By Chris B.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Glen Sather. Until very recently, his tenure as GM of the Rangers has been an indisputable failure by any standard. Most of us can agree that he should have been removed from office years ago.
In the 17 years since the Rangers last hoisted the Stanley Cup, there are names such as Lindros, Bure, Holik, Kasparitis and Redden that will be forever linked to Sather and his attempts to slap together a winning team of high-priced, under-performing acquisitions. What is often overlooked however, is why he was shopping for these players in the first place.
In the ten NHL entry drafts following the Cup run in ’94, the Rangers amassed what might just be the worst crop of young players of any team in the league. Let’s take a quick look:
Of the eight 1st round draft picks selected by the Rangers from 1994-2003, only two have managed to have significant NHL careers: Dan Cloutier (’94) who was a bottom-tier starting goalie for about 4 years before fading into obscurity, and Manny Malhotra (’98) who has finally managed to forge a reputation as a dependable 3rd line center after many years of flirting with a demotion to the minors. Malhotra probably owes his NHL livelihood to the many chances he was given based on his 1st round pedigree.
Even delving past the 1st round, there are only a few standouts. Kim Johnsson (’94, 11th round), Marc Savard (’95, 4th round), Mike York (’97, 6th round) and Marek Zidlicky (’01, 6th round) are amongst the very few diamonds in the rough that were selected by the Rangers in that ten year span. In fact, the only Ranger draft pick from the era to actually play more than 3 seasons as a Ranger is Henrik Lundqvist (’00, 7th round).
10 years; 103 players drafted; 1 New York Ranger. That’s quite a testament to the exceedingly poor quality of the Rangers’ amateur scouting and player development during that timeframe. Is there any wonder why we missed the playoffs for seven years in a row?
For years the Rangers were a difficult team to watch, let alone root for. Even when legends like Leetch and Richter were still having productive seasons, you almost felt bad for them out there with a lineup full of has-beens and underachievers. When things were at their worst, we were giving the Stephen McDonald award to players like Sandy McCarthy and Matthew Barnaby. I’m not knocking those guys, but they’re not exactly Adam Graves or Jan Erixon.
Things began to change in the spring of 2004. Glen Sather finally threw in the towel, trading away Brian Leetch and a host of other veterans in exchange for picks and prospects. That summer the Rangers drafted Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, followed by Marc Staal and Mike Sauer in ’05. Artem Anisimov was selected in ’06 while the ’08 draft netted both Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto. Just as importantly, Sather has managed to keep this young group together. With the help of John Tortorella, the next generation of Rangers led by Callahan, Dubinsky and Staal has grown together and developed an identity together.
Rangers fans finally have a team they can root for again. We might not have the most talent on any given night, but our team has grit. Our team has character. Our team plays with passion night in and night out. As a Ranger fan, I could not be more proud of how our team played last year.
General managers are judged by how many championships they win, and so far Sather has zero with the Rangers. But Sather has corrected his most recent mistakes (Gomez, Redden, Drury), filled the void at 1st line center and resigned each and every young talent on the team. In my opinion, he has done everything he could possibly do to make our team a contender both now and for years to come. At long last, it is finally exciting to be a New York Rangers fan again.
LETS GO RANGERS!!!