The catch-22 the Rangers are caught in

December 18, 2013, by

All eyes are on Glen Sather

Alain Vigneault was hired to win a Stanley Cup.  That’s not just a cliche that every coach says to endear himself to fans, it’s the truth of the matter.  After John Tortorella followed up an Eastern Conference Finals appearance with a second round playoff exit last year, GM Glen Sather determined that a new head man was needed to push the Blueshirts over the top and capture hockey’s ultimate prize.

Vigneault, who came within a single game of winning the Cup in 2011, was viewed as the man that could get more out of the team’s offense to go with its trademark top goalie and stellar defense.  But just six months after Sather made the coaching switch, his team is much further away from winning it all than when Vigneault arrived.

That’s not all Vigneault’s fault – the Rangers just don’t have the personnel to play his style, which has proven to be very effective in the past.  Still, it’s the reality of the situation over 40% of the way through the season, and there aren’t any quick fixes on the horizon.

Sure, it’s still early enough that the club’s most important players could turn their seasons around and lead the team’s playoff push.  But it’s probably more likely that the team’s struggles continue and the Rangers fall short of the postseason (that’s based on personal observation and a very convincing trend).

So what should be the team’s course of action should things continue like this for the next month or two?  Some have suggested that Sather deal pending unrestricted free agents like Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan to gather younger talent in return for soon to be very expensive veterans, several of whom are displaying concerning signs for their future anyway.  The logic is that the Rangers still have several key core pieces and might not be terribly far off from their old trajectory, but the injection of a few more Vigneault-type players could make a huge difference.

That’s really not a silly way of looking at things, but it would be a surprise if Sather chose to go that route.  Remember, Vigneault was billed as the missing piece, not a man the team would have to be rebuilt around.  To rebuild is to fail, to give up to many fans, and Sather can’t afford to do that.

Not after the dark years at the beginning of his tenure, not after going all-in on Vigneault and declining to buy out Brad Richards.  Sather has done an outstanding job in general in recent years and deserves praise for dramatically altering his team-building philosophy, but no matter what owner James Dolan has said about Sather’s future in New York, the pressure is building.  This is New York, after all, and fans expect only the best.  With the 2011-2012 club so close to the top of the mountain, Sather took a huge gamble by changing bench bosses.

It’s far more likely that Sather will desperately seek to add pieces on the fly this year to give Vigneault as many tools as possible to make that gamble pay-off.  It could come at the expense of some youngsters and draft picks, but that’s the likely outlook.  Desperation moves rarely pay off, but Sather has already gone all-in and it’s pretty unusual to push all your chips to the middle of the table and then back off.

"The catch-22 the Rangers are caught in", 3 out of 5 based on 14 ratings.


  1. Pete says:

    Good points. I think its more commonly referred to as being screwed, which they most certainly are. The team is small and soft and their tradeable assets are having off years, well actually most everyone is having an off year, including their two best players. If Hank and Nash continue to play well below par it really doesnt matter who they trade or trade for…

    • Walt says:

      Where is the Cat when we need him the most?????

      • Bob says:

        From Larry Brooks,

        “I asked one player this week whether he had been shown video relating to a specific play on the ice. The response,“he says what he says and then expects you to figure it out.”

        Sounds pretty handsoff to me. Is that what we need right now?

        • Dave says:

          I tend to lay off the quotes from Brooks. He’s known to push his own agenda. Solid chance that is taken out of context.

          • Bob says:

            Pretty sure Brooks had the story of the locker room turning on Johnny before anyone else did.

            How about this?

            From the National Post up in Canada.

            “That was 10 out of 10,” said Canucks forward David Booth of Tortorella’s speech, who restored Vancouver’s lead just 1:20 later. “He was fired up there and it got the guys going…that was the turning point for us and changed the outcome of the game.”

            “I think you see how passionate he gets,” said Canucks forward Ryan Kesler of his coach. “You see how not pleased he was with our play and I think that passion bleeds into this team. It was a wake-up call and guys respect him.”

            When are we going to see some passion from AV?????

            • Dave says:

              I think Pat Leonard was the one who broke the locker room stuff first, but I could be mistaken. I’m not saying Brooks is a bad reporter, I’m just saying he’s prone to using articles to promote his own cause.

              You can’t compare AV’s personality to Torts. They are different people. Everyone wanted AV because he’s the anti-Torts. Can’t reverse opinions now.

