I am here, making a quick cameo, to do my best to shake up the status quo. For those of you with Dave Pucks, loving the moves by Sather, I have this to offer you.....FIRE GLEN SATHER! Has it been all bad THIS offseason? No. But like with most sather moves, there is something bad in everything he does. Signing Chris Drury? Great. Signing him to a contract that pays him like a top 5 scorer in the league? Awful. Signing Scott Gomez? Great. Signing him to the same Drury contract, despite him being a play maker, and giving him no finishers to play with rendering him ineffective and the contract atrocious? Horrible.
I can honestly look at the Rangers right now, as oppossed to last season and say this....in any ONE game, the current Rangers squad MIGHT prevail, but over a longer series, I have ZERO doubt, this team is WORSE.
To steal a quote from the NY Post today that I liked:
"But really, Kotalik is just another thread in this crazy-quilt team general manager Glen Sather and head coach John Tortorella are preparing to present as the 2009-10 Rangers. The rate of turnover and lack of continuity are staggering. It's a patchwork roster that resembles a third- or fourth-year expansion team with a franchise goaltender."
There are only two consistent things Rangers fans have come to rely on in a Sather offseason: 1) Sather will massively overpay for veteran players on the downside of their careers, 2) Massive turnover
Last season, I recall joking with loyal reader/follower Raymond about how the most tenured player on the Rangers, at just THREE YEARS, was Blair Betts (who of course, is now gone). The amount of turnover on this roster is STAGGERING. Most of the great hockey teams, the dynasties, were teams that played together for years and years, devloped chemistry, had consistent lines, knew each other's strength and weaknesses, and year in and year out, brought back 17 or so of the same guys, and had 3 role players turnover at the bottom of the roster.
Not this Rangers team. No. Every year we get rid of HALF the roster, if not more. This Kotalik signing (which all but guarantee's that Zherdev is now gone! more on that later), means that if Zherdev does leave, THIRTEEN MEMBERS of the team Tom Renney handed over to Torts back in February are now gone! THIRTEEN!
I don't care if we brought in the 6 most talented forwards in the league (which we didn't), does anyone out there remember the last decade??? Where every season (aside from last year's hot 10-1-2 start, but still, there was no offenseive continuity) the Rangers come very slow out of the gate, and either couldn't recover to make the playoffs, or needed to go on a magical run to make the playoffs, a run that would badly burn them out and leave them with nothing in the tank come playoff time. Every year it is the same thing. We watch 3 months of 2-1, and 3-2 losses, and after the game we hear, "Well, we are still trying to find the right line combinations" and "You gotta remember, these guys are playing together for the first time, so it will take some time to get to know how the other guy plays out there". Does anyone remember hearing that for pretty much the first 40-50 games of every season?!?! Of course, the real insult to injury is that once these guys do get somewhat comfortable together: a) they discover that they are a pretty flawed team, and their offensive peak actually isn't that great, as Sather put together another dud, and b) A year has passed, it's the offseason, and Sather dumps half the roster, and the circus starts all over!
So here is my reasoning for my overall anger, towards another botched offseason, and I will start, with Sather's lone "good" move:
1) The Scott Gomez trade: I loved this trade. I really did. And that's tough to say, because I really liked Scott Gomez as a player. He was a great team player, universally liked in the locker room, and do the rangers have a better skater with the puck? (The answer is no) Gomez seemed to take the puck from behind Hank and skate to the other end, gaining the zone for the hapless rangers powerplay at will. Trust me, you thought their puck movement was bad on the power play before? You thought it took 40 seconds to a minute out of each power play just for them to get set up? Wait until you see how hard it is for them to gain the zone without Gomez.
That said....Gomez was almost worthless. you don't pay a guy 7+ million a season to be a good skater. Sean Avery is a good skater. You pay gomez to be top 5 in the league in assists, with 20 goals, and he was neither. The reason of course is because Glen Sather got one of the best playmakers in the league, and gave him NO ONE to finish. You put a scott gomez with a sniper (a Gionta) type player. A shoot first, shoot second, shoot third, and ask questions later type guy. The rangers never had a player like that with gomez, the closest they did was Jagr, and the two of them only played together sparringly as the lines were being changed nightly by Renney.
