by Arien Hughes
Time is relentless. First it nurtures and develops, strengthens and matures, until finally it begins to decay and destroy life. Every aspect of existence is touched by this intangible force and all must eventually succumb to it. A true hallmark of greatness is when a person can not only battle back against time and prolong themselves against such opposition but to realize the moment when time has laid claim to victory. In such an instance, a person must acknowledge the defeat and begin the battle anew. In terms of running a National Hockey League franchise, that moment of comprehension is the difference between embarrassing futility and understanding that present failure exists for future glory. That moment came for Glen Sather and instead of understanding its significance, he chose to ignore it and continue a fight he’d already lost. Much to the detriment of the New York Rangers, its General Manager, coach, and President has set the team back years in its development simply through his refusal to allow the team to become worse.
Few men could lay claim to the track record that Glen Sather can, but it is that glorious past that has shackled him to a bloated ego, and an arrogance that has crippled his team for the past four seasons. He arrived in New York from a much different place in Edmonton, Alberta. There he’d seen one of the greatest teams ever to exist, ripped asunder because of the greed and incompetence of owner Peter Pocklington. However, even after having seen little return for the greatness he was trading away, the Oilers still managed to recover and see playoff berths in his past four seasons at the helm. This was in spite of atrocious drafting (only five players turned out to be solid NHL caliber players) and consistently having to trade good players for lesser talent.
Yet there were shrewd trades and youth developed into excellent players and people still believed that Glen Sather was a man who possessed a prodigious hockey mind and was still capable of the game’s highest success but was held back by the team’s financial situation. So in the year 2000 when it was clear that he would no longer be part of the Edmonton Oilers organization, it was with great relief that he came to the New York Rangers, a team with much more resource available to it than the smaller market he’d just left. There was a belief that he would restore sanity to the free spending team that hadn’t seen the playoffs in three seasons. A place where once great players came to retire and collect their last few large paychecks. Yet from that very first season, none of those things happened.
A single phrase can be used to sum up, Glen Sather’s tenure as leader of the largest market in the NHL, What if? Every major transaction from unrestricted free agent signing to player trade to coach hiring seems to have been governed by these two simple words. He’s acquired players that have either, not lived up to potential elsewhere or have had great pasts who might still be capable of surpassing those previous benchmarks. The list of players acquired is quite remarkable, based on name recognition. That however, is the only positive once performance is taken into account.
Not a single one of these players has come to the Rangers and been the positive influence it was expected they would be. Most have suffered through injury troubles or been misused to the point that they’ve been utterly ineffective within the team’s structure. There’s a visible pattern of failure that is clear to anyone with the ability to do a statistics search and yet the man in charge of the team seems willing to continue making the same type of personnel transactions with seemingly no fear of any sort of reprisal. In just under four seasons the New York Rangers have failed to make the playoffs, continued to acquire aging players to be saddled with inappropriate roles, and has only shown consistency in the team’s final mediocre standing at the end of the season. The question now should shift from, What if? to, Why’s it allowed to continue? That question will probably never be answered in public but one thing is clear, it is the fans of the team who will be burdened with the suffering that Glen Sather has wrought upon the franchise.
Not very often does someone get a second chance to correct a past mistake, but that moment is once again approaching for Glen Sather. He can, after this season undoubtedly moves towards failure, start to mend the errors of his ways. It will be possible for him to move out the crippled parts of his team in exchange for youth and future potential or he can continue to maintain the status quo. He has a boss and will eventually be relieved of his duties but the state of the Rangers at that time will all depend on his actions from now until the beginning of September. What if?