By Cory Gent
Glen Sather. Or Slats if you prefer. Either way, this name doesn’t exactly bring warm feelings to Rangers fans. There is a varying degree of how people perceive him. Most people do not speak highly of his time in New York.
I feel a lot of this hate is highly unwarranted. It’s easy to look at the the lack of success in different aspects of the club and say, “This General Manager has lost his damn mind.” But it’s easy to accuse Sather of mistakes when everything isn’t as black and white as we make it. Hockey is a business. You know that. But in the sense of how a business is operated, Sather is doing a decent job.
-Free Agent Signings-
There’s no getting past the complete nightmare of lucrative deals the Rangers have shelled out for the past decade. Did the majority of these players not live up to contract expectations? Yes. So the signings were a mistake? No.
Obviously those investments were busts. But you will have bad investments. You are not able to predict how a player will fit in the spotlight or the system. You are not able to predict which player he will develop chemistry with. It’s a crap-shoot.
First we start with Holik. He put up 50+ points in five of six seasons. He was a big center that could put up points and put people on their backs in the defensive zone. And this was pre-salary cap. I don’t condone Yankee syndrome, but Dolan handed Sather a blank check. Was there really any other option at that point in time?
Next we have Drury and Gomez. You have Jagr, Shanny, Straka sitting on your roster and none of them are the right side of 30. They were, however, still being very productive. Add in Avery, who was at the top of his game at the end of last season and also Prucha coming off 52 goals in the past two seasons. You have a lot of possibility, but a very glaring hole at center. Seems like the time to win a Stanley Cup is right now. Had salary room so it was just a high risk, high reward off-season. Yes, it did fail, but I don’t want to completely fault him for looking at a chance at the Cup. He signed the two premier centers that were going to receive that type of contract regardless if the Rangers offered it.
Lets move to this off-season and Brad Richards. Some hate the signing. Lets be clear that past failures in the big time free agency signing doesn’t mean that they are a precursor to Richards’ Ranger career. And now look at what Sather is looking at. Up and coming team that lacks a number one center. And this signing is his best yet in terms of looking at the facts of the signing as they are now. Could it be a disaster? Yes. But there are many reasons why it is great right now.
1.He signed for a reasonable rate all things considered. There was no such thing as a cheaper option this off-season. Lets compare him to Leino for a second. We signed a first line center (which we desperately needed) for only 1.8 million more a year. Our new center also put up 24 more points than Leino in 9 less games played.
2. We signed a player that not only won a Stanley Cup, but won it under our current head coach. He also managed to win the Conn Smythe that season. He not only knows the system in place, but exceled in it for several seasons.
3. I read an interesting argument that basically broke down to, “just because you have the cap space, doesn’t mean you have to spend it” which was well said…but, in my opinion, wrong. Wrong in this case anyway. You do have to be careful in a salary cap sport. You also need a return on investment. Gaborik was a complete waste of money last season. You can’t receive a 7.5 million and then manage to score all your goals for the season in 13 different games of an 82 game season. You pay Richards $6.33 million to try and make that $7.5 million of Gaborik’s to regain its value. It’s easy to treat them separate, but the fact is that everyone’s salary is more than just their production, but that of those around them too.
I think most people can agree that Sather’s ability to make some fantastic trades is his greatest strength. He’s talented to both be able to dump unproductive high priced players, but also able to bring back talent for next to nothing. I don’t really need to go on about that.
Many older Rangers fan do still hold a grudge though with Sather trades of iconic old time Rangers. This is incredibly unfair. The Graves trade tends to get pushed under the carpet as he was clearly on a decline, but the Leetch trade is a different story. It does make me sick to my stomach even thinking that Leetch was forced to wear a different sweater. It also was the right move to make. The Rangers weren’t close to the Cup. Loyalty is fantastic, but it can also hinder the club. We had an asset under contract that was going to waste in the little time he had left. There’s no way he didn’t know that it would upset many fans, but a boss has to make tough decisions for the greater good. Good job by Sather for not sitting on his hands.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You can either focus on the atrocious drafting for most of his tenure or the positive that this club is finally becoming full of up and coming talent. There is always talk that Sather was always willing to trade away our young prospects and draft picks in a win now strategy. Yet, this is a bust as we didn’t really have anything worthwhile anyway.
And Sather is finally surrounding himself with talent in the scouting department. One could argue that the most important person in the Rangers organization is Gordie Clark. It is refreshing that when draft day comes around that even if we have doubts in the player they picked, we always have that little voice in the back of our head saying, “Well, Gordie must know something we don’t.”
The General Manager will always take a lot of heat for decisions he makes. Ours has not led us to a Stanley Cup yet. It may have taken a little longer than expected, but you can’t say that the club is heading in the wrong direction anymore. There is so many things that are unpredictable. And never forget that Sather has a boss also. You can’t have a person in charge of you that isn’t pulling the strings at least a little bit. Looking at the club today, Rangers fans are growing increasingly optimistic about the direction it’s heading. Sather isn’t the idiot that we make him out to be sometimes.
Except for Redden.
And let’s throw in the letting Nylander walk too. That might have been his biggest mistake to date. Well, no one’s perfect.
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