New York sports fans are known for being tough on their athletes and sports figures, and Ranger fans are certainly no exception (just ask Scott Gomez or Michal Rozsival, among others). But as much as any skater who has laced them up for the Rangers over the years, GM Glen Sather has taken scads of abuse from the Ranger faithful since being hired in 2000.
And not without reason; the man behind the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 80’s, who once famously quipped “If I had the Rangers’ budget I’d never lose a game”, started rough in the Big Apple, notorious for both exorbitant overspending on free agent signings (i.e. Gomez, Rozsival, Bobby Holik, Wade Redden, etc.) and draft day busts (Hugh Jessiman, for instance, has become a household name among Ranger fans for all the wrong reasons). There have been “Fire Sather” rallies outside Madison Square Garden, and many fans have asserted that the man is literally irredeemable, his transgressions unforgivable, and nothing will be right in Ranger land again until Sather is gone.
However, if we look at the last several seasons with an objective eye, what we see is that Sather HAS redeemed himself. The core of this Rangers’ team – Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin, etc. – are all Rangers because of Glen Sather (having all been drafted by Sather except Girardi, whom the GM signed as a free agent after the defenseman was passed up by all 30 teams in two separate NHL drafts). Other key Rangers, such as Ryan McDonagh and Brian Boyle, were obtained in trades that were win-wins for the Blueshirts – especially McDonagh, who was the key piece in the trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal, a move Bob Gainey must still be kicking himself for as McDonagh has emerged as one of the strongest and most promising young d-men in the league, while Gomez can’t seem to remember how to score a goal.
Then our free agent big guns like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, neither of whom came cheap but both of whom have delivered thus far in their time on Broadway and proven worth the expense. And of course just last month, Sather orchestrated the deal that brought elite power forward Rick Nash to Broadway, a move that in one fell swoop made the Rangers the team to beat in the east in the upcoming season, and he did so without sacrificing any of the key young players (i.e. McDonagh, Kreider, Stepan) that Columbus GM Scott Howson was initially demanding. (Note: this is not to say that it was easy for fans to say goodbye to Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, both well-liked in New York, or that losing top prospect Tim Erixon didn’t smart, but you have to give to get, and the fact is that Sather managed to get one of the best players in the league for a prospect and two guys who, combined, had only 11 more points than Nash last season on a far better team.)
The moral of the story here is, Sather deserves to be cut some slack. The happenings with the team over the last few seasons – going from missing the playoffs by one point in 2010 to the Eastern Conference Finals last season; the acquisitions of stars like Gaborik, Richards, Nash, as well as numerous key role players; Sather’s new-found restraint in free agency and Jedi-esque trade negotiations – all of these things indicate that our “irredeemable” GM is in fact well on his way to redemption, and should also remind all those fans who seem to have forgotten: Glen Sather knows how to build a winning team, and he is doing so right now in front of our eyes. Give him credit.