As they hurtle towards their seventh straight season
without the playoffs the Rangers finally made a belated coaching change today,
but for many it was not the one they had hoped for. General Manager Glen
Sather has stepped down as the head coach of the team and assigned the dubious
privilege to assistant Tom Renney. Citing the "Fire Sather" chants as a
negative distraction to the team, and a need to focus on the upcoming trade
deadline as motivation for his change of mind. And then of course came the
excuses for his failure.
Whether it was the fans, injuries, the goaltending or
schedule, the Sather coaching tenure will be remembered more the numerous
excuses than perhaps even it's lack of success. Once again avoiding the
responsibility that he assumed as first General Manager and President, and then
Head Coach, Glen Sather's responses are another sign of what is wrong with this
franchise, a lack of accountability and the need to place blame on others.
Perhaps his most unpopular claim was that the jeers from
the Garden faithful were making it hard for his team to succeed. While
there might have been some validity to his suggestion, it's hard to feel sorry
for players making millions of dollars, especially when many other teams in the
league (e.g. Toronto and Philadelphia) have to put up with the same thing and
yet still find a way to succeed. It's certainly not a claim that a person
perceived as being arrogant by many, should be making to the press.
While accusing the fans may be poor poor public relations,
citing injuries and goaltending comes across as somewhat hypocritical.
Sather himself has made a habit of signing (or re-signing) players with injury
histories. Malakhov, Bure, Lindros, Richter, Leetch, Dunham and Johansson
all had significant injuries prior to coming to New York, not to mention that
many of the players he signed were over 30, a time when injuries begin to occur
more frequently. And yet, other teams have found ways to overcome the very
same affliction that appears to affect the Rangers on a yearly basis, most
notable have been the performances of the Los Angeles Kings this season and the
St Louis Blues last year.
As for the goaltending, it again was Sather who re-signed
Richter as the starter coming off two knee injuries and a concussion and hung
Blackburn out to dry before trading "the farm" for Mike Dunham. Now that
Dunham too has struggled, the Rangers General Manager has once again avoided his
own accountability by calling out his starting goaltender in the
press...something he certainly won't allow Bobby Holik to do.
And of course the schedule....the Rangers have to some
extent had a break here with respect to fewer back to back games in recent
years, less travel by virtue of being an East Coast team and input from the very
same person who has on occasion referred to the tough task ahead.
The bottom line is that these are things that teams have
to expect going into a season, they are the challenges that General Managers and
Head Coaches are paid to overcome, and while certainly there is some
responsibility here for the players, it is ultimately the "boss" who receives
the accolades in the good times and the just criticism when things do not work
But in the New York Rangers organization, things work
differently. From the top down there appears to be a lack of
accountability for failed actions. Whether it be the special
treatment that the likes of Mark Messier and other high profile players are
given, the reluctance to bench particular players, or the need to call out
specific players in the press, the Rangers have a different set of rules for
Sather, as one of those special members, appears once
again to have dodged his responsibilities as he looks to avoid the jeers of fans
and the tough questions in the post-game news conferences. It appears from
the outside that in the eyes of his boss, he can do nothing wrong. But as
Jim Dolan and the other members of the Cablevision executives sit atop an
organization that includes both the struggling New York Knicks and Rangers, one
has to hope that at some point sanity prevails and the excuses are finally put
to the side.
The only excuse that is readily apparent is the sorry one
that is the New York Rangers franchise.