What Legacy Will Glen Sather Leave in New York?
Will the real Glen Sather please stand up?
When the current 71-year-old president and general manager of the New York Rangers, who is approaching 15 years of service with the Blueshirts, finally vacates his executive suite at MSG, how will the man they call “Slats” be remembered by the Garden faithful?
Prior to coming to New York in 2000, Sather’s time with the Edmonton Oilers is legendary. He won five Stanley Cups behind the bench with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and company dominating the NHL throughout the mid- and late 1980s.
Upon his arrival in New York, Sather was expected to quickly turn around the fortunes of the Blueshirts, but instead his early years were marked by big ill-advised free-agent spending and poor coaching hires. In 2002, he hired former Islander legend Bryan Trottier, who had no previous head coaching experience and was universally loathed by the Garden faithful.
That experiment lasted a total of just 44 games during the 2002-03 season before Trottier was let go and Sather found himself back behind the bench. The next hire was not much better, with old-pal Ron Low also proving not up to the task and Sather again forced to take over after Low’s release.
Unlike his tenure in Edmonton, where he was considered a hockey genius, Sather struggled to mold the Rangers into a winner and to win over Rangers’ fans with his big-buck spending and sometimes arrogant and stubborn attitude toward changing his ways.
Many questionable big-name free agent signings were highlighted by the inking of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez during the 2007 offseason. Drury had some decent moments with the Blueshirts but was hampered by injuries for most of his time on Broadway but Gomez, a standout with the rival Devils, was a complete bust.
Ironically, it was the Gomez signing that would end helping to turn around the fortunes of both Sather and the Rangers. In what is arguably his best move as president and general manager to date, Sather unloaded Gomez and his hefty contract to Montreal in a seven-player deal in June of 2009 that saw Chris Higgins come to Broadway as the centerpiece of the deal. Also included in the deal was Montreal 2007 first-round draft pick Ryan McDonagh out of the University of Wisconsin.
While Gomez continued his downward spiral north of the border and Higgins is long gone, McDonagh, as every Rangers’ fan knows, is on the brink of stardom for the Blueshirts and likely to be their next captain.
McDonagh was a shining example of Sather’s change in philosophy that saw the Rangers shift from big free-agent signings (of course the implementation of the salary cap in 2004-05 helped force this) to developing younger players and more emphasis on the draft.
The renewed commitment to building from within began to pay immediate dividends and hit its pinnacle this past spring when the Blueshirts made a run to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1994, losing to the Kings in five games.
Thanks to solid scouting, a continued commitment to youth and team speed and some nifty lower-level player signings as well as locking up top talents like Henrik Lundquist, McDonagh, and Dan Girardi, among others, Sather appears to have the Rangers in a favorable position to contend for the foreseeable future.
So when “Slats” does finally decide to call it quits, how we he be remembered in New York? Will it be the guy who put Trottier and Low behind the bench and butchered many a free-agent signing? Or will be heralded as the hockey genius those in Canada have long believed he already is for the recent moves that resulted in the likes of McDonagh and Lundquist becoming mainstays on MSG ice?
Only time will tell…but a Stanley Cup on Broadway certainly wouldn’t hurt his legacy.
SILLY SLATS MOVES
- Hiring Trottier, then Ron Low
- Signing Bobby Holik
- Signing Wade Redden
- Signing Gomez and Drury at the same time
- Brad Richards Contract
GENIUS SLATS MOVES
- Acquiring Jaromir Jagr
- Hiring John Tortorella
- Oversaw draft that brought in Henrik Lundqvist
- Acquisition of Ryan McDonagh
- Hiring Alain Vigneault
Biggest on the bubble move to date: Rick Nash