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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NYR Blame Game: Sather vs Tortorella

   A top-tier regular season performance in 2011-12 for Broadway was as unexpected as it was welcomed hockey. With virtually no roster changes (save the tradeaways of Wojtek Wolski & Erik Christensen, and acquisition of goon John Scott), NY had a founded roster of constant contributors, complimented by the premier netminder in all of hockey. It was 'Year One' of the much-discussed 'Three-Year Window' of Cup contention, and although the Conference Finals Game 6 was a particularly heartbreaking finale to the endeared campaign, it left much optimism in Rangerland for the seasons to come.
   Less than a year later, we find ourselves barely into the Rick Nash era of Madison Square Garden, only to be met with frustration, underwhelmed results, and a seemingly disappointing sequel. Doubtlessly the seat has warmed for bench boss John Tortorella, with many blaming the coaching style as unadapted to the newly updated roster. However, ignoring the lockout and new-CBA, we must not forget there was a lot of change in personnel ASIDE from the Nash trade. Nearly half of last season's successful contributors were replaced, and as the public opinions of Tortorella invert, we must ask ourselves if Glen Sather deserves to remain, and perhaps hire his SIXTH coach in TWELVE seasons [counting Sather himself as a coach during his unfruitful interim stint in '04, and discounting the '04-'05 locked out season altogether].

   Let's look at some numbers:

   In 2011-12, NY had 10 players which they do not possess now, as contributors to both depth and results. Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Ruslan Fedotenko, John Mitchell, Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp, Jeff Woywitka, and Mats Zuccarello. Granted none of these names are esteemed in hockey fame, nor are what one would label as 'elite' (unlike Rick Nash). However, among these 10 bodies, it accounted for 504 games of manpower, 6201 minutes of icetime, and an aggregate of 55 goals scored.

   That's 0.1091 goals/game at 12:19 minutes/game which needed to be swapped, replaced and regraded in a year where the salary cap will shrink 10% next season. How have Sather's ulterior options panned out thusfar?

   Rick Nash, Taylor Pyatt, J.T. Miller, Aaron Asham, Jeff Halpern, Darroll Powe, Matt Gilroy, Michael Haley, Chris Kreider and Roman Hamrlik represent the essential replacement 10 to the former 10. What do their stats look like at this junction?

   Thusfar this season it's panned out to 160 games of manpower, 1961 minutes of icetime, and an aggregate total of 17 goals scored. It sounds inferior, but actually the game-to-game averages are nearly identical to the former squad; 0.1063 goals/game at 12:16 minutes/game.

   So Sather has adequately filled the holes from season past?

   Well, not exactly.

   The 10 departed contributors from 2012 featured bodies whom could handle deep minutes across the board. 8 of those 10 averaged 10-17 minutes per game, with 4 of them averaging at least 1 goal per 5 games.

   The 10 new contributors manufacture the same average, but it's not as evenly-spread; Only 3 bodies are averaging 11+ minutes per game, and Rick Nash is the only one to average more than a goal every 6 games. In essence, the mean production remains the same, but instead of 10 baskets evenly filled with eggs, there are now only 1 or 2 jam-packed with eggs, with 8 or 9 baskets nearly empty.

   Additionally, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin have been called upon for 2nd line duties, where as a year ago they could freely be exercised on the 3rd line amongst the sufficient depth in the roster. No longer is that the case; any game Brad Richards may miss, NY now has 21-year old Derek Stepan as the primary center. JT. Miller, Brian Boyle and Jeff Halpern are the 'compliments.' Carl Hagelin is also being allotted nearly 3 minutes more/game than last season, playing against tougher lines and tougher players in tougher situations.

   To clarify, Stepan and Hagelin deserve to move up as their game and experience improve, but we must take into account their presumed increase in icetime and responsibility is yet another glaring indicator that NY does not have the depth it had just a spring ago.

   Yes, Rick Nash has ben a success on Broadway. Yes, Sather's trade of Anisimov/Dubinsky/Erixon/1st Round Pick for Nash was not a 'bad' or 'losing' trade. Yes, Glen Sather's massive signing of Brad Richards was reward-fronted/risk-backended, and we all knew it going in. Yes, Sather cannot be faulted for declining to pay Prust $2.5 million/year the next 4 years. None of these are on Sather, nor his disposition of having to deal with a brand new CBA this January, and a deflating salary cap at the start of next season.

   The only major critique of Sather to be made, other than his boondoggled re-signing of Stu Bickel to a 2-year $1.5 million deal, is his failure to replace the depth and room-of-versatility we all enjoyed last season. A topheavy roster compared to an all-around capable roster can vary, and can only be analyzed with metrics and arithmetic after the contracts have been signed. But nevertheless, we must realize John Tortorella can only coach and manage the 20-25 players on his bench that Glen Sather has set for him.

   Could another coach achieve superior results as compared to John Tortorella? Or does Glen Sather even deserve another coaching change in his reign? There's no certainty, only scrutiny, and (missed?) opportunity; things Rangers fans have come to know all too well.

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