On The Trail of Glen Sather. . . What the heck is he up to?
It was just October 28th and the Rangers returned home to New York after what could delicately be called an embarrassing effort against the Montreal Canadiens. The next day, Larry Brooks of the New York Post published an article wondering whether Alain Vigneault’s days are numbered. Now, when a team needs fixing and the issues are like we’ve seen with the Rangers, it’s one of two things that happens, a firing (where the GM says he gave the coach all the right tools for the season, but the coach isn’t making proper use of them) or a trade (where an organization says the tools they went into the season with aren’t good enough for what they want.) It’s rarely ever both.
Since then, Rangers team President Glen Sather has gone on an excursion of sorts. Taking in the beautiful sights of our nation’s northern neighbor or he’s up to something. Now this is the same Glen Sather who notoriously went on a fishing trip when the Rangers lottery was up for call during the infamous Sidney Crosby Lottery after the 2004 lockout, so leisurely trip is certainly not out of the realm of possibility here.
In the past week there have been Sather sitings spanning the hockey world. His first stop was Monday October 30th in Ottawa to take in a game between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens. Now it seems like the Senators got their man in Matt Duchene so you can probably take them off the board.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) October 30, 2017
The next day, Sather was spotted in Edmonton where the Pittsburgh Penguins would later take on the Edmonton Oilers, running into Penguins head coach and ex-Sather employee Mike Sullivan.
— D. John Grass (@DAGR10) November 2, 2017
The next day Glen Sather appeared again, this time in Calgary to take in a game between the Calgary Flames and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Interesting to see Rangers boss Glen Sather here at the Dome w asst GM Jim Schoenfeld, perhaps looking at ways to make Rangers better.
— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) November 3, 2017
He seemed to stay with Pittsburgh, and followed them on their Canadian trip to Vancouver to watch the Penguins take on the Vancouver Canucks.
— Joey Kenward (@kenwardskorner) November 5, 2017
So in one week, Glen Sather along with Jim Schoenfeld have gone from New York to Montreal to Edmonton to Calgary to Vancouver.
Recapping, here has been Sather & Co.’s Schedule:
Monday October 30: Canadian Tire Centre, 1000 Palladium Drive Ottawa, Ontario (Canadiens vs. Senators)
Wednesday November 1: Spotted outside team hotel in Edmonton Alberta (Penguins vs. Oilers)
Thursday November 2: Scotiabank Saddledome 555 Saddledome Rise SE Calgary, Alberta (Penguins vs. Flames)
Saturday November 4: Rogers Arena 800 Griffiths Way Vancouver, British Columbia (Penguins vs. Canucks)
So what has Glen Sather been up to? We’ll try to answer that here in the newest edition of True Crime New York Rangers: The Sather Files
Theory #1: Team Building Exercise.
For many, this could just seemingly be a blueprint for a great road trip idea. I mean who wouldn’t want to travel to 4 beautiful Canadian cities in 5 days, and to be completely honest there’s nothing that doesn’t tell us that Sather and Co. didn’t start the trip the Saturday before with the Rangers in Montreal. Montreal-Ottawa-Edmonton-Calgary-Vancouver, that’s a nice trip there and it realistically could be a little bit of team building as he’s been joined by Assistant General Manager Jim Schoenfeld and Pro Scouts Giles Leger and Doug Risebrough.
Does anyone ever truly believe executives or authority when they state they’re on a “Team Building Exercise”? I don’t, and the absence of Rangers General Manager from said team building adds a level of suspicion. However, big brass appearances at arena’s around the league coinciding with a team getting off to it’s worst start since the 1980’s can’t be dismissed altogether.
Theory #2: Taking Notes From The Champs
What we do know is after taking in a Canadiens vs. Senators game in which speculation ran far and between from Max Pacioretty, or Andrew Shaw or Alex Galchenyuk, all Canadiens players, Sather & Co. shifted their attention away from Montreal and one constant on the trip was Pittsburgh. Now the Penguins have been an absolute model franchise under Jim Rutherford and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could just be networking trade secrets with Pittsburgh on a road trip. Under Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh has turned it’s fortunes around.
Not only have they developed and implemented youth and depth with guys like Jake Guentzel and Olli Matta but since Rutherford’s hiring of ex-Rangers Power Play Guru Mike Sullivan as Head Coach the Penguins have won back to back Stanley Cups, along the way revitalized the career of hot-dog eating Phil Kessel from an underachiever to one of the most clutch in the game.
As much as it pains me to say this, the Pittsburgh Penguins as an organization have done everything right and that starts from the top. It’s not rare for executives to look under the hood at another organization that has everything going well for them and take notes.
