Rangers final grades: Goaltending and management

Goaltending this season was a huge factor in both the Rangers regular season and postseason success.  The tandem of Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron finished third in the league in goals against during the regular season, behind only the notoriously stingy St. Louis Blues and LA Kings.

In addition to the goalie report cards, I’m also going to break down management.  John Tortorella, Mike Sullivan and Glen Sather have their fingerprints all over this team, so we’ll also take a look at how they performed this season.  Let’s get to it…

Henrik Lundqvist

  • Honestly, at this point, what is there to say about The King that hasn’t already been said?  The presumptive Vezina winner and Hart nominee had an absolutely dominant regular season and a Stanley Cup worthy post-season.  His biggest problem was that the Rangers couldn’t score.
  • Although Hank has always been in the conversation of the league’s elite netminders, this season he cemented himself firmly at the top, along with Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne.  I’ll entertain arguments for any of those guys as the top tender, but for my money, no one can dethrone The King right now.
  • With a final line of: 39 wins, 1.97 GAA and .930 SV (top 3 in the NHL in each), Lundqvist was the backbone of the Blueshirts yet again.
  • Mid-season grade: A+/Full season grade: A/Playoffs: A

Martin Biron

  • Martin Biron has turned out to be one of Glen Sather’s shrewdest signings.  He was signed to a 2-year deal right out of the chute in free agency two seasons ago and has been everything we could have expected of him.  With the exception of the broken collarbone incident last season, Biron has provided the Rangers with consistent production and limited drop of from the number 1 to number 2 tenders.
  • Biron’s final line: 12 wins, 2.46 GAA and .904 SV% are nothing to write home about, but are solid production for a back-up.  His numbers would have been far better if it wasn’t for a putrid stretch of games in January, followed by hit or miss performances in his last 4 starts.  The biggest intangible Biron brought was the 20 games that the Rangers were able to rest Lundqvist, which no doubt coincided with his tremendous run in the playoffs.  After the carousel of sub-par backup goalies during Lundqvist’s tenure, it was a wonderful thing having a number 2 who the team trusted and played well in front of.
  • Mid-season grade: A/Full season grade: B+/Playoffs: INC

Overall, the goaltending was a major strength for the Rangers and should be going forward.  Now let’s get to the management.

John Tortorella

  • Despite his media persona, Torts had a tremendous year.  When he arrived in NY, he evaluated the personnel at his disposal and made the decision that this group needed to block shots, play disciplined and forecheck ferociously to be successful.  After a rocky start on the European leg to start the season, the team began to find their rhythm.  He gave Carl Hagelin a prominent role and the team began to climb from there.
  • A lot of people will give Torts a hard time for the constant line-juggling and the “offensively stifling” system he has put in place, but for anyone who watched 24/7 on HBO got a first hand-look at what a prepared and intelligent coach Torts is.  He understands the importance of match-ups and how to squeeze the most out of a roster with limited offensive upside.
  • Torts is a deserving finalist for the Jack Adams trophy, and while I think Ken Hitchcock will ultimately take home the hardware, Torts had a tremendous season that will be a favorite of mine for a long time (or until we win The Cup next season)
  • Mid-season grade: A-/Full season grade: A/Playoffs: A

Mike Sullivan

  • Unfortunately, the role of the assistant coach is one that takes on many different permutations.  Usually, they will run the special teams or defensive unit, and take on various administrative duties for the head coach.  Since there is no outright disclosure of exactly what Sully is responsible for in the context of the team, it’s almost like grading blind.
  • Sully has had success as both a head coach and an assistant and is apparently in demand for the Calgary Flames vacancy, so someone must see something they like in him.  He represents a young, progressive coaching style, which may not be apparent in his limited role under Tortorella.
  • Since, really, the only tangible gauge of Sully’s performance we have is the powerplay, which was obviously disappointing, its very tough to accurately assess his performance.  I’m not going to give him a letter grade specifically, but the power play could definitely use some work, even though he didn’t really have the best personnel for it.  He could be on his way out to greener pastures this offseason, so his presence may end up being felt more after his departure, depending on who is hired in his place.

Glen Sather

  • Slats had a very interesting, very un-Sather like season.  He was back in familiar territory last July, throwing bags of money at Brad Richards, but the rest of this season was relatively low-key.  Most of his moves were prompted by injuries depleting the depth along the blue line.  Anton Stralman was a scrap heap signing that worked out marvelously.  Jeff Woywitka was shrewd waiver claim that helped keep the ship afloat until Marc Staal returned from injury.
  • The trade deadline is another animal entirely from any of his other moves this season and has been a divisive topic amongst Ranger fans.  On one hand, he was only able to bring in John Scott at the deadline to bolter the teams first legit run in years. (In Sather’s defense, with the injury to Michael Sauer, I can see Sather’s line of thinking with this trade.  Versatility and toughness could have ended up playing a role this year, although it didn’t help that Scott just wasn’t very good.)
  • On the other hand, Slats showed some restraint in the Rick Nash negotiations.  I was a big time proponent of landing the big power forward, but I will give Sather credit for not bending to Scott Howson’s outrageous demands.
  • Sather has made great strides in restoring his reputation with the fan base the last few seasons.  After several years of going absolutely looney-tunes with Jim Dolan’s money on old, expensive free agents, he has moved toward a drafting and development model.  His real test comes in the coming seasons when it comes to supplementing a quality core and the choices to retain or move some of the organizations young talent as they move up the pay scale.
  • Oh, and he managed to get Chris Kreider under contract for the playoffs (a move I was against for the record, but it worked out better than any of us could have imagined.)
  • Mid-season grade: N/A/Full season grade: B+/Playoffs: A

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  • For all the would be GM’s that were calling for the signing of free agent Marek Hrivik during the early round of the play-offs, be advised that Sather heard you guys, and signed him today!

