I haven't written an long thoughtful article here in a while, and while this team continues to suck the life out of a me a recent purchase has got me thinking. I purchased today an authentic 2003-04 Vintage Rangers throwback. Got it at a great price, and its one of the throwbacks to the late '70s the Rangers wore for a few games right before the lockout. Now how does this purchase relate to today's team? To understand we need to take a trip in a time machine back to a dark age in New York Rangers history...
The year is 2003. Dan Blackburn cannot lift his arms. Mike Dunham is our goalie. Mark Messier is the "the messiah" (whatever that means now). The Rangers cannot grab Dion Phaneuf in the draft, so they settle with Hugh Jessiman. Granted, he is still the only player from that 2003 1st round class to NOT make the NHL. Pavel Bure's career is over, but no one knows it yet. Bobby Holik is our leading scorer for the upcoming season, and Jamie Lundmark is still a Ranger. It was a horrible time to be a fan, and the team flat out sucked. So Sather starts a new "5 year plan" and trades away Brian Leetch. Rebuild on. The team tanks and get's the 6th overall pick, and selects Al Montoya! The future is now.
Fast forward to now. We are a much better team. We have talent, and a whole lot of large contracts. With the Olympic Roster Freeze and the Trade Deadline slowly approaching the Rangers are a bubble team at best. What should we do then? The team has 2 viable options: become sellers and tank or become buyers at the deadline...
Let's see what each option does for this team...
Tank and Sell. Pros: I finally get to buy the domain name Tankfortaylor.com. Knowing the Rangers we lose every single game but the ping pong ball doesn't come up and we get the 2nd overall pick and he never plays in the NHL. The Rangers can finally shed some salary, and they can start a true youth movement. Our drafting since the Montoya/Korpikoski debacle of 2004 (both are in Phoenix ironically...) the Rangers have had a so-so draft record (with Cherepanov, rest in peace, being the only aberration). Why not try and trade Michal Rozsival (only 2 years left on his contract), Ales Kotalik (the 3 million dollar scratch), or if someone is dumb enough to take him Wade Redden. By shedding some salary we can play some of the youngins and wait a few years and free up tons of cap space to start over. Heck the Islanders will have close to 20 million dollars in cap space after this season if they don't go after a big FA. By tanking we can load up on quality draft picks, and by selling we can shed salary for a push in the future. Also if we suck Sather might get fired.
Cons: We will suck. Majorly. Maybe even worse than the dark years. The playoffs have spoiled us, but we hit our peak in 2006-07. Also, a rebuild takes a lot of effort and total commitment. One Jagr-esque trade will screw the whole thing up (it did in 2004 it will in 2010). Is it worth the effort to constantly miss the playoffs and risk on untested youth?
Buy and Compete. Pros: The blockbuster. Everyone loves checking out TSN on deadline day and seeing which new players are coming to your hometown. It's one of the most exciting days in sports and Sather has made it interesting over the past few years. The Nik Antropov and Derek Morris trades last year were phenomenal. The Rangers are looking to make a big splash this year and the Calgary Flames (oh wow how amazing would Dion Phaneuf be finally in that Rangers jersey) seemed to be courting us. Buying also gives us a chance to trade salary for different salary. A change in scenery always can help a player, plus the new salary we bring in may expire earlier. By buying now we stay in the middle of the pack, make the playoffs and buy our time until the salary is gone. Everyone loves the playoffs, and any team can get hot and win the Stanley Cup. We saw the 8 seed Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, why can't the Rangers do it? 30 teams fight for the glory every year, and no one knows which one is going to take that glorious drink from Lord Stanley's mug. A trade can push a team over the edge, and lead to better things down the road.
Cons: A trade can be disastrous for a team. Remember Mattias Norstrom? A great stay at home defensive-defensemen who's prime was in the mid '90s? Yeah we shipped him with some prospects to the Los Angeles Kings in 1996 for a washed up Marty McSorley and Jarri Kurri. How'd that work out? Norstrom went on to become the Kings captain for 6 years from 2001-2007, while Kurri sucked and got Neil Smith out of town. Trades can be devastating for an organization and are huge risks. Someone we deal away this season could give us a dud in return and a star on the other side. Trades can make Stanley Cup runs (see New York Rangers, 1994), and they can also ruin them (see New York Rangers, 1996).
So what does all of this have to do with this team? If you read carefully there was one similarity between both situations: time. The Rangers can't begin a massive overhaul to get into dynasty mode (See Red Wings, Detroit Penguins, Pittsburgh and Capitals, Washington) until they can start developing youngins and have plenty of cap room to gather free agents slowly, as well as give youngins the extensions to lock them up long term. Frankly, I don't care what this organization does this season. I will support them no matter what. But the day Chris Drury's albatross contract (I will still defend him at a moment's notice. I am not criticizing the man, just saying his contract is enormous and strangling our cap) expires is the day the building of the dynasty begins. So folks enjoy the success due to parity, and savor the ride. It's all we got right now, but there is a future to look forward too.
Let's add a poll for the fun of it!