The Sad, Pathetic Existence of the NY Rangers and the Cause of It

The Glen Sather Aura

Glen 'Slats' Sather and that stupid cigar

In the year 2000, Glen Sather arrived from Edmonton with fanfare set aside only for such comparable events as royal weddings, the Kennedy Center Honors or a championship parade down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City. The expectation was more than just that the NY Rangers would be on top of the NHL where they belonged. Glen 'Slats' Sather, the maker of the Edmonton dynasty, was supposed to not only propel the franchise to a much higher plateau than even Charles Dolan ever thought possible, but also bring with him a master plan that would ensure a healthy farm team and NHL team for years to come. And this decree was brought to us by the king of the Garden. Yes, Charles Dolan, the hockey whiz-kid who couldn't bother interviewing anyone else for the position despite Sather's recent years of failure in Edmonton, to bring Rangers back to respectability was aglow. He had his man.

Under Neil Smith, the Rangers had failed to make the post-season for three straight years following a tremendous stretch that started with his hiring in 1989 and climaxed in 1994, winning that elusive Stanley Cup. But this 1999 team had essentially quit with a disastrous home and home series against the Detroit Red Wings. So, perhaps it was time for a change. Smith was out and Sather was in.

Now for Glen Sather, this period had not been particularly fertile for him either. Since trading Mark Messier to the NY Rangers back in 1991, the Edmonton Oilers had lost most of their core players either through trade or free agency. He hadn't re-built and the Oilers dynasty of the mid to late 1980s had moved on.

In the final years of unlimited spending before the Salary Cap was instituted by Gary Bettman, the NY Rangers led the NHL with bloated contracts and ridiculous salaries for players - who were usually well beyond their prime. Neil Smith was willing to take these risks because of the name recognition in New York City and the aura of Madison Square Garden. Like any gambler, sometimes he'd win and sometimes he'd lose. He gambled on bringing in 30-year-old Mark Messier and role players like Adam Graves and won. He won big. He'd also gamble and bring in Mike Keane, Bruce Driver or Brian Skrudland and he'd lose. But gamblers always prefer to discuss what they won, not what they lost. And Neil Smith had won the Stanley Cup. That victory bought him a lot of rope to hang himself with somewhere down the road and he eventually did just that.

"If I had their payroll, my team would NEVER lose." - Glen 'Slats' Sather.

When Sather and his horse rode in from the Edmonton area, he decried everything that the Rangers were. Their farm team was in shambles, the players were spoiled, etc. He was going to leave his print on the organization. He was a combination of tough guy father, reflective warrior and arrogant wind-bag who also acted like a bully to those he either didn't want around (see John MacLean) or simply didn't want to play and let go because they weren't his guys (see Mathieu Schnedier).

He vowed that those who didn't play by his rules would be traded, demoted to the minors or put on waivers. This was his club now. He had the history, the legacy, the reputation and the backing of the Garden owner to do literally anything he wanted to do, hire anyone he wanted and play any way he wanted to play. Too bad he didn't win. In fact, the Rangers went another four years without making the playoffs. Imagine, George Steinbrenner were the owner of the NY Rangers and Glen Sather went four years without a playoff taste. Would he have lasted? Of course not. Never mind making it for four years. He'd have never made two.

Glen Sather brought in failed Edmonton coach Ron Low and fired him after two years. Then he brought in Bryan Trottier of all people and he didn't last half a season. He even put himself behind the bench, but to no avail. Where he was successful, was spending Garden money. He signed Chris Drury and Scott Gomez on the same day for ridiculous money. Of course there was Bobby Holik. There was that trade that brought a damaged Eric Lindros in with five career concussions. He didn't leave with a Cup ring, but he did leave with three more concussions. Then, he traded NY Rangers icon Brian Leetch for essentially a pack of stale smokes, warm beer and used stick tape. He held up paying role players like Jed Ortmeyer and Darius Kasparitis for reasons still unknown to me. He treated Manny Malhotra like he wasn't good enough for the Rangers. But after trading him, he was good enough to enjoy a lengthy and successful career until a puck to his eye limited him and eventually led to his retirement. The John MacLean saga is enough to fill a book all on its own.

Finally, five years after he started in New York, Glen Sather saw a playoff series with Tom Renny coaching. They didn't get far, but it was a start. They made the playoffs the following four years though never getting past the semi-final round and then failed to qualify again in the 2009-2010 season. Six non-playoff years out of ten. And no word from Mr. Dolan. 

Now, to be fair in the time between 2005-2010, they drafted who would become the greatest goaltender in the history of the franchise, which has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because FINALLY, the Rangers had a drafted and home-grown player to cheer for and support. Henrik Lundqvist is as beloved a sports figure as there currently is in New York. A player whose #30 will one day be hung in the Garden rafters alongside the other greats. But a curse, because a lot of their playoff success was predicated on how many ways Henrik Lundqvist could stand on his head to give the rest of the Rangers a shot at success. He successfully masked the team's deficiencies both on the ice and in Sather's office. He was and remains, often, a one man show. 

Eventually, the Rangers parted ways with Tom Renny and brought in controversial coach and modern-day Mike Keenan-type, John Tortorella. 'Torts' was fiery, hard-lined, abrasive and most importantly, had coached Tampa Bay to their only Stanley Cup in 2004. So on the tenth anniversary of Sather's employ in New York, he actually hired a coach who had won a Cup and could speak from Cup winning experience. Nicely done!

