Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The real problem with Rangers? GM Glen Sather
In the NHL -- the land of the disposable coach -- when teams struggle, the ax must fall.
That's why there has been some speculation about the immediate future of Rangers coach Tom Renney.
Now, I'm not ready to confuse Renney with Scotty Bowman, but I think Renney has actually overachieved with this roster. That's right: I think Renney's 29-20-5 record is pretty good when you consider his team.
Renney doesn't have a No.1 center or a No. 1 defenseman. He doesn't have a reliable scorer on the wing. And his most dependable defender is just a sophomore. No, the 2008-09 Rangers aren't exactly an All-Star group.
Of course, Renney isn't without fault. I haven't always agreed with his lineup decisions or in-game moves, and he's got to find a way to make that power-play unit at least a little better.
Still, Renney shouldn't be the fall guy.
The real problem is Renney's boss, Rangers president and GM Glen Sather. If anyone is going to get canned, it should be Sather.
Since arriving in New York in 2000, Sather has directed the Rangers to exactly two playoff series victories.
Worst than that, Sather's managerial decisions have left the Rangers with limited salary flexibility going forward. To me, that means they're on a treadmill to nowhere. They won't bottom out, but they won't be legit Cup contenders, either. In this league, that's probably the worst place to be.
There are three contracts, in particular, that are very problematic for the club's future.
Centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury are valuable players who have been key players on championship teams. Neither guy, however, is a No. 1 center who can carry an attack. Thus, in a salary-cap league, you can't pay them in excess of $7 million each. Those contracts make them virtually untradeable. Gomez's deal runs through the 2013-14 season, while Drury's contract will expire at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.
Then there's Wade Redden.
This past summer, Sather signed off on a deal to pay the declining 31-year-old defenseman $39 million over six years. That's $6.5 million against the cap each season through the 2013-14 season!
Anyone paying attention knew Redden hadn't adapted well to the faster post-lockout NHL. That doesn't make him a bad guy, but it should tell you he isn't worth such a monster commitment. In another situation, for a lot less money and term, Redden might have value. There is no value in this deal. As one GM mentioned to me, he didn't need to get a no-trade clause; the contract itself makes it a no-trade. What was the logic for such a deal? I have no idea. Maybe they wanted someone named Wade.
In total, that's nearly $21 million in cap space devoted to three players who aren't slotted properly within the team. You don't have to be Ken Holland to figure out that isn't good.
To make matters worse, under Sather, the Rangers have blown some key draft picks.
In 2003, for example, the Rangers used the 12th overall choice to select Dartmouth College forward Hugh Jessiman. In doing so, they passed on Dustin Brown (13th), Brent Seabrook (14th), Zach Parise (17th), Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Brent Burns (20th), Ryan Kesler (23rd), Mike Richards (24th), Loui Eriksson (33rd), Patrice Bergeron (45th) and Shea Weber (49th), among others in an ultra-talented draft class.
Do you think any of those players might help the current Rangers?
Jessiman? He never developed, and the club sent him to the Predators' organization in a minor deal last October. He remains the only first-round pick from the 2003 draft not to play a single game in the NHL.
In 2004, with two first-round picks, the Rangers selected goalie Al Montoya (sixth) and forward Lauri Korpikoski (19th). They passed twice on future star defenseman Mike Green, who remained on the table until the Caps tabbed him with the 29th pick.
Now, the NHL draft isn't a perfect science, and hindsight is 20-20. The Rangers have made some smart picks. In 2005, they wisely moved up to No. 12 to grab defenseman Marc Staal. Still, too often they've missed big. Those kinds of misses can haunt an organization for years.
Rangers owner Jim Dolan has long had some sort of man-crush on Sather. So Slats likely isn't going anywhere. In the current economic environment, his job security is rare.
Once upon a time in the 1980s, Sather earned that kind of security. He did a masterful job coaching and managing the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers to five titles in seven seasons (he was the coach for four of those championships). I believe Sather still has an eye for the game. I do wonder if he has the drive for a job that has changed over the years.
These days, the GM gig is a 24-hour-a-day deal. It you're not on top of it, it's on top of you. And believe me, there are a lot of managers around the league who are under it. At this point, I think Sather would be a valuable advisor for a younger manager. He could be helpful and make his own hours.
For now, though, Sather remains the club's president and general manager. He's the guy making the decisions. If he's thinking of canning his coach, he should take a quick peek in the mirror. That's where he'll find the real problem.