Why is there a picture of Mark Messier holding the Cup? Why do we care about the Rangers? Well, read on. Just the other day, I was watching a documentary about the Rangers’ Cup win in 1994 (Road To Victory: The 1994 New York Rangers Story) which got me thinking about parallels between the two franchises, Rangers and Leafs.
Indeed, there are plenty to choose from. Letâ€™s start with the fact that both teams are a part of the Original Six. What is inevitably a major consequence of that is plenty of hockey tradition and a devoted, passionate fanbase.
When comparing the markets, there is a distinction of NY having more sports teams (Yankees, Mets, Nets, Red Bulls, Knicks, Liberty, Islanders, Rangers based in NY City and NJ Devils, Giants, Jets in the greater metropolitan area), but the size of that market is a really good comparable to Toronto.
Next up, letâ€™s consider the Cup drought which Rangers fans had to endure for 54 whole years (1940-1994). The Leafs, as you certainly donâ€™t need reminding, won their last Cup in 1967, which has the drought lasting 45 years now.
The Rangers are definitely trending upward in the last couple of seasons under John Tortorella, this yearâ€™s appearance in the Conference Finals being the biggest proof of that claim.
All this got me thinking. Where was the roster of the NY Rangers (quality wise) before bowing out to the Flyers in a straight up playoff battle in their last game of the regular season 3 years ago (which ended in a shootout loss)?
Sure, that team made the playoffs all four consecutive seasons prior to the loss to the Flyers, but along with not making any significant impact, that hardly meant the roster didnâ€™t need major reshaping. Alexei Cherepanovâ€™s tragic death played a part in their roster quality drop off but players like Scott Gomez (58 points and a -2 in 2008-09) and Chris Drury (56 points and a -8 in 2008-09) are/were hardly players (and contracts) Iâ€™d consider swapping for anyone (including the current Mike Komisarek) on the current Leafs roster.
What really stood out in my mind was the fact that I wouldnâ€™t trade that roster for what the Leafs had a year ago or, better still, for what the Leafs have in their cupboard right now. And yet, NY made significant strides forward in the last couple of years by doing (for the most part) exactly what the Leafs are doing right now. They hired a proven, successful NHL coach and a toned down Glen Sather – who can be compared with a toned down Burke – took a step back from free agency and committed to what he does best (trading and drafting). Sather worked with Tortorella, allowed him to inject the team with guys he believed in, who had properly developed up to that point (Callahan, McDonagh, Stephan, Del Zotto), and benefited from sensible home run, low profile signings like Dan Girardi (Burke’s philosophy crosses paths there).
Fast forward and you realize those were the players/skaters who carried that team, not Marian Gaborik or Brad Richards. It canâ€™t be said that they didnâ€™t help, but if you basically argued that the pair played supporting roles â€“ in leadership and scoring depth, I wouldnâ€™t argue with you. Ok, they already had a major piece of the puzzle in Lundqvist and while you can’t ignore it, you can clearly envision what a goaltender of that calibre could do for our current roster.
New York has always had a high spending player policy. Be it Jaromir Jagr, Pavel Bure, Theoren Fleury or Brad Richards, the team like the Leafs could always afford to spend money.
Now, the Ranger money management situation is somewhat different in circumstance because they were years away of the new CBA being signed and had highly priced under producing players on their roster (Drury, Redden, Gomez), but thatâ€™s where Burke has another big advantage over Sather and most teams right now.
Sure, Sather knew then he could bury some deals in the minors, or buy a player out (safety of knowing the lasting CBA), but Burkeâ€™s cap management enabled him to have cap flexibility prior to entering the new CBA negotiations, which he will most probably continue to have when the negotiations conclude. No matter what happens during those negotiations, Burke wonâ€™t be handicapped by it, which couldnâ€™t be said about Sather and his situation with some of the aforementioned contracts in a more â€œunchangeableâ€ environment.
This is the part of the article where I should really start making a point, so here goes. Think of this Leafs team as the improved Rangers team of 2008-09, but don’t just think about the current roster, think about potential; potential without long term anchoring deals, potential with plenty of cap space ahead of uncertain times. This is how â€œfarâ€ this team is from being capable of achieving the same things that the Rangers team achieved from 2008-09, this is a boat that is sure to weather the coming storm with relative ease.
By doing the right things, the Leafs could be in contention much earlier than people think. Think about how long it took Sather to put together a team that “just” went to the Conference Finals, and ask yourself if it would’ve happened that way if he hadn’t decided to work with Tortorella and build (mostly) from inside the organization…
Maple Leafs interested in Shane Doan
A big bodied veteran at a position the Leafs don’t have much leadership (forward), could be a nice voice in the dressing room to help share the load with Dion. The question is, is Doan interested in the Leafs?
Maple Leafs sign Holzer, take Kulemin to arbitration
Holzer is a physical right-handed D and may be in a good position to take a spot in the top seven in wake of Schenn’s trading. As for Kulemin, you can see how a player with 30 goals one season and 7 the next could be difficult to settle terms with, arbitration seems appropriate.
Morgan Rielly learns about life in the Blue and White fishbowl
Worthwhile read from Kevin McGran.
Bruins sign Christian Hanson
Hanson played with the Hershey Bears last season.
How do you fix a problem like the Leafs
Burke’s three needs according to Mirtle: â€œ(a) getting bigger (b) adding a veteran goaltender and (c) adding another top two centre.â€ Mirtle opines a top four defenceman should be highest on the priority list.