The NY Rangers sunk cost fallacy problem reared its ugly head again yesterday, with just a minor move waiving Johnny Brodzinski to make room for Julien Gauthier’s return to the lineup from injury. It’s minor, and it’s not something that usually makes headlines. However given the Rangers’ inability to make even the easiest decision, it blew up into something more. There is a general theme, and it’s that Gerard Gallant and Chris Drury are falling into the sunk cost fallacy trap with roster decisions. This Rangers sunk cost fallacy problem may currently be just minor decisions, but they represent a larger decision making failure at the tops of the organization.
The textbook definition of the sunk cost fallacy is “our tendency to continue with an endeavor we’ve invested money, effort, or time into—even if the current costs outweigh the benefits.” To put this in hockey terms, it’s continuing to push players, systems, coaches, and other decisions because you invested time and money, and not because of the results produced. For the Rangers, this applies specifically to roster players that provide extreme negative results.
Libor Hajek, whom Drury was involved with his acquisition, is the first and easiest example of this for the Rangers. The lynchpin of the doomed Ryan McDonagh trade, Hajek has played just 110 games with the Rangers over 5 seasons since his acquisition. He’s played in 16 games this season, which is close to his 17 games last season. He hasn’t been an “important” part of the Rangers since his 44 games in the 2020-2021 season.
At this point, most realize that Hajek, while sometimes providing a decent game here and there, is not an NHL player. Drury has refused to recognize this, and continues to keep him at the NHL level and not subject him to waivers. That decision nearly cost them Vitali Kravtsov last season. He continues to be rostered as the 7/8D, despite there being far better options at the same price level. Sunk cost fallacy and refusal to part ways from Hajek have certainly impacted the Rangers bottom defense pair.
The same mistake is being made with Sammy Blais, who again has ben objectively bad all season. Blais, the key part of the epic failure that was the Pavel Buchnevich trade, is being held onto for reasons that haven’t been communicated. Brodzinski was objectively better, and the easiest decision was to waive Blais. Instead, the Rangers are trying to salvage something out of Blais that simply isn’t there.
For the Rangers to be a true contender and a serious organization, moving on from bad decisions is a skill they need to learn. Steve Yzerman in Detroit has moved on from his mistakes multiple times this month alone. It’s why he is one of the best GMs in the league. He’s not infallible, but he recognizes mistakes and moves on.
Hajek and Blais are just two minor pieces for the Rangers, but they represent a larger decision making problem within the organization. The easy decisions are simply to move on from them, and benefiting from addition by subtraction. Instead, the Rangers continue to fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy with mind boggling decisions that do ripple through the lineup. The Rangers sunk cost fallacy problem starts at the top.