State of the Rangers

Mid-season Report Card: Jeff Gorton


When I was in school I took a course pass fail. This turned out to be a good idea, because it was an incredibly demanding Latin American history course, and I was totally out of my depth, having just transferred from a fairly big state university where everything was large lectures to a small liberal arts school where classes were much more intimate, but I digress.

At the end of the semester I needed an extension on the final paper, and because of that I didn’t get the final word on whether I passed or failed when I was supposed to – I got an incomplete. If you can’t see where I’m going with this one already, just pretend that Jeff Gorton was me in Latin American History, and that his final evaluation is pending the completion of his work. That’s right, he’s getting an incomplete this semester.

There’s two ways you could really tackle this I think, and both lend themselves to this conclusion pretty well.

The first is that he hasn’t fired AV, he hasn’t called up Chytil or Andersson (the latter call up remains a possibility, according to the New York Post, although it would have to be after the end of Frolunda’s season I imagine) or one of the defensive prospects cooking over in Hartford, he hasn’t challenged AV to change up his system, he hasn’t forced AV to make the right lineup choices, etc etc. All of this is perfectly natural to think or feel, and I’d be willing to bet that most people are on board with at least one of those modifications.

To put it bluntly, Jeff Gorton simply hasn’t done the obvious, easy things he could do to turn this season around, but it’s still worth noting that these things are all a matter of personal preference. Maybe, on the other hand, you don’t think he should fire AV, you’d rather Chytil/Andersson/Pionk/whomever stay developing with their respective teams, you think the systems fine, and so on. This would be in contradiction with lots of available evidence, but reasonable people can always disagree and this is only sports after all, not a matter of life and death.

There’s another way though in which Jeff Gorton’s work remains unfinished, and it involves taking a step back and looking at the forest, not the trees. This summer, Gorton initiated what he termed a “rebuild on the fly” when he traded Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta for the 7th overall pick, with which he chose Lias Andersson, and Anthony DeAngelo. He took a calculated risk in choosing Filip Chytil, a young, high upside player who could make an impact if not this year then the next. He bought out Dan Girardi, signed Kevin Shattenkirk, and apparently made it clear that Marc Staal would be fighting for a spot in the lineup – nothing would be given out for free in this new iteration of the New York Rangers. It was the retool we had all been hoping for last season, and finally we got it. What’s the problem then?

Well, unfortunately, the rebuild on the fly, retool, reconfiguration, whatever you want to call it, did not rocket the Rangers back to legitimate contender status. This team remains a mess on a lot of levels, and at the heart of it is its lack of identity. What kind of game do they want to play? Do they see themselves as contenders? Are they going to sell at the deadline, especially given the expiring contracts of Grabner, Nash, and Nick Holden? A lot of people would prefer they do, but again, that’s a matter of preference. What’s not really a matter of opinion, something we can all likely agree upon, is the fact that this team simply doesn’t know what it’s doing from top to bottom. Someone has got to step in and make an executive decision about the direction of this team, and that someone is Jeff Gorton.

For that reason I’m giving him an incomplete. He needs to either finish what he started this summer and make some tough decisions, or push forward as the Rangers have made a habit of doing these past several seasons and go all in. Again, most of us probably prefer one of these paths to the other, but still, all a matter up for debate. What’s not really up for debate is this team’s utter lack of identity, the cold hard fact that the Rangers are heading towards mediocrity (whether you’re looking at the underlying stats or just the standings, it’s pretty clear what’s going on) and another year of Henrik Lundqvist’s waning career wasted.

No one wants to see that year wasted in vain – whether it’s by refocusing on next year or putting our best foot forward this year. Gorton needs to come out with a strong thesis, backed up by good supporting evidence, and turn that final paper in. We’ve all given him an extension long enough; the deadline is approaching, and somebody should get to work on that paper.


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  • I preface by saying that I am a fan of Gorton.

    BUT, he blew it big time on the center position after trading Stepan.

