Monday, May 24, 2010

Grading The Brass

As I pulled out the 'red pen' for the players, it is only just that I did it for the front office as well. Now, the easy way out would be to hand straight Fs to James Dolan, Glen Sather and John Tortorella. Let's face it, this season was a disappointment. As fans we were promised things that were not delivered and it is quite easy to be bitter over it.

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 garbage heap waiver wire and added a veteran backup goaltender, albeit a bit too late. That kind of up-and-down season seems properly judged right in the middle with a C.

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?


Anonymous said...

Dolan, a B minus???????????????

Scotty, you are off your rocker.

Ticket prices at MSG are not just high, they are unaffordable. The renovation to MSG is just one more instance of Dolan not listening to fan feedback. It will cost fans more money and will bring more suits into the building and the catwalk will probably obstruct views too.

Dolan has not fired Sather which is a joke. How many years does that douche get without putting together a team with a heartbeat?

Dolan deserves an F. Plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Fair Grades Scott.

I'd be a little kinder to Tortorella for getting more youth in the line-up than in previous years (D+ or C-).

I'd be harder on Sather for equipping his coach with a less that average team (C-)

Your guess is as good as mine with Dolan. Probably give him a lesser grade (D) based on the team's year-by-year inability to compete for a full season and into the post-season, not to mention Cablevision's cut-throat approach to not sharing their HD broadcast. As owner he should be the one to monitor the team's trends, and find the people who are capable of changing them.

Duniyadnd said...

I'd like to give Dolan an "F". Not just for how he administers the Rangers, but the Knicks as well. He doesn't like to be proven wrong, I get that, but that ego also needs some impatience to get some real results.

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of stuff Dolan should be concerned with:

And a diehard Ranger fan wrote this piece...

Anonymous said...

Torts is a C- in my book, maybe a C. Even with the limited accountability, it's still way more than Renney ever showed. He nearly eeked out a playoff birth with essentially a two man team. He did this without having a whole lot of skilled, aggressive players—a must in Torts' system. And besides how he treated Gilroy, I thought he actually played the kids pretty damn well.

Knocks against him would be that he was wayyy too quick to flip a line if they had a single bad shift. I have no problem with changing during game, but not every other shift like he did a lot. He also decided to cling to the safe is death mantra for too long, well after it became apparent that the shit he was handed by Slats couldn't hack it in his system.

Slats can't get anything higher than a D, and that's only for the Gomez deal that allowed us to get Gabby. It's impossible to rate him in a vacuum for this year because most of his moves were done to rectify shit deals he did previously. Besides Gabby, he did not add anyone that fit Torts' system. The talent is lacking on this team because of him.

I also don't think drawing to 99% capacity in probably the biggest market, with a devout fanbase, is reason to give Dolan a good mark.


Scotty Hockey said...

An owner is out to make money and that is what Dolan does. His team still holds a place of prestige in the NHL despite being an utter disappointment on the ice - one that is often hard to watch. And ticket costs are still less than they are in other buildings.

Third Anon, the one with the link, I can't disagree with you more. That link is ridiculous. I don't want Dolan playing Big Brother and profiling me. And I don't think that buying ice cream for fans that are having financial worries is a solution.

j0e - the whole point was to grade just this season's activities. Of course Sather gets a big fat F when you look at his career ...

mike said...

James Dolan deserves nothing but scorn and opprobrium. Why give him anything, when he's already been given the Cablevision fortune by his daddy?

He is an absentee owner. There is no worse kind of owner in American sports. He makes money with no effort to take care of the fans or their desire to win. He is a cynical asshole whose biggest talent in life is repeatedly going to rehab for cocaine problems. He is dumb as a bag of rocks, as petulant as a three-year old, and his band sucks too.

James Dolan is an argument for revolution, all by himself. Sather deserves an F, but Dolan deserves some new kind of alphabetical grading system to define exactly how much of a douchebag he is.

Anonymous said...

Scotty, owners are out to make money? Duh. But you think an owner can't be passionate about his company/team. You think Steve Jobs isn't passionate about his company. Making money is a benefit of running a good business. If Dolan were running this team anywhere besides the biggest market Original Six team they'd be at 75% capacity, not 99%, and that 99% is fudged numbers anyway. There were tons of empty seats this season (visually looks much worse than 99% sold) and next year it will be worse.

The Puck Stops Here said...

You are clearly reaching in any trade evaluation when you include a free agemt signing in your trade to try to make it appear a positive move for your team (and you pick from the free agent signings to get the most positive one). Gomez and Pyatt performed quite well in the playoffs. Chris Higgins was the biggest Ranger addition and he was a big eight goal man.

The only purpose of adding in Gaborik is to not admit how bad the trade is. Fact the Rangers could have signed Gaborik without the deal if they laid off the Donald Brashear type signings. Why not include Brashear and/or Kotalik instead of Gaborik? Is it because it makes things look depressingly bad?

Anonymous said...

Dropped the ball on grading the brass. I can agree with the Torts grade although I think he deserves an F. He clearly showed that his ego is too big for New York. His whole coaching tenure has been one contradiction after the next with no results, but you pretty much hit the nail on the head with him. How Sather got anything above an F is crazy. Yes the Prust and Shelley trades were nice little trades, but they were covering up mistakes he made this year. The disrespect he showed to the Rangers fan base and organization by signing Brashear is enough to warrant an F. Giving Kotalik a 3year deal for 3mil a year and trading a 3rd rounder for Brian Boyle were awful moves (I believe all his NYR reclamation acts like Boyle have failed), and he's shown no accountability for his failure. Dolan deserves an F for not firing Sather.