              • AD says:

                Who is “everyone” wanted Torts replaced? I think most fans who were not Sean Avery diehards were quite content with winning.

              • Dave says:

                Everyone is a general term here. Once Torts was gone, the consensus was AV is a solid fit because he’s the anti-Torts in the locker room.

            • Becky says:

              If you toss enough you know what against a wall, some will stick. I don’t trust Brooks, but I’m glad you shared that – it’s interesting to read. Makes you think. I could see it – he seems pretty passive aggressive.

            • @Centerman21 says:

              Maybe some of you should have layed off Torts case. For all his shortcomings he knows how to motivate. Does AV know how to get this team going? They seemed to respond Sunday but can they keep it going tonight? Against a Pens team they beat 5-1 a few weeks ago. I think the Rangers match up well against Pitt.

            • AD says:

              We were down 3-0 in the 1st period, on home ice, versus the Blue Jackets; and even then AV felt no need to call a timeout, rip his players and demand a response.

              Hence, no response.

            • @Centerman21 says:

              So the fans run Torts out of town and now that he’s winning in BC he’s wanted in NY? When he was here everyone complained about his post game pressers and his comments about players. Now NY realize what they lost. Too funny and I love it! AV is as emotional as a door saddle but everyone wanted him. Or at least the majority did. Watch the Canucks make the ECF this season. Watch that series with the Rangers on TV.

        • Becky says:

          …but Brooks….

      • Bayman says:

        Yeah, because the Cat never threw away the future to ‘win now’.

  2. Gary says:

    Scary post. That’s the only word I can think of for it.

    The only hope is that Sather has been positively reinforced by how well he has done with building the team from within and negatively reinforced by the bad old days when he took Neil Smith’s building disaster and brought it to new and unimaginable levels.

  3. Bob says:

    Sather’s history of going ‘all in’ has never really paid off (Holik, Kasper, Lindros, Leetch trade, York trade, Drury, Gomez, Gaborik, Richards, Nash trade, on and on and on and on…

    Time to hand the reigns to someone else.

  4. Sally says:

    As Pete says we would not be having this discussion if Hank was at the top of his game and Nash showed up more than every fourth game. Nash is no Jagr. We can only hope that Hank is just having an off year.

  5. SalMerc says:

    Article makes sense, but I think Sather’s time has come and gone. His departure may signal the urgency and change within the organization. AV will be here this year and next. A player or two nay make a slight difference, but it seems to be more about motivation than talent.

  6. Walt says:

    The team across the board is playing poorly. The begining of the season road trip, the injuries, Hank’s fall from grace with his sub-par play, etc., all excusses for a failed organization that is headed by Sather!

    Yesterday, Ulfie said he watched his son play his first NHL game, and was impressed with the way the Pens play, the kids coming up. More importantly “they have been drafting low, but well”, or something to that affect. Shero is doing a great job with that organization, has for a few years now, and it shows on the ice. Sather has been here longer that dirt, yet he won nothing, and the future looks as bad as when he came in the first place.

    The man won all those cups for several reasons:
    Gretzky, Messier, Huddy, Anderson, Mac Tavich, Kurri, Lowe, Simpson, Graves, Coffey, Teakanan, most of which were in place from the begining, WHA days, and is riding his reputation ever since. Hell I could have coached those teams to cups! Bottom line, I believe the game has passed this guy buy, send him to the pent house as a figurehead, and turn the team over to a younger guy who knows the game.

    Look at Stevie Y, Joe Sacic, Shero, the Canadians GM, Blackhawks, San Jose, Ducks, they are doing great jobs drafting, bringing in the right players, and not spending like a drunken sailor, nothing against drunken sailors, great guys!!!!!

    Dolan, get your head out of your back end, and get rid of Clarabell the Clown who is running this circus act known as the Rangers!!

    • Adam says:

      Shero has done a great job no doubt but it is also important to remember that he had the #1 or #2 pick from 2003 through 2006. Even in the dark years the Rangers never really tanked on that level that let them consistently draft from the elite talent pool.

      • Walt says:

        They never drafted any decent player under this GM, and got lucky on occasion, Hank in the 7th. I’m sorry, look at the Oilers, had the #1 or 2 picks for years, and they stink up the place.