Gomez's contract is one of the 4 (Drury, Rozsival, Redden), killing the Rangers title hopes. Being able to unload it was something I didn't think could happen...but it did. By getting Higgins in return, the Rangers got a potential 20 goal scorer (which isn't elite, but he will score more than gomez this year), and far cheaper. He also gives them more size, which is always good. And most importantly, the trade freed up cap space for the rangers to go after an elite goal scorer. I am sorry to see Gomez go, but the fact that we got back a quality piece for him, and someone to take on all his money, was a good deal. (Do notice, the best part of this deal, is the shedding of the awful contract, which Sather gave him. So kind of like the tyutin for Zherdev deal last year, it's a good deal, with the primary plus to it being reversing an awful deal made prior by Sather) Grade: A-/B+
2) Rangers sign Gaborik to Gomez money: This has "potential" for being a good signing, but potential isn't worth a dime. 5 years, 37.5 million I do believe, The rangers got one of the 5 most gifted goal scorers in the league, and paid him accordingly. But I definitely have a few reservations: 1) 65, 65, 48, 77, 17.....those are the number of games Gaborik has played his last 5 years in the NHL....so yeah, he is a 40+ goal scorer...if he is actually on the ice! 4 of 5 years he came nowhere close to playing a full season, maxing out around 75%. The way the team is currently comprised, they NEED him on the ice to have a legit offense, and the stats and history tell me that if the Rangers are LUCKY, he will miss only 20 games this season. No one questions the guys talent, but of all the free agent snipers out there, this was absolutely the one with the highest risk involved in getting him (which means of course we should have seen Sather jumping on him), and I didn't hear anything about offers anywhere close to that being made to Gaborik by other teams. I find it hard to believe, in this economy, any other NHL team would offer a guy with such major inury issues, 7.5 million guaranteed a season. This is hockey, where above all else, toughness and playing are revered. Almost all the elite players play 75+ games, and we might only get 60 this season from our best player??? Sather's big "catch" of the offseason, get's a "mixed" review from me. If he plays 80 games, he will prob put up 38-45 goals, and it will be a huge upgrade from say Gomez, at that pay level, but....I would absolutely not bet on him playing more than 60 games. (Especially in New York, where he gets ripped for a -3 in the papers one day and costing the Rangers a game in philly, maybe the next night, that knee feels a little more sore then he thought and maybe he needs to sit out?) Grade: ??? (Potential: A-, Probably D+, so we'll go "C")
3) Letting Blair Betts walk: This isn't hype, it's not overrating a guy, Blair Betts absolutely was the Rangers best penalty killing forward, no question about it. (And possibly the best penalty killing forward in the conference. Rosen would talk about it all the time, about how he would ask players on other teams, "Who is the most underrated player in the NHL?" and routinely, they would answer Betts) Yeah, not a huge goal scorer or play maker, but want to know the importance, just look at the Caps-Rangers series, and the caps power play while betts was in there (completely shut down), and after he got blindsided by Brashear and taken out of the series (capitals power play took over and won them the series). Having a guy that doesn't complain about ice time, only plays the unrewarding minutes, makes a living throwing his body voluntarily in front of 90 mph slapshots, and just happens to be incredibly good at it, and letting him walk? After he gets his face broken on a cheap shot? And then signing the guy that f*cked him up?! What type of message does that send to your team?! To free agents considering the rangers? The rangers greatest "weapon" last year was their penalty kill unit. They just took the second best member of that unit (other than Hank), and let him walk. Championship teams don't do that. They maintain their areas of strength, and try and improve their weaknesses. The rangers job this offseason was to get more scoring power, not to weaken their penalty kill unit. Grade: F
4) Signing Brashear/ Letting Colton Orr walk: Where to begin. Is there a proper beginning? Before the season, I sat with some Rangers/Yankees fans going into last year's MLB offseason/new NHL season, and we discussed players we "hated", our all, "I couldn't root for them if they put on my team's jersey/uniform". I have always been a "Once they are wearing the pinstripes, they are a Yankee, and I want them to do well, end of story" sort of guy, and that translated to my other teams, Rangers/Giants/Knicks. I didn't like Clemens pre-Yankees, but I respected him, and was happy to root for him and watch him Excel. I hated Eric Lindros when he was with the Flyers, but I hoped he could refind his game with the Rangers. (There are too many unlikeable guys to count that came to the rangers, Fleury, Holik, Bure, Kasparitis, I grew up hating Jagr, but that quickly changed when he became a Ranger) But there are certain players, that I just refuse to make that leap for. I hated Domi. I hated Hatcher. I hate, HATE, HATE, Brashear. Brashear was actually the first hockey name on the tongue of the members of our little discussion. The guy is universally hated among Rangers fans....and this was BEFORE he cheap shotted betts, breaking his face, and turned around the Caps-Rangers series. He is a thug, a classless thug with NO ACTUAL HOCKEY ABILITY, that doesn't belong on the ice, he belongs in jail. He is bad for the game, and I HATE having him on the Rangers.
What could the players in the locker room, who probably hated Brashear more than anyone just 3 months ago, be thinking now? (Perhaps that is why Sather is turning over the entire team again?) And at what expense. Not only is Betts now gone....but Colton Orr? Colton Orr was LOVED in that locker room. The guy caused zero issues. Took on everyone's fight for them, and oh yeah, he is ten years younger than Brashear, and he didn't BREAK BETTS' FACE! Then you look at the contract, Orr got 4 years and 4 million, from Toronto I believe. A million a season for a bruiser, yeah, it's a bit steep, maybe the rangers were stretched to thin with the cap....but wait....they gave brashear what? 2 years, 2.8 million?! 1.4 million a season!? More than ORR?!?! What the hell type of deal is that? You bring in a player the fans hate, the players hate, that has no talent, and to replace a younger, more likeable player, and pay him more money? Classic Sather, just an enormous middle finger to Rangers fans everywhere. Grade: F
Monday morning I will finish with a recap of the remainder of the moves made to date, including the likely dismissal of Zherdev (which turns that trade the year before from a steal, into another blown move), the failed dealings for Heatley, the signing of an over the hill Kotalik, and the random signings of a slew of average forwards that will likely provide no value, and if they do, not nearly to compensate for the lack of continuity they have created with their mere presence.