    Let’s see how this kid works out. He stands some 6’2″, and is 195 lbs, with soft hands, comes from Slovakia. Maybe Gabby can mentor this kid, and he turns out to be decent, time will tell!!!!

  • Where is my post? How can the site be busy with 1 comment? I hope you blog meisters are not working on an MSG fellowship!

  • BTW,by saying that Sather “had a very unSather like season”,you esentially make the point my unposted blog made. This 20 year failure and waster of millions. This least repected GM in the NHL stealing his 5mm. per. This failure who would have been dismissed years ago if the organization were not led by one of the worst owners(chidren) in professional sports. Is expected to do dumb,costly things,therefore it’s surprise when he doesn’t? Emotionally as a fan it brings tears. Intellectually as a fan,gales of laughter! One cup in 72 years and everybody keeps their jobs,and some even say nice things about them! What a great country!

  • Justin,do you actually know what the Rangers best offer was for Nash or what Howson’s “outrageous demands were? It would follow that unless you know that,you can’t make a judgement as to whether he was overpaying,yes?BTW,”binging in Scott had nothing to do mwith Sauer’s injury. It had to do with the Rangers generally being mauled as was noted by Sather, “by teams who want to intimidate us”! It also had to do with the fact that neither Rupp or Bickel could fight their way out of a paper bag ,and Prust was likely to wind up in the hospital fighting the likes of Lucic! Finally,if Woywitka was such a “shrewd pickup” why would they have needed Scott,since everyone seems to think he’s a bouncer and not a hockey player? Because the Rangers are smallish roster and can be intimidated and our illustrious GM knew he needed a deterrent. See Shelley,Brashear and Boogaard! Your call was the correct one on Richards and Stralman.”Blind squirrel”!

    • A couple things. With regard to Howson’s demands for Nash, I am basing it off of reports from historically reputable sources. Obviously, since I don’t work in the Rangers front office, I can’t with any real certainty tell you exactly what was demanded. I am basing the analysis off generally accepted accounts from within the industry. The word from NHL Network, The TSN writers and others was Dubi/Kreider/Thomas/McIlrath and a 1st. Which is outrageous. If it comes to light further down the road what the actual package requested was, I will adjust my analysis.

      With regard to Woywitka, for a signing to be shrewd it doesn’t mean it must bring a cornerstone piece in. At the time of the claim, the Rangers were very thin on defensive depth. The cost (nothing) was far outweighed by the return (a serviceable d-man) until our depth was restored. He could have been cut loose as soon as Staal returned and it still would have been a smart move.

      You’re argument for why Scott was brought in doesn’t in any way invalidate mine. You say he was brought in for an apparent lack of toughness, but that was a major part of Sauer’s game. Dave on many occasions has spoken of Sauer’s crease clearing prowess and I’m sure that was part of the thought process on Sather’s part. The fact that he could fake forward offered versatility that usually proves useful. It didn’t work out, but the cost was low.

  • Comnsnse, you seem like a pretty intelligent person, but your animosity toward the current composition of the front office undermines your credibility. Firstly, the “one cup in 72 years” statement is wholly irrelevant when it comes to evaluating Glen Sather’s tenure. Sather has only been at the helm for 12 seasons, and we should constrain the analysis to this time frame.

    In Sather’s defense, when he came on board here, he inherited a disintegrating core from the 1994 team, and a relatively bare prospect cupboard. In the pre-salary cap world and within the context of NYC expectations, he followed the Yankee paradigm: throw money at the problem. He was admittedly unsuccessful in this attempt, with too many examples to name *cough Bobby Holik *cough. Upon transition to the salary cap NHL, Sather was able to adjust to a drafting and developing model, even with the luxury of burying his FA failures in the AHL.

    I’m not trying to disparage your opinion of Sather’s abilities as a GM, you’re obviously entitled to that view, but when you argue his incompetence, make sure you back it up with something substantial. He has a very weak free agent record, with again, too many examples to cite, even post-lockout. One of his strengths has his trading acumen, and I don’t really think that’s up for debate. He has been able to off-load the majority of his signing blunders and been able to add young talent through this avenue.

    Gordie Clark has done a fantastic job with the scouting department, especially considering where the Rangers draft each year. While it is true that Sather has occupied his position much longer than most GM’s would (especially in a city as historically impatient as NY), that doesn’t change the fact that he has made the necessary adjustments to the salary cap NHL.

    If Slats had been fired in 2006, your view point would be completely justified, and I don’t expect the current direction of the organization to change your opinion of him, but let’s be fair in the assessment. I might not be able to change your mind, but unless you focus your arguments to persuasive facts, you won’t change anyone else’s mind, either.

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