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 out.
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 different people.
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.