Monday, February 23, 2009

"We feel 100 percent responsible..."

That was Scott Gomez, commenting on the firing of Tom Renney as head coach of the New York Rangers. It was inevitable, I guess. Since compiling a 10-2-1 record in October, the Rangers went 7-6-1 in November, 6-5-1 in December, 6-5-1 again in January, and finally 2-5-3 in February before Renney was relieved of his duties. Assistant Perry Pearn was also dismissed.

Here’s a coach who managed to guide the Rangers to a 128-83-35 record heading into this year. He led the Rangers to 40-plus wins in three consecutive years – the first time that had happened in Manhattan since the 1970’s.

And now, he doesn’t know how to win.

It doesn’t seem as if Renney is the problem. The Rangers have been a team that hasn’t seen a problem a checkbook and a working pen couldn’t solve for years. Need a center? Hey, get two! Scott Gomez and Chris Drury -- $14.4 million in cap hit. They’ve combined for fewer points than Evgeni Malkin and are a combined minus-20. Need a defenseman? Hey, get two! Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin -- $$8.6 million in cap hit. There’s another combined minus-20. Need forwards? Hey, get two! Nikolai Zherdev (acquired in trade) and Markus Naslund -- $6.5 million in cap hit. Zherdev has had 11 points in 2009 (four in his last 11 games), and Naslund has nine points in 2009 and is minus-14 for the year by himself.

Now, it appears to be up to John Tortorella to turn things around, who if nothing else will provide fodder for the New York tabloids (assuming the Rangers can work out something with the Lightning). The Rangers will probably get a boost from the change – it often happens that way. But the problem doesn’t appear to be the coach here, any more than it was the coach in Pittsburgh a week ago. The Rangers are a team built quite literally on the basis of a Gimmick. They lead the league with nine shootout wins. But even there, it was starting to fall apart – they were 1-3 in Gimmicks in 2009.

The fact of the matter is that the Rangers just aren’t that good of a team, personnel-wise. They are less of a team than they were last year, which is saying something, since last year’s version included the renowned “leave it all on the ice” player – Jaromir Jagr.

Scott Gomez mouthed the right words – “as players, we feel 100 percent responsible.” Well, the players are a part of it. They certainly haven’t been keeping up their end of the deal. But 100 percent? 50 percent? Nope, the lion’s share of this debacle can be placed at the feet of the architect of this collection of underperformers.

He might be in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder, but Glen Sather sure isn’t there for what he’s built in New York.

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