        Has the Hawks drafted #1 before Kane, or there after? How about the Ducks, or LA, SJ, and the list goes on. Bottom line, Sather is not very good at drafting players, while other teams that drafted late, made great picks, and their teams are outstanding!! Detroit anyone??????

        Also, Sather always gave away his draft picks for retreads!

        • Dave says:

          They’ve never drafted anyone good under Slats?

          Hank, Cally, Staal, Dubi, Anisimov, Stepan, Kreider, Hagelin, MDZ. That’s just the NHL roster.

          A pair (Dubi/AA) are gone. If you want to include undrafted UFAs, then add in Girardi and Zucc.

          • Kevin says:

            Pssh, you make it sound like 2/3rds of the Roster is made up of drafted talent or something

          • Walt says:

            That all came about after 10 years or so of him choking his chicken. You really believe that he did a good job his first 10 years or so, please!!!!

            • Dave says:

              Well Cally and Dubi were drafted in 2004, Hank in 2000, Staal 2005, AA 2006, Hags 2007, Step/MDZ 2008. They weren’t drafted a decade after Slats took over.

          • Walt says:

            With the exception of Kreider in the first round, he got lucky with the others mentioned. Wasn’t Callie a 5-6th rounder, Hank the last man drafted that year, he steped in shit, and came out smelling like a rose. Lucky, real lucky there, again please!!!

        • Kevin says:

          So, you’re blaming the Rangers for not drafting 1st overall? I’m so confused

          • Walt says:

            No, I’m blaming him for drafting poorly, and or giving away draft picks for retreads. The following are his #1 picks for the years indicated:

            97-Stefan Cherneski
            98-Manny Malhotra
            99-Pavel Brendl and Jamie lundmark
            01-Dan Blackburn
            02- none
            03-Hugh Jessiman
            04-Al Montoya and Laurie Korpikowski
            06-Bob Sanguinetti
            07-Alexi Cherepanov
            12-Brady Skjei

            The last couple of years have been OK, but before his track record is anything but sterling. Now look at the players that came into the NHL in this time frame that we passed on. There is the record, please comment if you’d like, but he is a flunky, and the records bears it out!!

            • Chris F says:

              2000: No 1st Rd selection, yet Rangers steal entire draft by grabbing Henrik Lundqvist in the final round.

              2001: Rangers picked 10th overall (Blackburn); only players of note to come later in 1st Rd were Ales Hemsky and RJ Umberger.

              2002: No 1st Rd selection.

              2003: Rangers picked 12th (Hugh Jessiman); Rangers passed on Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Corey Perry.

              2004: Rangers select Montoya 6th overall, and then Lauri Korpikoski in the 19th. They missed two chances to snag Cory Scheider. But then again, Cam Barker went third overall behind Ovechkin and Malkin. Obviously there were bigger swings and misses than Sather’s that year. And Callahan gets selected late, as the 127th pick to make it all good.

              2005: Rangers take Staal as the 12th selection rather than Tuuka Rask and TJ Oshie. That’s a pick you take any time. They also offer Dan Girardi an AHL contract this summer after he was passed over in the 2003 draft. These acquisitions are huge for rebuilding the Rangers blueline.

              2006: With the 21st pick, Rangers selected highly touted Bobby Sanguinetti, though they passed on Claude Giroux. Tough call here as Sanguinetti was really supposed to be someone.

              2007: Rangers score huge by selecting Alexei Cherapanov 17th overall; he would tragically collapse dead several years later while playing in the KHL. The Rangers also snagged 12th overall Ryan McDonagh in a trade several years later. Additionally, the compensation pick the Rangers were awarded after Cherepanov’s death landed Ethan Werek who NY traded for Oscar Lindberg. Hagelin gets grabbed 127th overall.

              2008: Rangers take Michael Del Zotto 20th overall. They also get Derick Stepan in the 2nd Rd.

              2009: Rangers take Chris Kreider 19th overall.

              2010: Rangers take Dylan McIlrath 10th overall.

              2011: Rangers take JT Miller 15th overall.

              2012: Rangers take Brady Skeij 28th overall.

              2013: No 1st Rd selection.

