Goaltending this season was a huge factor in both the Rangers regular season and postseason success. The tandem of Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron finished third in the league in goals against during the regular season, behind only the notoriously stingy St. Louis Blues and LA Kings.
In addition to the goalie report cards, I’m also going to break down management. John Tortorella, Mike Sullivan and Glen Sather have their fingerprints all over this team, so we’ll also take a look at how they performed this season. Let’s get to it…
- Honestly, at this point, what is there to say about The King that hasn’t already been said? The presumptive Vezina winner and Hart nominee had an absolutely dominant regular season and a Stanley Cup worthy post-season. His biggest problem was that the Rangers couldn’t score.
- Although Hank has always been in the conversation of the league’s elite netminders, this season he cemented himself firmly at the top, along with Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne. I’ll entertain arguments for any of those guys as the top tender, but for my money, no one can dethrone The King right now.
- With a final line of: 39 wins, 1.97 GAA and .930 SV (top 3 in the NHL in each), Lundqvist was the backbone of the Blueshirts yet again.
- Mid-season grade: A+/Full season grade: A/Playoffs: A
- Martin Biron has turned out to be one of Glen Sather’s shrewdest signings. He was signed to a 2-year deal right out of the chute in free agency two seasons ago and has been everything we could have expected of him. With the exception of the broken collarbone incident last season, Biron has provided the Rangers with consistent production and limited drop of from the number 1 to number 2 tenders.
- Biron’s final line: 12 wins, 2.46 GAA and .904 SV% are nothing to write home about, but are solid production for a back-up. His numbers would have been far better if it wasn’t for a putrid stretch of games in January, followed by hit or miss performances in his last 4 starts. The biggest intangible Biron brought was the 20 games that the Rangers were able to rest Lundqvist, which no doubt coincided with his tremendous run in the playoffs. After the carousel of sub-par backup goalies during Lundqvist’s tenure, it was a wonderful thing having a number 2 who the team trusted and played well in front of.
- Mid-season grade: A/Full season grade: B+/Playoffs: INC
Overall, the goaltending was a major strength for the Rangers and should be going forward. Now let’s get to the management.
- Despite his media persona, Torts had a tremendous year. When he arrived in NY, he evaluated the personnel at his disposal and made the decision that this group needed to block shots, play disciplined and forecheck ferociously to be successful. After a rocky start on the European leg to start the season, the team began to find their rhythm. He gave Carl Hagelin a prominent role and the team began to climb from there.
- A lot of people will give Torts a hard time for the constant line-juggling and the “offensively stifling” system he has put in place, but for anyone who watched 24/7 on HBO got a first hand-look at what a prepared and intelligent coach Torts is. He understands the importance of match-ups and how to squeeze the most out of a roster with limited offensive upside.
- Torts is a deserving finalist for the Jack Adams trophy, and while I think Ken Hitchcock will ultimately take home the hardware, Torts had a tremendous season that will be a favorite of mine for a long time (or until we win The Cup next season)
- Mid-season grade: A-/Full season grade: A/Playoffs: A
- Unfortunately, the role of the assistant coach is one that takes on many different permutations. Usually, they will run the special teams or defensive unit, and take on various administrative duties for the head coach. Since there is no outright disclosure of exactly what Sully is responsible for in the context of the team, it’s almost like grading blind.
- Sully has had success as both a head coach and an assistant and is apparently in demand for the Calgary Flames vacancy, so someone must see something they like in him. He represents a young, progressive coaching style, which may not be apparent in his limited role under Tortorella.
- Since, really, the only tangible gauge of Sully’s performance we have is the powerplay, which was obviously disappointing, its very tough to accurately assess his performance. I’m not going to give him a letter grade specifically, but the power play could definitely use some work, even though he didn’t really have the best personnel for it. He could be on his way out to greener pastures this offseason, so his presence may end up being felt more after his departure, depending on who is hired in his place.
- Slats had a very interesting, very un-Sather like season. He was back in familiar territory last July, throwing bags of money at Brad Richards, but the rest of this season was relatively low-key. Most of his moves were prompted by injuries depleting the depth along the blue line. Anton Stralman was a scrap heap signing that worked out marvelously. Jeff Woywitka was shrewd waiver claim that helped keep the ship afloat until Marc Staal returned from injury.
- The trade deadline is another animal entirely from any of his other moves this season and has been a divisive topic amongst Ranger fans. On one hand, he was only able to bring in John Scott at the deadline to bolter the teams first legit run in years. (In Sather’s defense, with the injury to Michael Sauer, I can see Sather’s line of thinking with this trade. Versatility and toughness could have ended up playing a role this year, although it didn’t help that Scott just wasn’t very good.)
- On the other hand, Slats showed some restraint in the Rick Nash negotiations. I was a big time proponent of landing the big power forward, but I will give Sather credit for not bending to Scott Howson’s outrageous demands.
- Sather has made great strides in restoring his reputation with the fan base the last few seasons. After several years of going absolutely looney-tunes with Jim Dolan’s money on old, expensive free agents, he has moved toward a drafting and development model. His real test comes in the coming seasons when it comes to supplementing a quality core and the choices to retain or move some of the organizations young talent as they move up the pay scale.
- Oh, and he managed to get Chris Kreider under contract for the playoffs (a move I was against for the record, but it worked out better than any of us could have imagined.)
- Mid-season grade: N/A/Full season grade: B+/Playoffs: A