If we’re all in agreement that “the Rangers have struggled”:http://www.lohud.com/article/20081111/SPORTS01/811110385/-1/SPORTS since charging out of the gates last month, what’s less clear is what exactly they’re struggling with.
Do they lack a physical presence on the backline that would make life more difficult for opponents?
Are they absent the character needed to play three consistent periods of hockey?
Do I dare ask if Brendan Shanahan is still available?
No, for the record, I’m not ready to go there, and nor should you. This most recent swoon could be indicative of larger problems, or it could just be an inevitable rough patch every team confronts over an 82-game schedule.
But the problem with any major move at this point is that you risk undermining the rest of your team in the process. Maybe that’s fine if your team needs such a shake-up. But seeing how the Rangers are still on pretty solid footing even after losing four of five, you risk more harm than good.
That’s not to say the Rangers aren’t exploring other options, because I’m sure they are. But it’s doubtful any of those move would be ones that would fundamentally alter the core of the team. A player like Shanahan, for instance, would have that impact. And even in looking fairly unspectacular the past few weeks, the Rangers still aren’t willing to take such a leap.
And as if their on-ice problems weren’t enough, the Rangers are “justifiably getting roasted around the league”:http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/sports/story.html?id=6a31cddb-a1bd-48db-959a-69039fb7e7a6 for seeking a compensatory draft pick for Alexei Cherepanov.
The more I think about what the team has done here, the more I think that an organization that usually should be commended for its class has shown an appalling lack of common sense, if not simple decency.
The guy taking the biggest hit on this is Cam Hope since the Ranger’s assistant GM has been the one quoted on the issue, most notably with his regrettable statement that a player who has been dead for a month “is technically eligible to be drafted again next year.”
But let’s be clear that while Hope certainly could have used more tactful language—and “he did later in an e-mail response to me”:http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2008/11/06/rangers-seeking-confirmation-for-cherepanov/—he is only guilty of following orders from above. Just as he was in making the Rangers’ case in “the Sean Avery arbitration dispute a couple of summers back”:http://www.nypost.com/seven/07312007/sports/rangers/rangers_rip_avery_in_faceoff_rangers_larry_brooks.htm, Hope is the team’s point man on all things related to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But it still fell to Glen Sather to decide whether the matter was worth pursuing, and in this case, whether it was worth pursuing so quickly after the player’s death.
That may be the larger issue here. Had the Rangers broached the topic at another meeting in, say, February or March, maybe their actions wouldn’t seem so crass. But that they jumped on it while emotions were still so raw makes it seem like they had little regard for the human tragedy involved.
Finally, here is that “radio interview I did last night”:http://www.justagame.ca/audio/sam%20weinman%20nov10.mp3. (before the game, mind you) in which I talk about the Cherepanov case and other issues.