The drafting from about 2005 was to be fair.......fair. Names like Staal, Hagelin, Kreider and Del Zotto are common names. But Glen Sather's more head scratching moment came in the 2010 draft. Believing he needed muscle and a tough, nasty player on defense (which he did), he decided that it was worth passing up names such as Taransenko and Cam Fowler to get into what essentially became a disaster draft of such proportions, that fans still cringe and seethe at his name. Glen Sather essentially made a player with Dale Purinton's talent a #1 draft pick.  Since then, Sather drafts have been a largely hit or miss proposition. JT Miller (2010) and Brady Skjei (2012) are two success stories. You can find the rest.

So, after a turbulent but nearly successful four year run as Rangers Coach, John Tortorella was let go. In his infinite wisdom, 'Slats' Sather decided to talk to one person who has won absolutely nothing in the NHL. 'AV' himself, Alain Vigneault. Rather than going outside the box and bringing in Mark Messier or someone who would command immediate respect, he brings in another 'Zen' type coach. In the thinking of Dolan and Sather, second place has become not just acceptable, but predictable and accepted. In fairness, throughout these nearly 20 years, there has been the occasional good trade. Trading Scott Gomez for several players including future captain Ryan McDonough was a steal as was acquiring Sean Avery. The first time! Making the Stanley Cup Finals was as improbable as anything, but must be counted as an accomplishment (more for the goalie than anyone).

So, while all of this is time-consuming to read, it is nearly impossible to go through nearly 20 years of a record that is literally abysmal. I've left out much more than I've put in. Yet, there has NEVER been any word of firing Sather in the New York or hockey media at large. With Jeff Gorton being put in the GM position and Sather somehow being promoted to team President, is it plausible to anyone that he is not still running things? The team is as lethargic as it's always been. There is no cohesive plan. No passion. No hope for a Cup this year or any year in the foreseeable future. And God forbid you expect 60 minutes of hard hockey. Only Glen Sather can draw people to a "Fire Sather" rally outside of the Garden and only Charles Dolan can get away with not ever making any public comments on the failure of this franchise, because what does he care? So long as the building is filled..........

It should be noted that until Harry Sinden was sent packing from the Boston Bruins did the Bruins have the freedom to build a championship team. The architect of that team was Jeff Gorton. Here, he has to still cater to the whims of Glen Sather and his stinking cloud of cigar smoke which has obviously clouded his judgement.

Whatever talent Glen Sather had in Edmonton retired along with the players he had drafted nearly 40 years ago. Yet, he has held onto his reputation because there has been no one willing to call him out on what he has been in New York. And that is an abject, complete indisputable failure. On every level. Trades, drafts and free agency. They are no closer to winning a Stanley Cup than when he arrived nearly 20 years ago. They have a world-class goaltender who was never given a team to support him in winning the elusive prize. Yet, during his tenure withe Rangers, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Anaheim, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston and countless others have figured out how to do it. Some, more than once. He's given first round picks away like candy on Halloween for over-the-hill has-been's and insane amounts of money for veterans as far away from their prime as he is. There are many players who have left New York to win Cups with other clubs. Rozsival, Hagelin, Richards & Gaborik, just to name a few, because those other clubs knew how to harness their talent of that day. Not their talent of 10-12 years prior. Or the unreasonable expectations that large money contracts demand. Sather has made himself rich by insulting anyone who actually has to produce results for a living. He's gotten a free pass in doing nothing consistent or tangible.  Herb Brooks once said that, "The name on the front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the name on the back of it." Glen Sather has never gotten that message. For if he really cared about this franchise, he'd retire to Palm Springs, play golf, enjoy his unearned millions and walk away from the franchise that gave him everything but who he has given absolutely nothing. Couldn't win without a cap, couldn't win with one. It is said only half-joking that you could have taken a knowledgeable fan or maybe two, give them all of the power, influence and money that comes with Madison Square Garden and you could have come out with a similar overall record than Sather has.

Sather does deserve credit for one thing, though. Only Sather could have been lucky enough to find a boss as dull, uninterested and clueless as Charles Dolan. Dolan is the worst example of a "trust fund baby" and sports owner boss. A man with such little knowledge of the franchise he owns that I'd be willing to bet that he couldn't name the entire roster on his payroll. Sadly, his incompetence isn't limited to the Rangers. Apparently, the Knicks are no better. And does anyone remember "Nobody Beats the Wiz?" 

Larry Brooks won't say it, nor will the writers of any major NY Sports page. Maybe they fear losing their passes. I wouldn't know. Nowadays, I live in North Carolina, so I'll say it. As a NY Rangers fan since 1979, I am embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated and tired of the product of misfit, lack of effort, heartless crap they try and pass as a team. With the exception of a couple to maybe four players currently, this team doesn't deserve a playoff spot, a finals appearance and certainly doesn't deserve a Cup. Nearly twenty years and seven head coaches later, eventually you have to stop looking at the ice or even behind the bench and look above it. This failure falls on one man and his name is Glen Sather. Look at successful franchises like Pittsburgh, Chicago and even Tampa Bay, then look at New York. Look at their organizations. They're demands for excellence. Their farm teams. How rookies are prepared when they arrive to the "big club." How they defend themselves and their teammates. The Rangers might play in the same league with those teams, but they aren't in the same league. And they won't be. That sad distinction began in earnest when Charles Dolan was given this franchise to run and cemented in 2000 when Glen Sather was hired to bury it. 

Steve Komito
Steve Komito

A New Jersey transplant now living outside of Charlotte, NC.  Just looking to add my 2 cents here and there when the mood and feelings strike.

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The Sad, Pathetic Existence of the NY Rangers and the Cause of It