Rangers Team Report
The New York Rangers have been known to always sign or trade for marquee players. With GM Glen Sather, the Rangers seemed to go a totally different direction. What made Sather trade for Lindros? How are Sather’s moves different from Neil Smith’s past moves? How will Lindros change the Rangers? What did the Flyers get? Will the Rangers sign Hull? Take a look and see how the 2001-2002 New York Rangers will look like. If anyone remembers a previous article titled “Sather vs. the Media” then you are in a position of understanding this. The media still fights Sather, especially with the acquisition of Lindros. All the sudden, the media criticizes Glen Sather saying that he missed out on Jagr and that he had no other choice but to get Lindros. Great job done by the media because they received people’s attention. The funny thing about Sather getting Lindros is that he wanted to get Lindros. Sather wanted Lindros early in the 2000-2001 season, when the team was not on Eric’s list. From that point, it was obvious that Sather wanted Lindros, was not going to give up, and was going to get Lindros. Then those talks faded away, and Jagr came in. Sather gave it a shot trying to land Jagr, but Patrick turned down his offer of Hlavac, York, Johnsson, a draft pick, and the bonus money. Yes, it was a take it or leave it offer, but Sather did not make a big fuss about it, and he was not upset that he lost out on Jagr…he still wanted Lindros. Why did he want Lindros? Well, what the Rangers lacked was a number one center. They needed a strong scoring player on the 1st line, and Messier cannot fill that role anymore.
Was this trade fair? The answer is yes, and it made the Jagr deal look like a joke for the Penguins. The Rangers received what they wanted, Lindros. The Flyers got less of what they asked for, initially it was Dvorak, Hlavac, Lundmark, but they agreed to the offer. Rangers take the chance of losing this trade if Lindros ends his career. As of now however, the trade is fair. Flyers did not lose anything, and the Rangers lost Hlavac as their “big loss”. Let’s take a look at what the Rangers gave up here. Kim Johnsson receives an A in skating skills. He could be such an amazing skater at times. Johnsson is good defensively but as a youngster, he still makes rookie mistakes. He will do a whole lot better with the Flyers because he will be the best skating defenseman of the team. Actually, he could score 10 goals this season, don’t be surprised if he does. However, Johnsson is not a huge loss for the Rangers. Rangers have ready-to-go Mike Mottau, and Novak or Kinch who might make the team this season. Jan Hlavac could be a future 30+ scorer someday. His strengths are his skating skills. Hlavac has a low skating style that prevents opponents from knocking him down. He has a great scoring touch with a good accurate shot. Hlavac has some good passing skills, but his major weakness is the way he sees the ice. Hlavac has to play with the right teammate. When Nedved was absent, and Hlavac played with Dvorak, he did not performed as well. Hlavac gets lost, or makes the wrong pass. Hlavac is also not the player who will make smart plays in the defensive zone. However his offensive abilities make up for his weaknesses. When Sather signed Zdeno Ciger, it gave a clue that Hlavac could have been traded, as I predicted with the unsuccessful Jagr deal. When Sather signed eight young players in their early 20’s, he showed signs that the Rangers prospects were not good enough. Pavel Brendl dissatisfied the Rangers for the third straight time and Sather signed Layne Ulmer who scored more goals than Brendl in the WHL. That showed signs of Brendl being traded. Brendl needs time to improve and he needs that time in the AHL, or else he will never become a NHL player. Give Brendl another two years and he might end up on the team.
Sather had this planned set a while ago. Sather said that his plan would be mixing up veterans with young players. That is different from what Neil Smith tried to do. Believe it or not, the Rangers look like a real playoff team now. The team is not yet complete; Sather is not done yet. But as of now, the Rangers look like a team with real depth. It only took Sather a few moves and less than a year to clean up Neil Smith’s mess, and improve the team. It took Neil Smith three years of attempts to make the Rangers just a playoff team. I understand New York Rangers fans are upset with Sather acquiring Lindros, about 70% are upset, but that is what Sather wanted. For the first time in maybe four seasons, the Rangers finally have scoring depth, not just one line. Lindros, or shall I say a healthy Lindros, helps the Rangers scoring depth. Lindros is a center, and many people are asking about the Rangers centers…too many right? Well, let’s take a look at Petr Nedved. Nedved’s best season was in the Pittsburgh Penguins when he played with Jagr, but…was Nedved a center? No, Nedved was a left winger. It is hard to figure out what the combination of the Rangers line up will be, but it is worth an try.
Now, that is a possible line-up, might look awkward, but it can work. The rumors now, after Lindros, are that the Rangers will sign Brett Hull. That is not a mistake, it is actually a smart move to add another scorer to make the offense look more “threatening”. With Hull, the Rangers might have too many RW, so someone who plays RW should be moved to LW. How would the Rangers look like with Hull?
To me, this seems like a good team that should and would make the playoffs. This is a team that consists of players like Nedved, Lindros, Hull, Fleury, and Dvorak who can score 30+ goals. A team that could have four 30+ goal scorers is a team that has depth. Sather built this team in a year, and it is a different team, with or without adding Hull. The defense looks good, not great, but good and ok. There is finally a healthy Malakhov ready to step on the ice, and he could be a big help. There is Ulanov and Karpa who are the stay at home rough defensemen, which the team lacked last season by ridiculously having only one young defenseman who stood up for his teammates, Dale Purinton. Lefebvre is still a Ranger because Sather could not buy out his contract, since he was injured. Lefebvre will receive another chance, if he fails then he will be traded…even for a draft pick or a prospect. The Rangers have Smrek who is NHL ready and battling with Mike Mottau, Filip Novak, and Matt Kinch for a spot. Kloucek will be on the team by mid November, and he is a huge help. Finally, Leetch has the players to back him up and to take pressure of his back. When Leetch knows he is free to move around the ice with confidence, he is the league’s top defenseman. So, this defense looks good…correct? But, I still say it looks between good and “ok”. Why? The goaltending is left with a huge question mark. Will Sather keep Richter, trade Richter? Who will Sather acquire? Who will be the back up? It is said that Dan Blackburn could be ready to take the back up job, but will likely be sent for another year down in the Juniors, however, he was very impressive in the youngsters training camp. If the Rangers have the decent defense, with a decent goalie, then they will absolutely make the playoffs. The Rangers need to have a good defense. They did not make the playoffs because of the ridiculous defense last season.
The surprising thing about this is that Sather is not done yet. Yes, he got Lindros, signed young players, got rid of the veterans, might get Hull, might trade Richter, and do other small things. Sather will make trades only if immediate changes should be made. If not, Sather will wait for the trading deadline, and for the UFA market of 2002. Do not forget that Sather will make another run at Jagr if the Capitals do not sign him. The best thing to do is to look at the strengths and weaknesses of a team, make your predictions with solid reasons, but never judge a team before the season starts. My prediction is that the Rangers have a much better chance of making the playoffs if the important players stay healthy.