In Glen Sather's now 14 years as Czar for life of the New York Rangers, he certainly hasn't been immune to criticism from pundits and fans alike. 5 times in his tenure as GM the Blueshirts have failed to qualify for the playoffs, and only once have they advanced passed the 2nd round.
But, when his team gave former coach John Tortorella what amounts to a vote of no confidence following last years 2nd round playoff exit, Sather did what many figured he would never do: He listened, and gave Tortorella his walking papers.
For a GM who has often been criticized for being out of touch–if not absent all together–in recent years, it was a surprising move, and one that appears to finally be paying dividends.
For sure, it was a rocky beginning under new bench boss Alain Vigneault–a 1-4 start and a 3-4-2 December homestand are the lowlights–and for a time, it became a question if the Blueshirts were capable of playing another style. But, at 3 games over .500 and with wins in 8 of 12, the Rangers appear to finally have grasped Vigneaults up-temp system.
It's not only the results that have changed, but how the team has looked on the ice. The two biggest reasons for Tortorella's dismissal were his handling of personnel, and that the Rangers' style of play had become akin to a 60 minute rope-a-dope. Under Vigneault, the Blueshirts have become a team that moves the puck vastly better than they have in years, and allows their skill players to create when the time is right.
And the power play? What was once chicken excrement has been turned into chicken soup.
Credit must be given where it is due: It would've been easy for Sather to rest on his laurels and give the company line that "it's a process" and "remember, this team was within two wins of the finals not too long ago." Instead, he trusted his eyes, realized the product the Rangers had on the ice was not hockey as it's intended to be played, and made a bold move.
For the first time in a long while, the Blueshirts pass the eye test: They can skate with, if not necessarily beat, the leagues top teams.
Now it falls on Sather to complete the transformation he started by finding the top-end talent the Rangers need to take that long-awaited next step.
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