Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fixing the Rangers From the Top

Our friend The Dark Ranger wrote an interesting piece at his site called "Stopping the Clown Parade at Cablevision" in which he reports on a Wall Street Journal piece calling for James Dolan to step down as CEO of Cablevision. The bad news in that piece is that if Dolan did in fact do that then he would just run Madison Square Garden.

The thought of James Dolan as an active owner involved with the New York Rangers just might be the worst possible nightmare for Ranger fans. It is already bad enough that Dolan who claims to know nothing about hockey leaves Glen Sather to do as he pleases but given what Ranger fans have seen from what Dolan has done for the Knicks then thank you very much but please stay away James Dolan.

Still it did get me to thinking about how I would run the Rangers if I had the chance and it is a tad more complicated than just firing Glen Sather. When I look at the Rangers I see a headless monster because there is no oversight over Glen Sather that would realize there were problems unless it came with a sea of red ink.

By then the Dolans saw how much money they were losing then it would be too late, the team would be in the toilet. Fixing the Rangers is going to be a lot harder than eating contracts, firing people or any of the more common solutions.

To fix the Ranger franchise it will require a total overhaul of the structure that is Madison Square Garden. Really has anyone ever looked at the entire command structure at MSG? If not take a peek here and can any of you figure out who does what?

It has to start with a change of mindset at the very top of the MSG food chain. It starts by splitting the current duties of President and General Manager into 2 different positions. When you look around the NHL you will see that the better run franchises have someone with a hockey background overseeing the General Manager.

Is it any wonder that as soon as John Davidson took over the St. Louis Blues as President that the franchise is turning itself around? How Detroit has Jim Devallano looking over the shoulder of GM Ken Holland.

How about more to support this belief like Boston with Harry Sinden or Chicago who brought in Scotty Bowman as an adviser. In other words look at the teams that are finishing towards the top of the NHL or are on the upswing as franchises and see how they are run.

Of course you can also look at those teams that are continuing to struggle and take a peek to see how they are run. In essence the more hockey experience one has at the top of the food chain the better the odds of a being a winner.

Right now when you look at the very top of the MSG corporation you see nobody with any kind of hockey background who would say "Hey Glen this is not right" because none of them know how to run a hockey team.

I know the question you are thinking is "who would we bring in as the head of hockey operations for the Rangers then?" The answer is to look back at what worked for the Rangers in the past. It was an then unknown Assistant General Manager for the Detroit Red Wings who finally got the Rangers to the Cup win.

Look at the big names who the Rangers hired to run the franchise like Esposito, Ferguson, Shero and more but they all failed to get the job done. The bigger the name the worse they did it seemed but then along came Neil Smith and despite how he left the Rangers got the job done in 1994.

Neil Smith was running the Red Wing farm system but was hungry; wanting to build up a rep as a NHL GM. In other words hire someone like a Jim Nill (Vice President for the Red Wings) as Team President who is a major reason why the Red Wings can find prospects every year and develop them into productive players as the Ranger president.

Hire some like a Jim Nill who has a strong background as both a winner but as a planner. Let Nill decide who he wants as GM but for now we would still keep Schoenfeld at least to give Nill a chance to look over the hockey operations.

Schoenfeld as GM, I believe can run the Rangers and having the mistakes of Sather right in his eyes would be much smarter to learn from them rather than repeating them. Let Schoenfeld bring in his own assistant to run Hartford but he and Coach John Tortorella will have 3 years to show forward progress (read that as showing overall franchise improvement in all areas) or they get the pink slip.

We will not demand Cup Contenders in 3 years because it just might take longer to build the franchise into an annual Cup contender not just a "one and done." Then we streamline the Ranger's hockey operations because as we used to say in the Army "Too Many Chiefs and not enough Indians."

Mike Barnett is not needed as an adviser to the President and GM nor is he needed as the Director of US Scouting (Scouting belongs to Gordie Clark), thus this position is not needed. Cameron Hope is the resident cap expert and is still needed as is John Rosasco but we move Rosasco into the player side and out of publicity because he does more than people realize.

Gordie Clark runs all of the scouting departments as well as player development while Christer Rockstrom runs all of the European scouting including the professional side which eliminates the need for Anders Hedberg. Clark has an assistant to cover the professional scouting area but final decisions will come from Clark and Rockstrom.

Adam Graves moves into a new position which is roving scout and instructor for the prospects. Yes it is always nice to see Gravy at fan events but firsthand experience has shown me that Graves is more important to use as a teacher for the unsigned prospects.

Having watched how prospects talk about suggestions that Graves has made to them has shown me that he is the perfect teacher during the season for them. Sending Graves to work with the prospects will get a much better response because of who Graves is. Graves also would be freeing up the amateur scouts who have to check on current prospects to concentrate on finding new talent for the Rangers.

Another change to be made would be to add a second goalie coach to work with Benoit Allaire (provided he remains with the Rangers) who will work with Hartford, Charlotte and the prospect goalies. Allaire's main job has to be working with the Ranger goalies so getting him an assistant is a smart move.

We watched as Antoine Lafleur (2007 2nd) badly struggled with his form and confidence which makes someone who can go to the prospects and work with them a worthwhile investment.

Of course the one move that every Ranger fan dreams of is replacing James Dolan as the Chairman of Madison Square Garden. There is one man who we wonder what would have happened if he remained in charge and our first choice to run the Garden Bob Gutowski

It was Gutowski who sat Neil Smith and Mike Keenan down and told them to work together or get fired together. It was on Gutowski's watch that both the Knicks and Rangers played for their league championships in the same season.

It has been on Dolan's watch that both teams have missed the playoffs in the same season; do we need any more to say about why I would bring Gutowski back to run the Garden.


Programming Note

The folks at the The have invited me to take part in a chat next Tuesday at 8PM/5PM to talk about the upcoming draft as well as the rest of the Ranger prospect world.

Hope folks show up and ask away as I have gotten to know Jim of the Blueshirt Banter and he is a really nice guy. Others expected to attend are "The Mouth" of Ranger Crisis as I hope Ryan from The Manic Ranger .

But really I would really like the chance to be able to chat with those of you who make up Prospect Park which is you folks who read and send in information as well as pictures.


Jim said...

Jess great point about the Gutkowski-Smith-Keenan dynamic. Unfortunately I don't see the current regime changing anytime soon.

Thanks for the plug, we're really looking forward to Tuesday night.


Ryan McFadden - The Manic Ranger said...

Great post Jess. I like your take on the bigger the name, the bigger the failure. I would love to see Schoeny as GM and the Rangers definitely need someone in the time being to look over Sather's shoulder.

Sorry i couldn't make the chat, I went to the gym after work and missed it. It was a great read though when I got back. It was interesting to see that you think NCAA is better competition than the OHL, never thought that would be the case.