or the way Callahan crashes the net a bit too hard in the final seconds. Frustration and emotions are running high, and I truly hope these teams meet in the playoffs for more puck-drop dramatics and fun rivalry hockey. Still, it seems clear that Torts is saying and doing two different things, and for the first time this year Peter DeBoer is right about something hockey related. Additionally, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing for the game. If guys who make a living by fighting find players that are willing to fight, why not let them go? If you don’t want to open the game with a brawl, don’t match enforcers with other enforcers. By doing so, you make the decision that everyone is going to fight, particularly by sending a defenseman to take the faceoff. If it’s bad for the game, why make a conscious decision to do something that is bad for the game? Torts’ decisions do not line up with what he is saying, which makes him a hypocrite.

Mark Donatiello
Follow me on Twitter:  @FasterHockey ...read more


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