    #1 The team totally understated Stepan’s worth to the team thinking that he was easily replaceable and getting out from under his contract.

    #2 The assumed “back up plan” was to either trade for someone else or either Chytil or Andersson would fill a top 9 role. The trade market was inflated so no trade there and neither of the draft picks were ready to start the season. So fail and fail there.

    #3 Gorton was obsessed with re-signing Smith for a slight overpay at $4.35M per. I was ok with the signing, as long as the center position was addressed. It was not. So, I wold rather have kept Stepan and have one of DeAngelo, Pionk, or Graves filling Smith’s spot. The cap would have worked in this way. So having Zib, Stepan, Hayes, and DD as the centers along with McD, Shatty, Skjei, Staal, Holden, and Pionk or whomever wold have been better than what we have now. So once again, fail.

    This trade deadline will define the Rangers and Gorton as to direction of the team. I think they basically stand pat, maybe make a small depth move, and use Hartford call ups to fill in, to try and make the playoffs without selling younger, core assets.

    So I give Jeff, as much of a fan as I am of his, a big fat D as of right now.

    P.S. The Shatty signing was the 100% right move, but, you know, the coach.

    • Hi Richter,

      I’ll respectively disagree on a “D” for JG.

      I think his actions and maybe more importantly his inactions the rest of this year and into the draft will give us an idea of who JG is.

      So far I’m not at all real upset with his moves. The one bonehead move was E. Staal for one of our few real high end potential prospects.

      I’m not so sure he underestimated Stepan’s value, but he made the right move considering all factors. I think JG is smart enough to know this club (even with Step) is not a real contender. It’s my hope that he changes the culture and past ways of “quick fix past prime players” for picks and prospects.

      This is the year JG has the unique ability to not only put HIS stamp on this team, but set us up nicely going forward.

      • Hi Jerry,

        I hear yo my friend. But my main issue is that if you’re going to trade Stepan, which is fine under the right circumstances, you better have a back up plan because Desharnais was and is not the answer.

        You can argue back and forth whether Stepan should have been traded but he did account for a lot of points and defensive play. I guarantee you that the Rangers misjudged the trade market at the time. Even AV during the summer intimated that a deal for a center was coming. It didn’t and here we are.

        It is proven over and over that one of the ingredients to being a contender is strong center play. Anyone thinking that Zib, Hayes, DD, and whomever fits that description is crazy, including the Rangers if they thought so.

        This issue has had a major impact on the Rangers’ season because they don’t have the puck enough putting pressure on the D and goalie. Not good.

        • Richter

          Please, do you honestly believe that Stepan would have made a difference with this team, this year? I suspect not, the man is an overrated stiff. And I described him as jello in the past, now that’s funny to use the word stiff when talking about Daisy!

          • Walt, come on, you have to give Stepan his due. His pts per game and per 60 were all at the level of guys of Kopitar and Bergeron, centers that are considered elite or close to elite.

            The Rangers would be a much better team with him, yes.

    • Richter

      I think you over rate Stepan, what is he doing in the desert?????

      Like the two Jerry’s below, fan since 55, as a 9 year old, and want to see another cup before I die. We will never win with this lineup, or with players like Stepan who have zero heart, questionable speed, rocks for hands, and soft as jello.

      • You can’t go by Arizona. OEL is one of the best players in the league and his stats are awful. They’re a bad team.

        Name me 3 forwards on the Rangers who were a better player than Stepan.

          • Boo sucks, some of you have to accept that. He’s been invisible and I predicted that he would not be a viable NHL player.

            And after a few nice games, he’s proving me right. As opposed to Lettieri who you can see has talent and knows how to play the game.

          • And yet on a bad Arizona team, Stepan still is 8-18-26 which would put him a whole 1pt behind Miller and tied for 3rd on team, putting him on pace for yet another 50+ point season.

