Is Sather learning?
Can old dogs learn new tricks? Everyone will agree that Glen Sather’s approach to the Lundqvist, Girardi and especially Callahan contract situations over the last year adversely impacted the Rangers this season. It almost certainly cost the Rangers their captain (even if Callahan’s demands were excessive).
News of Pouliot and the Rangers having a ‘mutual interest’ in extending the talented winger’s stay in New York may be premature to draw any conclusions from, but alternatively it may be a sign that the Rangers – Sather in particular – may be learning from the trials and tribulations of the past twelve months.
The Rangers have a few major contract situations creeping up on them that could really impact the competitiveness of their roster, long term. The major contract situation is of course Marc Staal’s, who is close to being back to his best and who gives the Rangers an elite defenseman on their second pair – a rare luxury in a cap driven league. With Staal’s situation likely to be a complicated one, getting the contract situations of the likes of Pouliot, Mats Zuccarello and other core roster players resolved early will allow the Rangers to know exactly what they can or can’t afford with regard to Staal.
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The good ol’ days
For those of you who missed it, we kicked off our annual mid-season grades this week with a review of Alain Vigneault, and have since followed that up with player grades for our defense, bottom six forwards, etc. Today, we’re going to grade the man who oversees it all — Glen Sather.
For the purpose of this post, we’ll need to look back at 2013 in its entirety because we’re experiencing the ripple effects of Sather’s earlier decisions now. And of course, there’s nothing to grade him on from October through December, or what we’d normally evaluate for ‘mid-season’ grades.
If you look back at 2013, there’s essentially four major decisions that standout which have had a cause and effect on our current place in the standings.
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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. Read more »
Del Zotto has fallen on hard times in New York
For anyone that watches NHL Tonight, this week you’ll have seen Darren Dreger discuss the Rangers apparently having had contact with ‘five or six teams’ interested in acquiring Michael Del Zotto. The moment Del Zotto’s regression offensively caught up with Alain Vigneault’s lack of trust in his defensive game, this kind of rumour always surfaces. For those of you not in the know regarding Dreger, he’s not the kind of guy who recklessly gossips so there are legs to this story.
The Rangers should definitely explore trading Del Zotto. The Rangers need help offensively and/or they need more physicality on the blue line. Trading Del Zotto could help the Rangers tend to one of their needs as despite Del Zotto not having a good season so far, his previous offensive production, his relative youth, his affordable contract situation and his draft pedigree all combine to make him a very moveable asset.
Whether the Rangers decide to move Del Zotto will likely depend on the return, but if they are to move Del Zotto the time is now. The modern day NHL requires asset management and right now Del Zotto is a declining asset. With his recent trips to the press box and with just four points on the season, Del Zotto appears to be regressing. His importance to the Rangers has also diminished as John Moore slowly but steadily develops. Include Ryan McDonagh’s offensive progression, and he could become a Norris-worthy defensman. In short, Del Zotto’s time in New York could be running out.
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AV would not have anticipated this start. At All. (Andy Clark/Reuters)
Instantly discount the idea of Alain Vigneault being in danger. The Rangers Head Coach isn’t going anywhere. Not unless the underperforming New York Rangers go on an almost season long losing streak and even then, six months into a five year deal, a change in leadership would be an extreme measure. So with the assumption that the coaching staff are secure in their jobs, changes need to be made elsewhere.
Almost every single Ranger is playing horribly. While the Rangers improved against the Flyers, they still lost to a team that was 1-7 and arguably in a bigger mess than themselves. Not a single defenseman has lived up to their billing or contract. The offense – save for Brad Richards – has been invisible. At this stage, while still early, the Rangers will need to begin to think about the season as a whole.
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Sather always does things on his terms
Remember when Ales Hemsky was considered an elite prospect? Remember the last time the Edmonton Oilers were considered a well run franchise? The answer to both questions is probably a long time ago. Despite multiple lottery draft picks the Oilers have been ‘on the cusp’ of being a playoff team for too long (although this year may finally be the year they reach the post season).
How does the Oilers’ underperforming relate to the Rangers? Glen Sather has once again shown how a consistent strategy and sensible planning goes hand in hand with a successful franchise. With the announcement of Derek Stepan’s new deal – two years for $6.15m – the Rangers made a mockery of clubs such as the Oilers who appear in a constant rush to sign players to excessive deals before they’ve actually earned them.
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Money or success?
We knew this time was coming. Rangers’ fans knew that as the team’s window of contention began to open so would the period come where multiple essential Rangers would approach contract negotiation time. It leaves the Rangers in a sort of crossroads over the next twelve months.
With Derek Stepan still unsigned, Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan all approaching free agency, the absolute core of this team – Rick Nash aside – is in need of new deals. Whether the Rangers can afford to pay the going rate for all these players is questionable. Brad Richards’ uncertain future, the impending free agency of Anton Stralman, and a potential career year –in a contract year– for Derick Brassard also play roles in the questionable financial future for the Rangers.
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Whether Christian Thomas makes it as a Montreal Canadien is of little concern to Rangers fans, although his smallish frame should fit right in with the Canadian club. Ranger fans, however, should be excited at the prospect of Glen Sather once again acquiring a potential NHL regular from Montreal. In Danny Kristo, the Rangers have acquired a player who has dominated at the college level and who appears to be joining the club at the right time.
With Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin injured, there is a position in the top six up for grabs to begin the year. While there are a few options with NHL experience ahead of Kristo (Zuccarello, Kreider, Pouliot come to mind), none of the options have a top six spot nailed on by any means, and all of the options mentioned can play elsewhere in the line-up. If Kristo has a strong training camp he could easily earn himself a look.
Kristo is a man who has earned accolades. In April, College Hockey named Kristo their player of the year and with 26 goals and 52 points for North Dakota it was an award much deserved. He was a Hobey Baker finalist, WCHA rookie of the year in 2010 and this season – to go with his Hobey nomination and CHN win – he was an all WCHA first team player.
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This July 5th, was perhaps the most stupid free agency opening in living memory. When a player scratched in the Cup Final (Victor Stalberg) can turn his level of ‘performance’ into a four year deal you have to wonder. When Andrew journeyman Ference can – at 34 no less – turn his bottom pair duties for Boston into four years 12+ million you continue to wonder.
When Ryane Clowe – for all his obvious talent – can turn an injury, concussion plagued season and 3 goal production into a five year deal with a significant pay rise you know the last of the sane general managers have lost their marbles.
There were countless deals this Friday that left heads scratching, that made a mockery of the lockout (once again) and left teams who managed somehow to exercise caution in a good position. Maybe it was just that the Rangers couldn’t spend this summer what others could but the Rangers figure to benefit from all this madness.
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Sather spent wisely. (Photo credit: Jim McIsaac)
It is definitely a concern that the Rangers’ association with the sad sack Blue Jackets has grown stronger this week. Putting that aside however and Glen Sather was right to exercise caution in a free agency period that may have been the most idiotic ever. The Rangers went out and added depth. They went out and acquired players who will not excite anyone but in Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore in particular, they brought in two players that should help the team down the road.
On a day when players who had just finished abysmal seasons managed to have their agents get them four year deals or significant pay rises based almost solely on availability Glen Sather spent minimally. Benoit Pouliot – whose 2012-13 season would have pro-rated to close to 50 points – got 1.3m while Moore got one million and Aaron Johnson got close to the league minimum. There should be no complaints over the money doled out.
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