After 113 days of enduring a long and frustrating lockout, John Tortorella is anxious to start the NHL season when it likely returns in a week and a half. With a shortened 48-game season comes unpredictability, but the Rangers head coach isn’t going to make excuses for his team. Tortorella explains in the following interview his strategy of coaching through a shortened training camp. John Tortorella joined ESPN Radio New York with The Michael Kay Show to discuss being anxious for the NHL season to come back, his strategy to use during this short training camp, his concerns with the Rangers mentally during this short training camp period and building confidence at the start of the season next week.
How do you feel about hockey being back or close to being back?
“Oh gosh I couldn’t be happier. I think the only person happier than I am is my wife. We’ve been from Day 1 going through revised camps and one upon another. We’re really anxious. Guys are beginning to come around and I’ve said all along with this club here, it’s a group of men. We are looking forward to seeing the new guys come in and get to work. It’s time to go to work.”
There are reports out there that the Rangers first game is going to be Jan. 19. What are you going to have to sacrifice and not be able to implement?
“I think we gotta see what we have. I can’t give you a rock-solid answer because I gotta see what the athletes look like and how they are conditioned. I think our guys did a lot of work during the lockout, whether some being overseas or staying at our facility. The thing I am most concerned about is injuring them and trying to get them ready to play in such a short time. If there’s one thing I am going to lean on it’s the players this time, as far as asking how they feel each and every day because I think that’s the biggest key.You can’t get all this back. I am little frustrated because I think our camp is a very important part of our success due to mindset and some of the things we go through in a longer camp. We don’t have that this year. We’ve gotta go day by day and I’ve got to rely on the leadership group to let me know how they feel and what they can handle as we slowly try to inch along here and get ready to play their game.”
How are you concerned about your team mentally during the short preparation?
“I don’t worry about that because I think these guys are tough. … The thing that concerns me the most is the adrenaline push when we first start, and then after you get into the first 10 games of the … shortened season, what happens to them then? Do they fall off and just go down hill? As far as the mental part of it and the physical part of it, are they able to maintain? I think that is a big part of our job is to understand what your team is each and every day and act accordingly. I’m dying to sink my teeth into them and get them ready to play, but you have to temper that and just make sure we are not going to injure them. We’re not trying to do too much in a short period of time.”
Are you going to have to coach differently in order to not wear guys out?
Yeah I am. … They have given us the rough schedule. I don’t think it’s the absolute exact one, but they have given us a pretty good idea of what and where the games are going to be. All I did today with my strength coach and my travel guys is look for days off, look for time that we can get them away. And that may sound silly with all the time they had off, but with the amount of games and the amount of travel that we are going to have — our travel isn’t as deep as some of the other guys playing within our division as much as we are going to — I just want to make sure that we have them at least recuperate. It’s about how they recuperate after games and being ready to play the back-to-backs with the three games in four days and the four games in six nights, which we are going to see quite often in such a shortened period of time to get these games in.”
Do you like this team this year?
“I really believe in our camp. I am really frustrated that we are not able to go through our camp with the way we go about it. We painstakingly do things that may seem a little crazy at times with our camp, but it’s always for a reason, to get the mindset where we need to get it. It’s more of a mental-type situation. We are not able to do the things we want to do in five or six days before we play our first game. That does bother me. It is what it is. I think that’s the most important thing for us as an organization and players as we start playing our games, don’t start complaining, ‘We didn’t get this done or don’t have enough time to get this done.’ Everybody is in the same boat. We gotta try to find a way, especially in our start, at the start of the season, to try to get off and get within our confidence and play the game we know how to play and the style we play.”