  • Moving Stephan was the right move. He is a very slow skater, never finished checks, not a goal scorer and a less than mediocre face off man. Absolutely not a 7 mm player. Losing him is not the reason the Rangers are not going to seriously challenge for the Cup. There is just too much mediocrity on this team. My clock ticks. I have been a Ranger fan since 1957 and I have one cup.

    • Wow, I’ve only been a fan since 1964 so you guys have it over me.

      I look at it this way. Even if the Rangers don’t win a Cup I consider it a successful season as long as the Islanders, Flyers (I used to live in the Philly area) and Caps (I now live in the DC area) keep extending their Cup-less streaks. I’d like to see each of them go past the 54-year mark that the Rangers had before 1994.

  • The Rangers are a good team just not a great team. To take the next step they need to add a few more pieces to the puzzle. They don’t have much capspace to work with. And have more work to do in restocking and developing their young talent pool. They need to look at the future.

    Trading Rick Nash at the deadline would give them some cap relief next season. They would likely get a prospect and draft pick in return. While he does play a very good 2 way game, he can be replaced with younger forwards already in the organization.

    Moving Grabs is a more difficult decision. He is the teams leading goal scorer and losing him would be felt immediately. I rather see New York keep him and try to resign him in the offseason.

    While Smith is playing somewhat better then the start of the season. His contract needs to come off the books to give the Rangers some cap flexibility. Like Nash I like to see him traded at the deadline and substituted for a younger dman with some upside.

    • Bloomer my friend, I believe Nash’s contract comes off the books whether we trade him, or not??????

      I agree with you on Grabs, but if we can get some terrific return, we should at least consider it.

      Smith came in out of shape, and entered the chateau bow wow as far as AV is concerned, and has never returned to form. I want to see him come PO time, only d-man that hits anything. If he can’t repeat the same level he played at last season, then you try to trade him.

      Overall, JG is doing a “B” job, and the day he rids us of this coach, that grade becomes an A+!!!!!

  • I guess the real question is “who is the real GM of the NY Rangers”? Is it Sather or Gorton? I am unfortunately suspecting it is Sather who (in my opinion) is just coasting…not putting in the hours given his age/health.

    It is a bad situation but i guess we just need to accept it and expect the same good but not great NYRs!

    No way Gorton is running things. AV does not play any of his young players. Why even bother acquiring these young assets? Every other damn NHL team can play 18/19/20 year old players but somehow our system is so complicated that you need to be a 35 year old veteran to decipher it.

  • Been a ranger fan since 1967. I think AV is a good coach but they all have shelf lives and his is set to expire with the Rangers. He had his chance…He is still a good coach, but not the right coach to take us to the next level, especially with the younger players we have in the system who could join the team soon. But I think the biggest issue with the Rangers is….surprise….King Henrik. No not his play of course, and especially this year-the Rangers have been caught in a catch 22 for years…they rely on him to a fault-Henrik has to be our best player, he is our backbone, he gives us a chance-yes he does..but the rest of the team has been relatively good but not good enough to contend/win the cup…sometimes that means taking one step back (ie ‘sacrificing a year’) to make some changes in order to take 2 steps forward the next year or 2…but as long as Henrik is who he is mgmt is always hopeful they will get into the playoffs, he will stand on his head and steal them a round or 2 maybe the cup-he cant do it by himself-but they don’t sacrifice trading the Nash’s, etc for young guys who are maybe a year or 2 away from turning them into real contenders..because that means sacrificing the playoffs one year, no revenue generation, etc,while the King is still on his throne….Even the Bostons, Montreals, Islanders who had great goalies-Smith, Cheevers, Roy, etc ..had a good defense and a few guys who are difference makers up front-we have neither-only why that happiness is to sacrifice short term. Not a knock on Henrik nor is it his fault-mgmt has not built around him the way they should-it means sacrificing short term which…they don’t want to do because…as long as Henrik…I said it before…a Catch 22 going back to the time of Torts (AV is probably a better coach but I miss Torts-more fun..passion.)

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