Theory #3: Trade Winds Blowing
We just had our first blockbuster deal of the season that saw the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators team up in a trade that saw 7 assets going to Colorado in exchange for Matt Duchene heading to Ottawa and Kyle Turris getting a 6 year $36 million deal to head down to Nashville. Usually a trade this big, creates a bit of a logjam in the pipeline, it also sets the market. As a side note, boy wouldn’t Jeff Gorton have loved to have this market for trading a first line center back when he moved Derek Stepan (If not for those pesky no trade clauses!). If you’re thinking trades, the initial thought was a move with Montreal. As we previously stated, names like Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Andrew Shaw were connected with New York, but Sather & Co. continuing their journey through Canada past Montreal takes a bit of the smoke away from that fire. I wondered if possibly the Rangers brass was possibly in town to meet with Marc Crawford as a potential coaching replacement for Alain Vigneault, but a 3 game winning streak has put Vigneault ever so slightly back in the good graces of the front office.
Looking at Pittsburgh, the Penguins are 1-4 in their last 5 and 3-5 in their past 8. Their season has not taken off as hoped and they’ve had some stumbling blocks including a 10-1 dismantling at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. A Stanley Cup hangover is real, and a back to back Stanley Cup hangover could equate to having to show up to the office after a weekend long binge. With Sidney Crosby (now 30 years old), Evgeni Malkin (31) and Phil Kessel (30) now on the downturn of their peak years, the Penguins window is at the very least beginning to close. This is where a veteran GM like Jim Rutherford may look to begin doubling down on this team to give their core group every opportunity to win again and a shake up could be what’s needed to spark another run. The Penguins core has now played 50 more games in the past two seasons than most other NHL teams and that could be cause for concern that some fatigue may set in. One of my favorites, Greg Wyshynski of ESPN pondered What’s Wrong With The Penguins? He mentions Kris Letang hasn’t fully recovered from off-season neck surgery and as a result his play has been lackluster defensively. as well as a weakened bottom six, having endured the losses of Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen. Behind the top heavy Crosby Malkin Kessel Hornqvist Sheary and Rust, the Penguins have a concerning bottom 6.
Now the Rangers do have depth and possibly trading off some depth assets to Pittsburgh for some prospects could warrant some speculation but Glen Sather & Co. would not be scouting the Penguins for 3 games to get a read on their prospects. Here’s a trade idea to possibly speculate on BUT NOT TAKE SERIOUSLY however;
Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin for Rick Nash, Jimmy Vesey, Nick Holden and Jesper Fast Replaces Kessel with Nash and gives Pittsburgh some depth in Vesey and Fast as well as adds a solid defenseman for Pittsburgh as insurance. Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at a pretty reasonable $6.8 million per year. He’s an absolute game breaker as far as talent is concerned scoring around 25 goals and 40 Assists a year. The money works out as Nash, Vesey Holden and Fast would take $12.2 million off the Rangers books and the combination of Kessel and Hagelin ($12.7 million) would equate that. Rick Nash would probably be revitalized as a goal scorer playing alongside Crosby and Vesey and Fast would be solid young and cap-responsible depth players to help Pittsburgh round out their lineup. Not to mention Nick Holden would be an upgrade over Matt Hunwick and Ian Cole. For New York, bringing in someone laid back like Kessel as well as an old locker room favorite in Hagelin with the experience of 2 cups on his belt could be the makeup change Sather is hoping for. However, the Rangers already have plenty of tape on Hagelin from his days with New York and everyone knows what Phil Kessel is so again read this as a thought and not even a rumor.
Theory #4: Gorton is in trouble
We really have a way as fans of reading in between the lines, and sometimes a little too much in between the lines. Sometimes, it’s the most obvious answer, and other time’s it’s absolutely nothing. One thing that needs to be evaluated though is the one guy who was left off the group text for the Executive Road Trip, Jeff Gorton. Maybe Glen Sather happened to come across Full Tilt’s scathing review of Jeff Gorton’s “retool on the fly” and is giving a look around the league to other executives to bring in. Maybe Sather is very much like Full Tilt’s own Anthony Scultore and just can’t seem to stay away from the game and wants to run the organization again and is looking for more supporting cast members. The simple fact is this. If it’s a team building exercise, Gorton should be there, he’s the GM and the Assistant GM is there. If it’s a scouting exercise, Gorton should definitely be there. He, after all, is the architect of this re-tool. So no matter which way you slice it, the question needs to be asked, why isn’t Jeff Gorton along for the trip?
All in all, a lot can be read into what Glen Sather is really up to traveling around Canada for a week. The most likely case is, we’ll never find out. The only way we would find out is if a trade is announced between the Rangers and one of the teams. The curiosity is definitely there however. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be taking on the Arizona Coyotes at home in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye open if the brass makes that trip or not.