              The point is, the Rangers scouting record these last 13 years is nuanced. They haven’t selected any blow-out 1st rounders, but then again they’ve only got three top 10 picks in the last 13 drafts. They’ve made some mistakes, but they also found integral pieces of this team -Lundqvist, Hagelin, Callahan- late in drafts, while offering Girardi a deal evem though no one took him in the draft at all, while stealing McDonagh out from beneath Montreal’s nose before they knew what they had. Sather also has landed 1st Rd picks Kreider, McIlrath and Miller Iin recent years and turned the terrible death of Cherepanov into the acquisition of Lindberg.

              It would be nice to be the Capitals, Pengiuns, or Oilers with their perennial 1st and 2nd overall draft selections but you work with what you have. Every team has busts in draft selections, its all a gamble. With the exception of 2003, I think the record shows Sather has done a fairly good job in this regard.

              • Walt says:

                Getting the last player drafted turning out to be Hank wasn’t luck?

                Getting an undrafted d-man to make your team luck?

                Getting an idiot GM, other than Sather, trade you McD for Gomez isn’t luck?

                Again, please!! Give me some credit for calling out Clarabell. From 97 to 07, how many #1 picks made by Slats is in the NHL, that says it all.

              • dapowl says:

                Great post! Great effort writing everything!

              • Chris F says:

                Walt, the facts don’t support your theory. The Rangers haven’t had high first round draft picks in well over a decade. The Malkins, Crosbys, and Ovechkins were never available by the time the Rangers selected.

                If you look at the draftees for each year as I have, you’ll see that with the exveption of 2003, there was never really an abundance of elite talent that Sather overlooked. That’s just a fact, look at the names.

                It’s amazing how many absolute no-names are littered throughout the last 13 first rounds. I’ll tell you, there are more busts than stars.

                Somehow I don’t think Sather is the only GM who hasn’t struck 1st round gold.

  7. Bloomer says:

    The New York Rangers have a enough quality players on their roster that they should playing better hockey then they are. They didn’t need a coaching change, Torts is showing in Vancouver that he knows how to get the most of his players.
    Roberto Luongo looks like a new man as the Canucks are playing a solid game of hockey in all 3 zones and making life a lot easier for the Canuck goalkeepers.

    There are many coaches who spent many years coaching the same team. I am not buying the coach lost the room line of crap as a reason for firing J.T. Its still early and maybe AV can turn things around and get his team playing better hockey. But if they are still struggling at the trade deadline changes will have to be made. One of these changes should include hiring a new GM.

    • zubov says:

      AV was getting the same amount of production from his players and having INCREDIBLE results when he was in vancouver.

      Look at vancouvers past 5 seasons. FIVE straight division titles. 100 points in every season prior to the lock out and last year they were on 100 paint pace over an 82 game season. Yes you can fault him for falling apart in the playoffs, but he came within 1 game of winning a cup.

      The bottom line is that Vancouver has more talent across the board. Your narrative that torts is getting more out of them is false as AV was getting plenty out of them every year he was there. A team like vancouver needed a fresh voice after failing in the first round 2 years in a row, but the fact remains they have had a track record of success for years with their players and when AV was coach.

      The rangers team does not have as much talent and if anything I think torts squeezed the life out of guys like cally and girardi. Both those guys are shells of themselves and it is very alarming.

      The team could not hack it against the best last year and we are seeing the same trend this year. I think AV should be doing more to get the best out of his players, but at this point i do not think it is a coaching issue. It is a personnel issue that Sather has put together. I dont think scotty bowman could do much with this squad at this point.

      • AD says:

        When the mediocrity is so pervasive throughout the lineup, and their are so many players having off years, how can the coach not be part of the problem? Is it just bad luck? Really?

        Aren’t coaches supposed to make adjustments when things aren’t working? Many were imploring the naysayers to wait for the 20-game mark. We are close to the half-way point of the season now, and the club is still sorting things out? Is that really acceptable for a veteran NHL coach?

        Sather miscalculated badly with this team and inserted a coach who for the bulk of his career had elite level talent at his disposal. Again, I submit, AV was a poor selection FOR THIS TEAM. Maybe the Sharks; maybe the Ducks; or even Montreal. Blue-collar Rangers? Ugh, Houston, we have a problem.

        • Kevin says:

          16-17-1 through 34 this year
          15-16-3 through 34 last year

          definitely the coach’s fault

        • zubov says:

          I was responding to bloomer and you completely ignored the main parts of my argument. I think AV needs to make adjustments for sure, but torts never had injuries or drop in form of this many players at the same time.

