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Rangers fire coach John Tortorella

Thursday - 5/30/2013, 2:36pm  ET

FILE - In this April 5, 2013 file photo, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella stands behind his bench during an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. The Rangers have fired coach Tortorella, Wednesday, May 29, 2013, four days after New York was eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

IRA PODELL
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- In a span of five days, John Tortorella went from out of the playoffs to out of a job.

The feisty and combative coach was fired by the New York Rangers on Wednesday after four-plus seasons behind the bench and four trips to the postseason.

Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather was vague when pressed for reasons why Tortorella was let go.

While no specifics were given, Sather made it clear that it wasn't just one thing or particular incident that led to the somewhat unexpected dismissal.

"I am very appreciative of what Torts has done here," Sather said during a conference call. "We had an evaluation at the end of the year like we always do. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. I felt that this was the decision that had to be made to go forward.

"I think he was a little bit shocked, but he is a gentleman and he took it very well."

The fiery Tortorella was let go four days after the Rangers' season ended with a Game 5 loss to the Boston Bruins. New York reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and was considered a championship contender in this lockout-shortened season.

Tortorella conducts business on and off the ice with an iron fist, treating players and media members alike. His abrasive style could have been a factor in the decision to make a change.

"Every coach has a shelf life," Sather said. "I've told every guy that I've hired that at some point in time this is going to change.

"Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup and we didn't achieve that goal this year. I had to make a decision, so I did."

Tortorella was dismissed with one year left on his contract.

In 319 regular-season games with New York, including a four-game run at the end of the 1999-2000 season, Tortorella went 171-118-1-29. He was 19-25 in the postseason, and reached the playoffs four times after taking over as coach in February 2009.

"Every time a coach gets fired, it is a surprise for me, because ultimately, we, the players, are responsible for our own play on the ice," Rangers backup goalie Martin Biron told The Associated Press in a text message.

Tortorella, hired to replace Tom Renney with 21 games remaining in the 2008-09 season, achieved some success with the Rangers but couldn't match the Stanley Cup title he earned in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sather said Tortorella's contract status didn't factor into the decision.

A replacement wasn't named immediately, but Sather hopes to have a new coach in place by the NHL draft on June 30.

Former NHL coaches Lindy Ruff and Alain Vigneault could be candidates. Sather wouldn't speculate on them or whether anyone currently employed by the Rangers would be considered.

The fate of assistant coach Mike Sullivan will be decided during the team's organizational meetings in June.

"Hopefully whoever we hire has a lot of the good things that Torts had and a lot of good things that Tom Renney had," Sather said. "There are a number of good coaches around, and a lot of them have different qualities. It is a little tricky sometimes to find someone who has all those qualities.

"I am certain that we're going to find the right person."

Last season, Tortorella led the Rangers to 51 wins -- the second-most in franchise history -- and 109 points before they were beaten in six games by New Jersey. He finished his Rangers tenure in fourth place on the team's coaching wins list.

The 54-year-old Tortorella got the Rangers back into the playoffs, and New York outlasted Washington in seven games in the first round of the playoffs before being knocked out by Boston.

Tortorella made curious comments on Monday when the Rangers packed up for the season, remarks that could have led to his ouster.

In his final meeting with reporters, Tortorella said the Rangers weren't emotionally ready to take on Boston after getting past Washington with back-to-back shutout wins when they faced elimination.

"One of the things, and it falls on my shoulders, is our team's mindset going into another round," Tortorella said. "I don't think our mindset was ready to play another series and to the level you need to be at. It didn't have a playoff atmosphere.

"That's what I struggle with right now. I didn't do a good enough job in correcting and getting their mindset back to not only play at the level of a Game 7 in the first round, but get ready for round 2, which is always going to be tougher."

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