Beginning of the End
The Rangers have not played a single game with a full healthy roster. In fact, now the Rangers have played above 85% of the season with a team that is close to $45M in payroll. Now, it has currently dropped to roughly$37M after losing Mike Dunham and Vladimir Malakhov.Mathematically, the Rangers are not out of the playoffs at all. Actually, with the Bolts only winning a point (thank you Leafs), Canadiens losing, and Penguins losing, the Rangers are still hanging on by some luck. Last night’s tie against a top team in the West, St. Louis Blues, showed some life and proved to Rangers management (especially ownership) that even with a bunch of young guns in Samuelsson, Lintner, Blackburn, Fata, Petrovicky, Bouchard, Lundmark, Poti, and a young goon in Dwyer, they can still hold on to the playoffs.
Question is, should the Rangers pull back?
Yes and No.
Yes as in I think they should improve the team by landing a player; no big name.
No as in there is no reason to trade a player like Samuelsson or Lundmark.
If the Rangers continue to hang close to 8th seed, then they should not trade their deadline players, such as Leetch. I say they should battle without any trade that means “quit” through the whole month of February.
If the Rangers lose the next few games with the Canadiens, Lightning, and Penguins winning, then I would start to call it quits, trade guys like Leetch, Mironov, Malakhov (when back healthy), possibly Nedved may end up some where else. I think it would be interesting to see other young players from Hartford getting a call and a taste of NHL experience. However, most of those players have been injured.
Short-term, Slats has been failing to get this team in the playoffs, even if I think this has been an unfair season with injuries….as it was for other teams [i.e. LA, Coyotes, Avs (Sakic)]. But, long-term the Rangers actually have a future.
When was the last time the Rangers had a future? When Tony Amonte and Doug Weight were traded. Sather has drafted quality prospects, not just Hobey Baker Award winners in Mike Mottau (bust), or 3rd line players in Pavel Brendl and Manny Malhotra. Drafting Blackburn and Gold Medalist Fedor Tjutin is a solid way to start a young nuclei. Next would most likely be a top notch forward in this year’s rich draft.
I am eager to see next season’s system in Hartford, as it gets richer with young blood.
Yes, Sather should be fired after 3 seasons (almost official) of non-playoff hockey, though the 1st season is arguably excusable. Neil Smith got fired after 3 seasons, and he should have. He insisted on not re-signing Mark Messier, but after a full season he acquired Fleury, Kamensky, Kirk McLean, Stephane Quintal, and Sylvain Lefebvre, as well as Mike Keane and Brian Skrudland. He spent 3 years of non-playoff hockey, BUT….NO FUTURE. Sather 3 years of non-playoff hockey, BUT THERE IS A FUTURE.
I want Sather to stay since he is building a good young core of players in the minors, however, there are no good excuses for missing the playoffs the past two seasons. Then again, I would rather make the playoffs on a consistent basis with the Rangers own players, rather than one or two seasons of playoffs with mercenaries, and then no playoffs again.