          Callahan is constantly injured or not playing well when he does play. Staal is no where near the same defenseman he was. Girardi is no where near what he was. MDZ has no confidence. Falk is not good. Stralmen has fallen off. hank has fallen off. Hagelin is showing he is not as good as we thought. Stepan is not showing he is ready to become elite .

          AV definitely deserves blame for our inconsistent play and should do more to motivate guys, but on the flip side some of his best players are no where near what they were. And hank, who is the reason we had all the success in previous years, is not playing as well. If hank played like this at any point in the previous 5 years we would have been a bottom 10 team in the league.

          And i am just tired of everyone talking about how well vancouver is doing BECAUSE OF TORTS and ignoring the fact AV crushed it with vancouver every single year. At some point you have to look at personnel and last year we were a completely mediocre team as well. The only reason we made the playoffs is because the schedule became super easy at the end of the year.

          AD, we are NOT the blue-collar rangers anymore. The moment we traded for nash that ended. I dont understand why you guys keep thinking that is the squad we have. Torts tried to be blue collar rangers last year and a team that is truly blue-collar, BOSTON, completely embarrassed us in the playoffs at Torts’ own game. We tried to change the culture and right now we are stuck in limbo between people who yearn for the blue collar rangers and management who is trying to move away from it. Maybe AV was not the right coach for this squad, but i am on the boat that sather has just put together a bad team with guys we have overrated after the ECF run when the eastern conference was incredibly weak.

          Our personnel is just stuck and we have too many guys playing poorly.

  8. phil says:

    #MessierByMarch enoughsaid burn it down

  9. flatbush says:

    Nothing happening this year. Be lucky to make the playoffs and that will be the tease. Av is not going anywhere and to get the tools he needs will take time. Management decided to change its concepts by hiring AV yet they were not prepared with the personal to fit that style. This is rebuilding yet the PR is always about making the playoffs so it gets painted as we need a few pieces. Good luck!

  10. paulronty says:

    AV doesn’t have the players to play the system he wants? I don’t believe that for a minute. It’s just an excuse. He has lots of speedy, skilled forwards that could easily play an offensive style. The D has been the problem and that is Ulf S’s domain and so far he hasn’t been doing the job. The D is confused out there. As for The Genius he could never pick coaches. He finally got it right with Torts but Messier was the man he needed to hire for this group but he missed the boat again. He should retire to California because he;s just getting in the way.

    • phil says:

      #MessierByMarch #BurnItDown

      • Kevin says:

        yes, a former player with zero coaching experience is going to miraculously turn this team around because of stupid cliches and vice grip hold on past performances

        • Dave says:

          I think he was being sarcastic.

        • paulronty says:

          No coaching experience? Who do you think coached the Rangers during the Campbell fiasco years? Then we have all those “experienced” guys who get recycled over & over like Torts, AV, Hitchcock, Laviolette etc. etc.

        • Dave says:

          Apparently he wasn’t being sarcastic. My bad.

    • zubov says:

      Not sure hiring a rookie head coach with a mega ego solves much. As you highlighted, the defense is awful. Our d does not protect the puck, are very weak at moving the puck effectively and constantly make coverage errors. Some of that is coaching and some of that is strictly talent, which many guys lack.

    • Mark says:

      Perhaps Messier should be the GM with a very strong assistant GM alongside.If nothing else it will be a change and the GM has had about 14 years to make it work and has not. An BTW let McIlrath play and lets continue to get a little more grit. All of a sudden we will see the likes of Stepan and Hagelin picking up their game. Dorsett cannot do all of this alone (see Vancouver game).

  11. DamnDirtyApe says:

    AV needs time to make the changes required and injuries haven’t helped (Nash,Callahan and Hagelin missing the start of the season etc). You can’t change a playing style in 34 games – be patient. I do agree we are soft and get bullied – letting Prust go was a mistake but I understand the money issue there. Bring in an enforcer to help Dorsett .

    • Walt says:

      They have McIlrath, and really don’t want to play the kid. Look at the reaction of the team because he fought in the Calgary game, yet his reward was to ride the pine!!

  12. Dave says:

    “Remember, Vigneault was billed as the missing piece, not a man the team would have to be rebuilt around. To rebuild is to fail, to give up to many fans, and Sather can’t afford to do that.”

    Great point.

  13. bernmeister says:

    Trade guys expiring we can afford anyway.

    BUILD assets.