When Kevin wrote his review of I’d Trade Him Again, it got me thinking about the time I spent reading Barry Meisel’s book Losing the Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers, which takes a behind the scenes look at how the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion Rangers were built and destroyed in a little over one calendar year.
The book begins with how the Rangers came to hire Mike Keenan, and how then-GM Neil Smith knew that Keenan was the only man that could bring the Rangers to the Promised Land. Meisel has some great quotes and detailed stories of the behind the scenes of how Smith convinced his bosses that Keenan was the only man for the job, despite numerous other qualified coaches that were available.
Meisel then details how the Steve Larmer trade came to fruition, and how Smith realized the trade was a big win for his team. He was able to nab Larmer for what Smith said were “spare parts that wouldn’t be part of a championship run, a late first round pick, and a prospect with no future with the organization.” That quote there really illustrates how GMs view trades when they are made, and really struck me as interesting. Think of how many fans were in love with James Patrick and Darren Turcotte.
While reading about the rise of the Rangers was great insight into how teams are built, the fall of the Rangers is just flat out disturbing. The stories about the power struggles between Smith and Keenan, how Keenan was negotiating with the Blues and Red Wings during the Stanley Cup run, and how Smith and Keenan weren’t even on speaking terms really makes you wonder how this team pulled it off.
As you read the book, you will really wonder why the organization allows Mike Keenan to have any sort of contact with the players, coaching staff, management, or any staff in general. Meisel writes from a netural angle, presenting only facts and direct quotes, but it doesn’t paint Keenan in a positive picture. But, the man brought a Cup to New York.
The other interesting aspect of the book is about how the Rangers relationship with Mark Messier was portrayed. Messier had a lot of power behind the scenes, and he definitely used it during his contract negotiations in 1994-1995.
Meisel gives you a rare behind the scenes look at the day-to-day operations of an NHL organization. The book is pretty inexpensive, so if you have the time, you should definitely check it out.