It took 82 games, 5 minutes and three attempts in a shoot-out for the BlueShirt season to end. But end it did with Henrik slamming his goalie stick in the corridor exiting the ice. If you were watching on TV you saw it just before they cut away. That is the lasting image I take away from this arduous season. It would have been the puck going through Henrik's pads for the shoot-out clincher that sent Philly to the play-offs, and us home. But they kept the camera on the team leaving the ice with Henrik leading the single file and caught Lundqvist in his moment of disgust and frustration. The second player behind him, Jokenen, also slammed his stick but is wasn't nearly as convincing as Henrik's slam down. As a matter of fact it looked as if he shank-ed the slam. There was a second attempt to correct and improve the stick-slam. He blew that one too, just as he didn't get off a good attempt in the shoot-out, and just kept heading towards the locker room as the telecast went to studio commentary and the Ranger's season faded to black.
You saw, you read it, I tried. I got behind them like a good fan of his team should. But with the season over without a playoff birth, it's time for an after season review and give out credit where it's due and criticize where it's warranted.
Ownership ~ Jim Dolan.
If Zeke (Isiah Thomas) didn't get embroiled in a sexual harassment suit, he'd probably still be running (ruining) the Knicks today. Dolan was befuddlingly loyal to Zeke. But that lawsuit, and Dolan's having to take the stand may have left a sour taste in Jim's mouth that he needed to act on. Glen Sather is the Rangers GM for nine years now. We didn't make the playoffs after 5 of those seasons, to include this one. Four times we made the playoffs, we reached the second round twice and lost, otherwise we didn't make it out the first round. Jim Dolan has shown unwavering loyalty for Sather, as he did with Zeke. Perhaps in Jim's view he may have already asked himself, "how do I replace a legendary Glen Sather?" At face value and based on past achievements, that's fair. But Jim Dolan seems more interested in playing in his band, than insuring his fan base is happy with the product. As long as we fill MSG, why worry? It's safe to say Jim Dolan is not a passionate sport fan. Is it? I may be assuming too much. This toy was given to him by his father, and it's different when you're emotionally invested and helped build something into your vision. The Knicks, Rangers and MSG were spun off from the parent company because for years the Dolans have been trying to make Cablevision a privately held company. Maybe they will no longer consider the teams a core asset and eventually sell the teams and MSG.
President of Operations and General Manager ~ Glen Sather.
Nine Years. No cup. Five years of no playoffs. Four years of playoff appearances. Two first round eliminations. Two second round eliminations. No stand-out star from the farm system in 9 years under Don Maloney and Gordie Clark running player development. Staal , Dubinsky and Callahan seem to be the best they've produced thus far. Signed players to horrible free agent contracts; Roszival, Redden, Gomez, Zherdev, etc. He does not speak to the media. He's allowed to operate with no accountability to the fans, season ticket holders, media or the like. He is still salary-cap challenged when many other GM's (i.e. Lou Lamoriello) have adjusted and managed it well. Jaromir Jagr and Gaborik represent the two highest end acquisitions on the offensive side. Henrik Lundqvist was procured during this administration also. Glen Sather has taken a band-aid, and fix it on the go approach as GM of this organization. In the last three years alone he's flipped the roster considerably at each season's end. That is not a plan.
Let's examine and isolate this season. Blair Betts and Colton Orr's services were not retained. The solution? Donald Brashiere, who was a complete not factor and total net zero contributor in the Rangers season. It wasn't till Sather acquired Shelley and Prust at the trade deadline that his gross oversight was addressed and corrected. By then it was too late. The middle part of the season was a horrific stretch for an out gunned, over matched, undersized cast of third line players, bar Gaborik.
The turn over rate for players in Blueshirts over the last 9 years is numbing already. If there indeed is a plan in place, I haven't been clued in yet, nor have I identified it yet. It exists in Glen Sather's mind only and if he doesn't have to talk to anybody about anything, then what are we left to think? If the imaginations and consternation's of Ranger fans run wild because of it, blame Sather the Silent.
Player Scouting and Development ~ Under Don Maloney and Gordie Clark
Even before these two gentlemen were put in place, my concerns about the draft and development philosophy already existed. It just so happens neither of these two gentlemen has done anything to change my opinion. Who was the last hulking defenseman this team drafted that made it? Who was the last big, bruising snarling forward this team has ever drafted and made it? Where at the very least is our next Nick Fotiu? We are still waiting. This team has always preferred to draft small, speedy smurphs at the forward position. This team has always drafted goalies well and we've never really had to go long without someone very competent in net; from J.D. to Beezer to Richter, to Lundqvist we've been OK in net. You can throw Montoya, our highly touted prospect in the mix too, just to be fair.
We've been through a lot of prospects and players coming through the system that are non factors today going back to the lockout. Moore, Hollweg, Ortmeyer, Tyutin, Prucca date back to then. Today we are banking on Dubinsky, Callahan, Staal and Girardi. It seems like Gordie Clark has improved the system from where Don Maloney built it up for his part. The reviews out of Hartford and his drafting have been positive. But talk to me when this team decides it time to draft big snarling skaters instead of the smaller more elusive European speed skater.
Head Coach ~ John Tortorella
OK he's crazy. We know that much. Crazy is as crazy does. Crazy got him a CUP. Crazy got another crazy coach a CUP once too; Mike Keenan. So we know you can be crazy but still win a Stanley Cup.
John Torts has a bunker mentality. He doesn't mind telling the media to stick it you know where and isn't interested in the ramifications. It got him in trouble before. He'll probably be in trouble because of it again. There's a definite bite that comes along with his bark when dealing with the media. But if you listen closely, and disregard the pompous jerk saying the words, he's not saying anything really outrageous and in the heat of the moment, such as after a bad game you're on the media carpet for....I just don't think the media has to have their every whim satisfied to their fancy. Torts just isn't hesitant to verbalize that notion.
But he does the darnedest things at the darnedest times. Benching Avery in last year's playoffs, his own actions during the playoffs that earned him a night of house arrest, pulling Henrik recently during the failed play-off push are three things that easily come to mind. He was constantly changing line combinations from game to game, period to period, and even shift to shift. More of that should fall on Sather, but Torts needed to define roles a little better. He was only working with what he had though. Henrik said it himself, and this is why you can't be too hard on Torts, - "when your forth line is your best line, you're in trouble." Spoken like a true King, Henrik. But a guy like Torts is hard to work for. He's a guy built for the short burst, the short series, the tourney, a Cup run. Over a long season, the longest of the Big Four, a guy like Torts can really wear on you and it's really easy to tune a guy like that out. Guys like Torts must find that fine line...a delicate balance between being hard but fair.
I'd be willing to go into next season with him as our Head Coach.
These are the most pressing matters facing the New York Rangers if you're asking me. The players are simply a game of who do you keep and you do you let go. We'll tackle that in the next installment of this Rangers analysis.