This is it. The lowest point for a franchise that has seen many of them since they finally reached the pinnacle of their sport back in 1994. The Rangers have now become the NHL’s most watched prime time soap opera. The intriguing characters in this amateur disaster epic are plentiful. A GM whose glory days are far behind him. A head coach, whose terrific rants full of sound bytes are now falling on deaf ears throughout his dysfunctional dressing room. A team captain, whose once glorified ability to come through during the most clutch of situations has all but vanished leaving fans scratching their heads trying to remember his last tally of any kind on the scoresheets. A superstar sniper, whose light shines brighter than those on the marquees of the storied playhouses of the city whose imagination he has captured with his stunning play. The pair of overpriced, underperforming defensemen with albatross contracts that weigh down not only expectations they will never be able to fill but also an entire franchise desperate for cap space. The Rangers have become the hockey world’s version of a car wreck and everyone is watching this beautiful disaster waiting to see what happens next.
The obvious answer to the question of how do we begin to fix this “catastrophe on ice” begins and ends with GM Glen Sather. The man who has built this mismatched roster and sent this team spiraling into the depths of the Eastern Conference with his mind boggling signings and ill advised acquisitions. If the rumors circulating are to be believed, Sather may be on his way out of New York as soon as tomorrow morning if his team doesn’t win tonight against the rival Islanders in Uniondale. It’s hard to believe one win could save the job of a man who has single handedly crafted a terrible resume while controlling this franchise the last 9 seasons but stranger things (i.e. The Knicks complete collapse from respectability) have happened inside the walls of the Garden since the seemingly clueless Dolan family took over ownership.
Sather has steadfastly refused, even as his team has struggled and has fallen to last place in the division, to make the moves necessary to turn his franchise’s fortunes around because he is unwilling to admit his mistakes and take blame for his ineptness. He refuses to go to the Dolans and tell them that both Michal Roszival and Wade Redden need to be waived or sent to the minors so their obstructive pacts can finally be wiped off the books of a team desperate for cap space and a fresh start. He refuses to bring up future stars like Evgeny Grachev and Corey Locke and instead watches his coach dole out minutes to non performing big name players who are giving little or no effort on a nightly basis and could be doing that for an AHL club instead of for a storied franchise on the world’s biggest stage. He refuses to instruct his coach to sit players who he cannot find new homes for (due to the fact that no one around the league wants these wastes of space in their clubhouses) and to give more ice time to the few players who give 125% every play,every game and every night. The refusal to do any one of these things is reason enough to cut him loose but the refusal to do all of them makes this the easiest decision. Sather must go and it must be now if this club wants to have any chance of rising from it’s self imposed abyss.
Tonight, on Long Island, The Rangers will play what amounts to just another game in a long season full of the same but what it represents is much bigger. This is the chance for the players who have disappointed so greatly thus far to show the same emotion, the same energy and the same fire in the belly that allowed them to make it into this league in the first place. This is the chance for the head coach, who is widely recognized and respected for his fire and for his holding players accountable (no matter what the name on the back of their jersey reads) to regain control of his locker room and his troops before he follows his hopefully soon to be departed boss out of town. Most importantly, this is an opportunity for the powers that be in this franchise to prove to it’s forever loyal but ever impatient fan base that it understands the time for a change is way overdue and that they are dedicated to not only this season but to a future culture of heart, passion and success for all of those who don the red, white and blue sweater and for all who live and die with each drop of the puck. This is the tipping point. This is it. The time is now to make the change, change the culture and change the future. Let’s pray that those who make the decisions see the writing on the wall as clearly as we all do.