After countless hours of deep thought and many sleepless nights I’ve finally figured out Glen Sather. The man is an addict. It’s the only possible explanation for Sather’s repeated extravagant spending. He’s addicted to shopping sprees and the bottomless wallet of James Dolan is the means for Sather to get his fix. Like parents who can’t cut their drug-addicted children off because of memories of the good times and the hope for a better future, Dolan keeps supporting Sather’s habit because of his success with the Oilers and the vision of a superstar posse of champions.
People get addicted to things for a variety of reasons, one of which is that something in their past haunts them and they must cope with it. With the Oilers Sather was forced to ship the greatest player in NHL history to the LA Kings because Oilers ownership refused to spend the requisite money to sign The Great One. This has never left Sather and is the spawn of his addition. Sather was devastated to trade Wayne Gretzky, and the elimination of financial restrictions was a huge perk to joining the Rangers.
What’s resulted is a laundry list of financial failures, signings that have woefully underperformed. Sather’s mercenaries never live up to the deals they sign, but he is comforted that he’ll never again be outbid on a player he likes. The Gretzky mistake must enter his mind every July 1 and Sather fights his ghosts by throwing money at every marquee name.
It’s sad really. The last 10 years of Ranger history could have been avoided if Edmonton owner Peter Pocklington had simply allowed Sather to keep Gretzky. He is the real man to blame for Rangers fan woes.The good news is that Sather realized his problem. We can’t be sure if there was an actual intervention, or if Sather was in control enough to realize how addiction took over his life. This turning point occurred sometime around the 2004 NHL trade deadline when Sather took the first steps to recovery, trading many of his overpaid veterans for draft picks and prospects. Since then, Sather has suffered several relapses (see Drury, Chris and Gomez, Scott), but he’s getting better. In the last two years there have been three encouraging signs for Sather: a willingness to admit mistakes, the Rangers deep farm system, and the 2010 trade deadline.
Any addiction support group focuses on a key phrase designed to help addicts publicly admit their mistakes, “My name is Joe Schmo and I’m an addict.” Sather has reached that point, and his symbolic admissions include the incredible Scott Gomez trade last July, the demotion of Donald Brashear, and the Chris Higgins/Ales Kotalik trade in February. Sather recognized that these horrid signings didn’t work out and was able to suppress his inner demons, ridding the Rangers of the contracts. (Everyone reading this is screaming “Wade Redden!” at their monitors. Folks, addictions aren’t cured overnight. Baby steps.).
The second major sign of improvement is the Rangers recent commitment to developing young talent. By all accounts the Rangers have one of the strongest farm systems in the league. Sather hasn’t traded a major prospect in some time, instead he’s collected assets. Many complain that the youngsters aren’t being given a chance, but that isn’t the case. The Rangers currently have eight home-grown regulars on their roster right now, a number consistent with many teams in the league. What’s more, they have several expiring contracts which could open spots for players in the near future. Arguing over when players are NHL-ready is a moot point; Sather has shown a commitment to youth and has not moved a prospect of consequence in a very long time.
And the third major symbol of healing was the trade deadline just a few weeks ago. Sather, who’s historically been a huge fan of trading prospects for over-the-hill stars, did not make a single move on the NHL level at the trade deadline. With the Rangers scratching and clawing to reach the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Sather decided there wasn’t a prudent move to help the team in the short-term that wouldn’t damage the Rangers future. Nobody saw it coming.
Listen, every argument against Sather is valid. He should have been fired long ago. But his recent body of work is by far the best of his Rangers tenure. As Sather has shown us, addictions are very difficult to face and come in many forms. But these three major changes have been huge milestones in Sather’s recovery. He has taken the necessary steps to begin the healing process so instead of dwelling on the past, maybe these recent developments are cause for optimism.
Or maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m grasping at straws because I love the Rangers and can’t stop crawling back for more punishment. My name is Kevin and I’m an addict.