The natives are getting restless at MSG. No postseason hockey this spring on the heels of blowing a three-games-to-one lead in the first round last year and the Garden faithful clearly have GM Glen Sather in their crosshairs. A slow start to the 2010-2011 season and John Tortorella will join him.
As has always been the case, the pressure to contend for a Cup is immense for the Rangers and that urgency isn’t going dissipate anytime soon.
On several occasions recently Tortorella has indicated he felt the Rangers had some pieces he thought were worth keeping to “build around,” but added “character” is missing.
He’s on the money regarding the lack of character but if the combustible head coach thinks he’s taken over a rebuilding program with the luxury of slowly putting together a winner, he’s been sniffing too much ether the last year or so.
Memo to Torts: You’re not involved in a rebuilding program, not in this city. Not now…not ever.
As a result, the angry man with the tie better hope his GM has a productive summer or we’re pretty sure they’re both looking for work before the Thanksgiving turkey is served.
Here’s a brief look at five things we think need to be on Sather’s “To Do” list between now and the time the frost is on the pumpkins in October. In true Letterman-esque style, we’ll start with number five and count down.
5 – Buyout Wade Redden: End the misery this summer and buy out the remainder of Wade Redden’s contract. Admit this $39 million mistake as it’s clearly time for both parties to move on. The cap hit stinks but the guy’s on-ice effort has a far worse odor.
4 –Approach UFAs with Caution: Stay away from the temptation to sign big names like Ilya Kovalchuk or Patrick Marleau. You get the sense Kovalchuk would be a mess here and Marleau doesn’t strike us as the type that would flourish in the Big Apple. Keep the core group together and instead add the character pieces Torts is calling for like Ottawa’s Anton Volchenkov for the blue line and/or a guy like Atlanta’s Colby Armstrong up front. Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom would look good in a Rangers jersey as well.
3 – Hang on to the core players despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs. This is not the time to clean house …yet again. Players like Marian Gaborik, Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy, Erik Christensen, Artem Anisimov, Chris Drury, Sean Avery, Brandon Prust, Jody Shelley and P.A. Parenteau needn’t be moved and form a solid bunch that can get this club to the postseason with a tweak here or there. Sather shouldn’t derail the train with sweeping changes.
2 – Lundqvist. Get a reliable back-up for The King – one that can play 20-25 games so Henrik isn’t falling over backward from exhaustion by March. There’s a solid list of UFAs out there so go ahead, overpay one of them, like Lundqvist’s buddy Johan Hedberg.
1 –OK– forget all of the above and simply get rid of both Sather and Tortorella. The NHL has clearly passed the beleaguered GM by and Tortorella’s head is going to explode if he’s here much past Halloween. Problem is, team owner James Dolan has about as much interest in the Rangers as he does in attending charm school.
Tortorella has a small-market mentality and as the season wore along you just got the feeling the veterans on this club simply weren’t buying into this lunatic’s relentlessly intense coaching style. The incessant line combination changing, the public flogging of rookies and the generally tense atmosphere got old quick.
As for Sather, after nine seasons during which the team won two playoff rounds and missed the postseason five times, it’s fair to say his time in New York as GM has been a failure. The fact his job appears to have never been in jeopardy is bizarre. Time to bring in a young GM who better understands today’s NHL and can wisely add the pieces needed to get the Blueshirts back to being legitimate Cup contenders. Hire a man that understands character and has a grasp on the intangibles that make a player a winner. Did I hear someone say Mark Messier?