Last week when Glen Sather told John Tortorella he was being let go, it represented a marked shift (we hope) in the mentality of Ranger executives and ownership alike. No longer was simply making the playoffs and winning a few series good enough anymore. Torts in 4 years had guided the team as far as he could've taken them and couldn't finish the job. But what happens if this latest coaching change fails to produce its desired results? Should it be time for Sather to finally call it a career?
For all the very bad occurrences that have happened under Sather's guidance (Jessiman, Gomez/Drury), there have been an equal amount of very good ones (Jagr, McDonagh) that have allowed the Rangers to be just good enough make the playoffs nearly every year post 2004 lockout. But recent successes, player acquisitions and elite performance particularly in the Ranger net, have drastically raised the expectations to the point where the mentality should be ' Cup or bust'.
I am of the belief that Sather pushed all-in on this season as the year to go all the way. Sather instilled confidence in his coach by extending him another 3 seasons at some point after the NHL resumed play in January. Not to mention Sather traded key cogs in the middle of the lineup for Rick Nash, opting for a top heavy team book-ended by a strong defensive corps and the defending Vezina winner. Sather's plan wound up as a colossal failure which ended up in Gaborik being moved for depth pieces and more 2013 draft picks for Ryane Clowe in an attempt to salvage a playoff spot. The Rangers finished the season 9-4 after the April 3rd trade deadline scoring an average of 3.6 goals per game after dabbling around the bottom 95% of the NHL in scoring up until that point.
This offseason is a critical one for a club that did everything it felt that it could to win a Cup but failed to do so. It's imperative that Sather proves that firing Tortorella was the correct decision and that the next coach he picks is a fit for this current roster and its strengths. Personnel decisions on Brad Richards and Ryane Clowe as well as UFA signings elsewhere have to be the correct ones so the Rangers can get the most production out of the roster for their money. Lastly and most importantly, the status of Henrik Lundqvist and his contract which expires after this upcoming season. Failure by Sather to keep Lundqvist in Ranger blue for the remainder of his career would be grounds for termination the second Lundqvist signed on the dotted line in a foreign city.
The room for error in the front office is extremely thin. The time the Rangers had to rebuild and re-tool has expired. Any ace cards Sather has been hiding in his cigar box over the past 13 years need to be exposed. This upcoming season is entirely on Sather to make the right moves this summer to lead the Rangers back to glory at this point one year from now.
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