Quite, quite easy.
For those who don't get it, there are fans and then there are Ranger fans. Odds are, if you are here reading this you are a Ranger fan. Your moods coincide with the success of the Blueshirts, rising with every victory, crashing with every soul-crushing defeat. And, over the last 84 seasons there have been so, so many soul-crushing defeats. But to properly assess the brass I have to limit my focus to last season and limit the sheer negativity that comes spewing from the depths of my disappointment. After all, if things had gone right - or even just a hair more right than they had - the loathful Flyers wouldn't be a win away from the Stanley Cup Finals right now. Man, this is a difficult task.
Making it even tougher is the simple fact we don't really know what Dolan, Sather and Torts have done - all that can be judged are the public actions and the results of the behind-closed-doors actions. We're not in the boardroom, office or locker room. Two of the three rarely talk to the press so what they are thinking and doing is unknown and the third, well, his loathing of the press clouds everything just a shade.
John Tortorella: Where to start, where to start ... the team Tortorella coached went 38-34-10 overall and just 18-17-6 at home, missing the playoffs by a point. After he crashed the team out of the playoffs last spring, Tortorella had all summer and a full training camp to implement that vaunted 'safe is death' style. When the puck finally dropped, that went out the window as he realized he didn't have the horses and the team ended up playing Tom Renney-esque defensive hockey for much of the season. Torts also used the Renney Line Generator, juggling his personnel throughout much of the year. His nonsensical promises of accountability were just that as few players were benched or demoted based on their level of play. His veterans didn't deliver and his young players regressed in terms of their on-ice performance (Staal, Girardi, Cally, Dubi). MDZ and Arty saw too much action while Hobey (and all of the Hartford guys) too little. Tortorella took the Sean Avery out of Sean Avery in the 2009 playoffs and didn't reverse the vasectomy until after New Years. The coach's dealings with the New York media, well, frankly they were ridiculous. All of that being said, Torts was able to coax the late push for the playoffs. He also had that brimstone-and-fire timeout against the Devils early in the season that turned things around and often used his timeouts well. So, ignoring the heartbreak that came from the late tease of talent, Torts gets a D.
Glen Sather: Sather started high and ended high. He dealt away Scott Gomez and Tom Pyatt for Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh and (basically) Marian Gaborik. It was and I still think is a masterful stroke even considering how Gomez and Pyatt became big parts of Montreal's surprising success. Gomez never acclimated to New York (on the ice, off it is something else) and was a massive disappointment for a massive salary. Gaborik came in and provided all of the Ranger offense. After all of that goodwill generated by the Gomez deal, Sather pissed it all away by acquiring Donald Brashear and Ales Kotalik - two utter failures that rank up there with the Bobby Holik and Wade Redden signings in the Hall of Shame Sather has created in New York. While the team was and has been saddled with the latter two deals for far too long, Sather was able to bounce back and rectify the former already. He demoted Brashear and upgraded with a deal for Jody Shelley. He also traded Kotalik and the offensively-challenged Higgins for an expiring contract and a power forward in the making in Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust. The GM also plucked Erik Christensen off the
James Dolan: The long-standing belief - one that has not been refuted publicly - is that Jimmy D doesn't pay attention to or care about the Rangers so grading is tough. In November Forbes ranked the Rangers second in the NHL to Toronto in terms of value and revenue. Dolan kept Sather in the driver's seat of the franchise, for better and worse. He raised ticket prices for the fourth straight season and the Rangers had their worst attendance since prior to the lockout. Then again, they still drew an average of 18,076, or 99.3% of MSG capacity. It is now two years since the plans for a new, even more corporate Garden were unveiled in the form of a massive renovation and they have yet to impact the fans other than to ignite debate or dread over what's coming - physically there were no real changes affecting Garden-goers in 09-10. Dolan put another feather in his cap with the first live, professional sporting event to be broadcast in 3D, something widely regarded as a success. MSG Network enhanced their postgame show and brought in some good talent to break down the Blueshirts but still employed the grating Joe Micheletti. Blueshirts United essentially rendered the already-decimated Ranger Fan Club obsolete and, despite being a clear money grab, the people I know who shelled out the bucks were justly rewarded. Despite being a ghost to season ticket holders and the press, I looked at all of the results and have give Dolan a B-.
Whether he, personally, deserves credit or if others in the front office do is something else - the same goes for Sather and Torts. What do you think?