There was once a time when New York Rangers center Brad Richards was one of the better offensive players in the league. Just three years ago, he racked up 24 goals and a whopping 67 assists in a single season. On Thursday night, that same Brad Richards was a healthy scratch for Game 4 against the Boston Bruins.
With his team in a 0-3 hole, Rangers coach John Tortorella decided it was best to give the struggling Richards a break. New York ended up winning to extend the series, but Tortorella was defending his decision long before the puck dropped.
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” he told the media before Game 4. “It’s not blaming Brad Richards. I’ve heard enough of that crap already. He’s a hell of a hockey player that’s having a hell of a time. I need to make decisions for what I feel is right for the team to win tonight’s game and that’s why I made that decision.
“This is a guy I’ve grown up with, a guy I love as a person and a player,” Tortorella continued. “But I have to make that decision regarding this. So kiss my ass if you want to write something different. It’s not about blaming that guy and I don’t want anyone to pile on him. This is my decision and I make it for the hockey club.”
Cursing is all part of Tortorella’s image, as we saw when he went at it with an official during Thursday night’s game. Many were wondering why Tortorella would scratch a guy like Richards who is capable of turning it on at any moment, but coaches do unpopular things when they’re coaching to keep their job. If the Rangers lose on Saturday night in Boston, Tortorella may not be keeping his.