On the players, killer instinct and other stuff
That was the message general manager Jay Feaster sent in the paper today. He came out strong behind coach John Tortorella and said if the team does not turn itself around by, say , Christmas, there could be pressure from owner Palace Sports & Entertainment to start cutting payroll, and he did not flinch when asked if those cuts could include some of the core players such as Vinny 4, Brad, Marty and Dan Boyle.
We have heard this before, of course. Last season ownership said the same thing when the team was struggling and the players responded with a successful playoff push. The difference this season is that Feaster said he has not had any mandate from ownership to cut payroll if things haven't gotten better by Christmas. But Feaster said he knows his payroll ($44-million) and knows what the projected financial losses are if the team doesn't make the playoffs (Palace Sports has put it somewhere between $7-million and $5-million), "and it just doesn't add up.''
So, it seems that unless the bottom falls out (remember the team enters Saturday 14th in the East but just seven points out of first in the Southeast), or there is a player revolt (unlikely) it seems as if the coaching staff is safe.
In fact, here is what Feaster said about the job Tortorella, associate coach Mike Sullivan and the staff are doing:
"I think the coaching staff is doing everything it can. I think the coaching staff is working hard to put the guys in position to have success. I know what they do in practice. I watch that. I know what they do by way of film and video preparations. There's no doubt in my mind they're doing a heck of a job.''
Feaster has never been a big fan of firing coaches, anyway. As he reiterated, "That to me is still a knee-jerk reaction. I'm not a big believer in doing that so the manager can sit back and say, 'Well, look at me, I did something.' ''
So Feaster put it squarely on the players, saying, in part, he doesn't believe the team has what he called a "killer instinct.'' He gave examples of losses to the Thrashers and Hurricanes in which the team blew two-goal third period leads.
"There are certain players in this league who when they have their foot on your throat, they look you in the eye with a gleam in their eye and tell you, 'Now, I'm going to break your larynx,' '' Feaster said. "I don't know, individually or collectively, we have that killer instinct yet, that we're able to say, 'My foot's on your throat. Now, we're going to take you out.' ''
Feaster referenced Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios.
"He's not going to let you up,'' Feaster said. "He's not going to let you breathe. That's how we have to be.''