The New York Rangers may have quite possibly played their last important game of the season on Sunday.
And just like many other important games during the Glen Sather era, they lost it.
This goes without saying, but New York expects winning. And why do they expect winning? Because they have the money and notoriety necessary to bring in the right players to make a winning club.
The Rangers are no different. They have those same resources, and are expected by their fans and the media to use them responsibly and wisely.
They don't have the highest payroll in the league. Far from it actually, as their current cap hit is only the 11th highest in the NHL. Pretty middle of the road.
But as far as underachievement goes? The Rangers lead the league in that category.
The man in the picture is to blame. Mr. Glen Sather has been the general manager of the Rangers for 10 years too long in Blueshirt Land.
He whisked away beloved Rangers such as Adam Graves and Brian Leetch in the beginning of his tenure, while bringing in high-profile players such as Alexei Kovalev and Pavel Bure; professionals past their prime, quite similar to Mr. Sather. Graves and Leetch were nowhere near the players they once were, but these deals didn't sit too well with Rangers fans who still saw them as heroes.
More recently, he's brought in current players such as Wade Redden and Chris Drury, who to be frank, have not performed anywhere near expectations.
Yes, the Rangers have four straight playoff appearances. I understand that.
But that streak is about to end. They are currently five points behind the eighth place Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot, and the team is playing with less urgency as it becomes more and more necessary to be urgent each and every day.
Not that the "streak" was anything to boast about in the first place. Four straight seasons of never eclipsing the second round, and no division championships to show for it.
Steve Somers of WFAN brought up an excellent point about Sather after the Rangers loss to Montreal on home ice last week. The Rangers continue to perform below expectations... and where's the general manager? You never hear from him. The only time you hear his name is directly after the word "fire" in the chant heard at MSG quite often in the past decade, most recently at the "Fire Sather" rally held outside the Rangers home arena earlier this month.
He doesn't come forward and acknowledge expectations are not met. Ever. No interviews on local television and radio shows to face his customers: His fanbase. But he's just the general manager, right? I know it's not in his job description, but there has to be some level of damage control where you go on the record and take some responsibility, and give the fans who still fill the seats an explanation of what's going to be done to fix this.
There's been talk that if it's anybody to go, it'll be head coach John Tortorella, which I absolutely detest the thought of. I'm not a Rangers fan, but "Torts" might be one of my favorite coaches in sports, even if he does coach the enemy.
He doesn't baby these athletes who make more in a year than most common folks make in their entire lifespan, and he expects positive results through some very tough love. He's the epitome of what a hockey coach should be, except for the fact he mixes it up with the media a little too often (paging: Larry Brooks). But that's an acceptable price to put up with if he keeps your multi-million dollar investments from getting too complacent.
He could coach my team any day, and will be the victim of an extreme injustice if he is shown the door over Sather. He also has something on his finger a bunch of the players on this team could learn from: a Stanley Cup ring.
Barring an unseen hot streak from the Rangers, this April will be a quiet one at Madison Square Garden. Combine the expectations in a town like New York City along with stars like Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist on the roster, and changes must be made.
If the Dolans don't care about the Rangers or their fans, Glen Sather will be back as the Rangers GM next year. And things will go as what the Garden faithful have had to get used to the past decade. Or even worse, they'll fire the best coach they've had since Mike Keenan, and look even more foolish than they do now.
If they do care, the front office will finally send Glen Sather on his merry way. And I don't think one Ranger fan will shed a tear.
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