(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Back in February of 2004, the frustrated Garden Faithful seemed have part of their wish fulfilled. Glen Sather, Ranger coach and GM, stepped down from his coaching duties, handing the reigns over to Tom Renney.
That was the moment, Sather’s fortunes changed on Broadway.
Before he decided to pack in his coaching comeback, his Rangers were a hockey joke. Filled with overpriced and underperforming veterans that came to New York in order to take that one last big paycheck and well no one in power cared too much about the results.
Mark Messier, Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, Jaromir Jagr, Bobby Holik, Petr Nedved, Alexi Kovelev, and Theo Fleury all came to New York under Sather and proceeded to be on the golf course in the middle of April.
It seemed like Sather, who spent years pinching pennies in Edmonton, finally got a checkbook to spend and he acted like Monty Brewster in Brewster’s Millions over his first four seasons in New York.
But then the lockout happened and Sather found religion when he had to spend within a budget.
Add to that a franchise goalie coming up and the rebuilt farm system starting to bear fruit, and what you created was a perennial playoff team and one that has been one of the best in hockey over the past few seasons.
When all is said and done, that’s the Sather we will remember. The Rangers president and general manager shed his latter title today anointing assistant general manager Jeff Gorton as his successor.
“I’ve been thinking about it for the last two or three years,” Sather said Wednesday. “Last year we had the run to the Stanley Cup, this year we thought we’d get another shot at it. I think everybody would like to retire as a champion; it didn’t happen. I felt at the end of the season, with the people we have here, it was a good time for me to do it.
“I’ve been doing this a long time . . . The clock ticks for everyone. You look at the [general] managers in the NHL, they’re all getting younger, not getting older.”
At 72, it makes sense that the NHL Hall of Famer would want to take a lesser of a role. His contemporary, Lou Lamoriello, did the same back in May and after some soul searching, Sather decided to pull the trigger.
But Sather leaves a legacy. The Rangers still are one of the best teams in hockey will a core that has gone to the third round or better three of the past four years. Gorton does inherit a team with cap issues and will need some tweaking.
And Sather made his mistakes. Just look at ransom he gave up for Martin St. Louis and Keith Yandle. Scott Gomez was a disaster and Chris Drury was overpaid and past his prime. But he was able to correct his mistakes and in the case of Gomez, turn him into a future captain in Ryan McDonagh.
However as bad as Sather’s first few years were and he only survived because James Dolan was his boss, he will be remembered as general manager who built the Rangers into a perennial contender, but one that just couldn’t win the cup.
Let the Jeff Gorton era begin.