It’s no secret that we here at the blog are supporters of post-lockout (the first one) Glen Sather. He has done a wonderful job of rebuilding the Rangers farm system into one of the best producers of NHL talent. Very few teams can boast the consistent influx of youth the Rangers have added over the years, and even fewer can say they did it without the benefit of multiple top-five picks.
To grade the management this year, we need to include all moves made from the offseason through the end of the year. It’s a grade for the entire year, not just the moves made during the lockout shortened season. Although Slats has the final call in deals, you can be sure that he has Jim Schoenfeld and Jeff Gorton in his ear. So all three are going to be graded as one whole management core.
The Rangers made the biggest splash this offseason by acquiring Rick Nash (and a 3rd round pick) for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a 1st round pick. For a team gearing up for a Cup run, getting a player of Nash’s caliber for two bottom-six roster players is a fantastic move, and one that is made every single chance you get. With the club advancing to the second round, the first round pick is now in the early-20s.
The rest of the offseason was rough for Slats and company. Brandon Prust priced himself out of New York, as did Ruslan Fedotenko and John Mitchell. They tried to fix the bottom six by signing slow and not physical enough Taylor Pyatt, face-off and defensive whiz Jeff Halpern, and pest Arron Asham. They also gifted Chris Kreider a roster spot which he didn’t earn until late in the postseason.
Of all these moves, the only one I really wondered about was John Mitchell, who was a puck possession force on the fourth line. I liked signing Halpern, but for the $400k they saved, it wasn’t worth it in my opinion (plus, Halpern isn’t even with the team anymore). You can’t blame them for wanting to go cheaper for Prust and Fedotenko, two replaceable players (who we found out are tougher to replace than we originally thought).
The forward depth was a known issue heading into the season, but the defensive depth was a known issue during the offseason, and this simply was not addressed. The writing was on the wall for Stu Bickel, and Steve Eminger/Matt Gilroy were not viable long-term options for a full season. Defensive depth cost them the Eastern Conference Finals, and that wasn’t addressed in the offseason.
Offseason grade: B
We can’t address the regular season without first addressing the handling of Chris Kreider. Everyone blames Torts, but Torts only plays guys if he can trust them. Kreider’s play in the AHL during the lockout showed that he wasn’t ready for the NHL grind, but yet he was still given the roster spot when the NHL resumed play. Then you factor in the constant up and down for Kreider, when more viable bottom-six options were available, and you have a giant mess. This should have been handled much better.
Back to the moves made in the offseason, Slats and company made a solid trade when they sent Mike Rupp to Minnesota for Darroll Powe. Rupp wasn’t playing, was too slow for the system, and although he brought great leadership, he wasn’t cutting it in a Torts system that requires speed. Powe provided great penalty killing and much needed speed on the bottom-six. He didn’t score, but that’s a non-factor when his primary role is defense and penalty killing.
The trade deadline is where things got interesting. First, they nabbed Ryane Clowe without giving up a roster player (again, something that is very important here). Before Clowe got hurt, he was well worth the steep price of a 2nd and 3rd in 2013 and a conditional 2nd in 2014 (if Clowe re-signs, else a 5th). The rumored concussion was just terrible luck, as Clowe would have been an integral part against the Bruins and Caps. Clowe addressed the need for a top-six winger with scoring potential.
Depth at forward and defense was a huge issue all season long –although it was exacerbated by the underwhelming seasons of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik– and necessitated a big trade to address it. Thus, Gaborik was sent to Columbus for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore, and a 6th round pick. The trade turned out to be a fantastic move for the Rangers, as Gaborik almost immediately went down for shoulder surgery, and the Rangers acquired their much-needed forward and defensive depth. More importantly, they acquired three players that buy into John Tortorella’s aggressive systems.
Regular season grade: B+