Matt Gilroy's Demotion Takes New York Rangers from Fragile to Brittle

S BCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2009

WASHINGTON - APRIL 10: Matt Gilroy of the Boston Terriers poses with the Hobey Baker Award during the Hobey Baker Award Presentation on April 10, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Rangers have sent rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy down to the AHL, a sign that GM Glen Sather and coach John Tortorella have no idea how to fix what's wrong with the team.

The Rangers have gradually moved into a more defensive system, as the team has been unable to find scoring beyond Marian Gaborik.

Gilroy's defense could be suspect, but it's hardly surprising given that 1) he's an NHL rookie, and 2) he grew up a forward, converting to defense in college.

More importantly, Gilroy was demoted so that Ilkka Heikkinen could take his spot.

Heikkinen is a veteran of Finnish leagues but has just 24 AHL games and two in the NHL, so he's hardly a dramatic upgrade.

In other words, the Rangers demoted Gilroy just to make a move. There was no plan. There was no goal. Sather and Tortorella just wanted to make some kind of change.

I'm sure the move doesn't seem to have any ramifications to Tortorella and Sather.

Sure, Gilroy is sent down for a while, but he can always be recalled. And perhaps Heikkinen will even turn out to be the strong defensive presence the Rangers have lacked for most of the decade.

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But Tortorella and Sather don't seem to have considered what demoting Gilroy means in terms of the other Rangers.

On the one hand, you have a lot of young players who have now learned that they're expendable to the organization. Players like Michael Del Zotto, Artem Anisimov, and Enver Lisin have to wonder if they'll be the next rookies to be sent down when the team as a whole fails again (assuming the Gilroy-ectomy even temporarily fixes the Rangers' woes).

On the other hand, you have a lot of under-performing veterans who have seen that they won't be held accountable for their lack of quality play.

Pretty much everyone who follows the Rangers had the same reaction to the Gilroy demotion: "Why wasn't it defenseman Michal Rozsival?"

It's a fair question; Rozsival is now well into his second season of defensive misadventures. And if fans are wondering this, doesn't it stand to reason that the players are wondering the same thing?

By dodging a bullet, do Sather and Tortorella think Rozsival will step up his game? Because what they've shown him is that no matter how badly he plays, younger players will be the ones to suffer the consequences. It's Psychology 101.

Sather and Tortorella have effectively told the veterans that it doesn't matter how they play. Those jobs are guaranteed for veterans.

In the salary-cap era, there are often only so many moves that can be made to improve a team—especially a struggling team. You can demote players, you can promote players, or you can fire the coach. But any other moves, like a trade, require some degree of cap flexibility.

The Rangers shouldn't be blamed for trying to improve the team using one of their limited options. They should be blamed for making a move that's going to negatively impact several facets of an already failing team.

It's one thing to make a move that ostensibly accomplishes nothing. No harm, no foul. But the Rangers just made a move that's probably going to negatively impact the team and possibly make them even worse.

Demoting Gilroy won't quickly fix the Rangers, but it will slowly break them.

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