Glen Sather is an NHL legend that has been a staple of the New York Rangers since joining the team in 2000 as its team president and general manager. His reputation is well known, but Father Time catches up with everyone at some point.
Sather is 70, and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal—a Hockey Hall of Fame journalist that has been covering the Edmonton Oilers since 1973—good ol' Slats is considering stepping down after the season.
Sather did not respond to his buddy's claim, but Matheson did note that he heard that his findings were the result of talking to a few NHL talking heads. Sather has shaped the Rangers over the last 14 years, for better and for worse, so would his retirement drastically alter business for the Broadway Blueshirts?
On the surface, replacing a person like Sather seems daunting, but if his likely successor takes over, business should still run smoothly for the Rangers. No matter how you feel about Sather or his moves, you can't deny what he brings to the team from a negotiating standpoint.
Having a veteran hockey executive that can intimidate and influence others because of his experience is a huge ace in the hole during the trade deadline, draft and free agency, but Assistant GM Jeff Gorton—his rumored replacement— is no spring chicken.
Gorton cut his teeth in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, and it is fair to say that he should be an NHL GM by now.
Gorton was a member of the Bruins' organization for seven years as an Assistant GM, and it is strange that he wasn't named GM after his many years of service.
He eventually made his way to the Blueshirts, and since 2011 he has been an Assistant GM under Sather.
Rangers' beat writer Brian A. Giuffra said that Gorton should be Sather's replacement back in June of last year, and his reasoning for having Gorton become the next GM still makes sense nine months later.
Gorton joined the Rangers’ organization in 2007 after being fired by the Bruins. But as the Bruins interim GM from March 27-July 8, 2006, he acquired Tuukka Rask, who has replaced Tim Thomas as Boston’s franchise goalie, from the Maple Leafs for soon-forgotten netminder Andrew Raycroft.
He signed captain Zdeno Chara as a free agent. And he oversaw a draft that produced Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, not to mention Phil Kessel, eventually traded to Toronto for multiple draft choices, one of which was Tyler Seguin.
The point is, Gorton showed, in a short span, he has a savvy touch for personnel moves.
Based on Giuffra's reporting, it's easy to see that Gorton is a quick and decisive negotiator. He was on the job in Boston as acting GM for less than five months, but he successfully pieced together a core that went to two Stanley Cup Finals in three years. That is an impressive accomplishment, and that is something that is fairly uncommon in today's NHL.
If Gorton was able to do that seven years ago, imagine what he can do now? The answer to that question is amazing things, partially because of his experience, including his title of "acting GM" during Sather's health struggles.
In March of 2013, Sather underwent surgery for prostate cancer, and Gorton assumed the day-to-day operations of GM while Sather was hospitalized. Slats was available via phone for consultations regarding trades, but everything else was up to Gorton.
As an Assistant GM, Gorton is very familiar with every current general manager, so he wouldn't enter the job cold. If he had been a member of the front office in a different capacity over the last few years, it might make sense to give the job to someone else.
His past experience, current job title and his history as a hockey executive have allowed him to also create other relationships, so the Rangers would have a leg up with him in charge as opposed to someone like Mark Messier.
Sather's successor is very important, because the team is in the midst of a 20-year Stanley Cup drought. A team with the payroll and cache of the Rangers can't afford to wallow in mediocrity. If Sather doesn't get the job done before moving on, there is going to be immense pressure on the person in charge next.
The Rangers' cap situation is interesting over the next few years, so it is quite possible that the current roster would be dismantled, and reimaged by a new architect.
Even though there's a chance that Sather would step down as GM and remain in the organization as team president, it is unlikely that he will have much input on the roster's future construction once someone else is in charge.
At the end of the day, whether it is this season or next, Sather's retirement is inevitable. The rumors of his retirement and the possibility of Gorton taking over is conjecture at best, but at the very least it is very realistic conjecture.
Sather gets a lot of criticism for his failure to deliver a Stanley Cup to New York, as of now, but that doesn't change what he has accomplished during his NHL career.
If Gorton takes over as planned, business should go on as usually for the Rangers, but a pair of fresh eyes could ultimately be what the organization needs to get over the hump.
If the Rangers do win under Gorton, the view of Slats could change, because at the very least he could take credit to being the Obi-Wan to Gorton's Luke Skywalker. It will be intriguing to see how this situation plays out, and given the market of New York, this is certainly going to be a hot issue until there is a decision made.