My Pro – Sather Rant
I know, I know, that is not a popular concept in Rangerland. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you all that I think that Slats has been a dream GM. But, since we are on the brink of the 2009-2010 season, with the possibility of starting 4-5 rookies come opening night, a new coach, a new superstar, and so much promise to this season, what better time to ask the question …. “Given the state of this team when Sather took over, has he really been as bad as most Ranger fans make him out to be”?
Imagine, it’s the spring of 2000, and you are just hired as the GM of the New York Rangers. Your team is filled with aged veterans (despite their legendary status), has virtually NO prospects, NO identity since the “The Captain” had left, the team hasn’t made the playoffs in 3 straight years, and you’re sitting at a desk that contains a drawer full of blank checks … What do you do ??
If I was in his position, I would have done the same thing (and I bet most of you would too). With no restrictions to his spending, he tried to buy himself a playoff berth, and honestly that was the only option if you are trying to start off on the right foot your first year, with no prospects to really turn to. His first order of business was to re-acquire Messier and give back the identity our team was so badly lacking. With this move, I think it showed that he actually cares deeply about the emotions and passion of Ranger fans, and wanted to show moving forward that he would try and have the fans’ best interests in mind. Another interesting fact is, in that same year (his first year) while acquiring Messier, the long-time “face of the franchise,” Sather also drafted Henrik Lundqvist, who would turn out to be the “future face of the franchise”.
We all know he over-paid for veterans over the years, desperately trying to bang square pegs into round holes, and mix-match any combination he could to try and get us a playoff berth. Although we look back and blame the likes of Lindros, Nedved, Bure, Fleury, and Holik for not getting us back to respectability and in-turn consider them “underachievers”, the fact is they all shared time a our top scorers in their respective seasons.
My belief is that Sather’s first four seasons as GM, happen to coincide with the years that we had no decent goalie to lean-on, and THAT is the true reason for missing the playoffs for all those years. With an aging and oft-injured Richter, Slats tried to build back the goalie position with youthful prospects that for one reason or another just never panned out. In a four year span, highly regarded prospect Dan Blackburn, Holmqvist, Markkanen, LaBarbera, McLennan, and Valiquette were all young goalies who had a chance to play in efforts to find Richter’s successor. The reason I mention this, is that although the under-achieving veterans hog the spotlight of those bad years, there where early attempts to build with youth. Again, when left with aging veterans and no prospects to turn to replace them, it spelled a recipe for disaster in the early years.
The trade for Jagr in 2003-2004 was one of the most lopsided Ranger trades of all-time, and really was the “kick-start” to the rebirth of the organization. Scoring 15 goals and 29 points in only 31 games after being acquired that first year, it was clear who was going to be the new captain to take the reigns. Of course the lockout was the following season, which turned out to be one of the greatest things to happen to Rangers hockey in recent history. Old contracts expired, earlier drafted prospects of Sather’s were starting to come into their own, and a boat-load of complementary players were added to re-ignite Jagr’s career.
Maybe Sather is terrible at signing UFAs, but the man knows how to make a trade. He knows how to get what he wants when he sets his mind to it, and most importantly (in the case of Gomez) he knows how to fix his mistakes and maximize the return for them. Most experts will tell you it takes 3-4 years for prospects to make their mark in the NHL and in the Rangers case it may have taken a little longer given the fact there wasn’t much to work with and Sather basically started from scratch, but they are here now and we are on the right path. Since the lockout, the youth movement has been in full-effect, we have our franchise goalie and future captains. We were ranked 12th in Hockey’s Future Organization Rankings last year (and were ranked even that low due to the untimely death of Cherepanov). This year with the additions of McDonagh, Kreider, Heikkinen, Ambuhl, and Nigel Williams I would venture to say we will be ranked in the top 7.
The future is bright, the present is bright, it just took a little longer then most of us would have wanted, and we have Sather to thank for building back the depleted farm system and drafting some of the best young players in the NHL today.
Side Note: In honor of our new head coach John Tortorella (who I always thought looked like “The Fonz”), I am currently writing a petition to have the Rangers goal anthem officially changed from “Hey … Hey … Hey, Hey, Hey” to “Ay … Ay … Ay, Ay, Ay”
** Photoshop courtesy of blogger Jay
THANKS FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY CARP
– somerset –