I hope you all enjoyed report card week. In case you missed any of them, be sure to check out the report cards for the goaltending, top six forwards, defense, bottom six forwards, and coaches. This will be the final report card for Glen Sather and the hockey operations staff.
It’s rather difficult to grade the GM and staff, as all they can do is put the team together. It’s up to the players to produce and the coaches to motivate the players to produce. The GM’s job is to retool from the prior season (their June-August work), and to identify holes midseason and address them via trade (in-season work).
The offseason began with the firing of John Tortorella, which came as a bit of a surprise, after a mediocre showing in the 2013 playoffs. The Rangers were dominated offensively, but managed to ride Henrik Lundqvist into the second round before being dispatched by the Bruins in five.
Slats went with Alain Vigneault, Torts’ polar opposite, to guide this team to a more offensive style of play. AV brought Scott Arniel and Ulf Samuelsson on board as his assistants to go with Jim Schoenfeld and Benoit Allaire. The team struggled out of the gate as they transitioned from Torts’ north-south game to AV’s east-west game. In January, the adjustments clicked, and the Rangers were one of the best team in the league. Suffice it to say, this move worked out.
As the offseason progressed, the Rangers made some minor moves to address depth (Kris Newbury for Danny Syrvet, Christian Thomas for Danny Kristo, Justin Falk for Benn Ferriero). Syrvet led the Wolf Pack in scoring, Kristo has turned into a highly touted prospect, and Falk served as the team’s seventh defenseman. Not bad for three depth moves.
Slats was –thankfully– very quiet in July, making just three signings: Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore, and Aaron Johnson. Pouliot and Moore were key contributors once the Rangers got rolling, and Johnson led the Hartford defense in scoring. Let’s call Pouliot and Moore big wins, as they addressed huge needs for tertiary scoring on a team that was goal starved in 2013.
Then came the regular season.
Even before Derek Dorsett went down with an injury, the Rangers were woefully vanilla. After he went down with his injury, there was a big lack physicality in the lineup. Instead of calling up Arron Asham, Slats decided to send a conditional 7th rounder to LA for Dan Carcillo. It was a low risk move that paid dividends for the Rangers, as Carcillo played pretty productive hockey relevant to his expectations. His playoff performances blew everyone’s mind too.
Quickly following the Carcillo trade, the Rangers addressed two holes with one trade, sending Michael Del Zotto to Nashville for Kevin Klein. Klein is no fancy stats darling, but he’s relatively steady defensively and plays with a much-needed edge to his game. Plus, he filled the huge hole of a right-handed shot on the third pairing.
Up next for Slats was the Dan Girardi extension. Six years for Girardi at a $5.5 million cap hit is steep, and the Rangers are probably going to have issues with that deal in a few years. But, it was a decision between Girardi and Ryan Callahan, and Girardi was more affordable. This brings us to…
The Martin St. Louis blockbuster. The Rangers needed top-six scoring, preferably from the right side, and they went out and got it. The price was high, sending Cally and what eventually became two first round picks for MSL and a conditional 2nd round pick. MSL wasn’t exactly great in the regular season, putting up 1-7-8 in 19 games. But they didn’t get him for the regular season. In the playoffs, MSL was the rallying point for the team and a clear leader. He put up 8-7-15 in 25 playoff games.
One other hole was a seventh defenseman, as Falk had fallen out of favor. So Slats sent a 2015 fifth rounder to Vancouver for Raphael Diaz. Diaz filled in nicely for John Moore during his suspension. He played just 15 games with the Rangers, but he filled his role nicely.
When grading a GM, you look at roster construction leading into the season, and filling holes identified to make a deep playoff run. Slats did all that this year. He’s had some dark spots during his tenure in New York, but this year was not one of them. Grade: A.