Glen Sather always was dependable at playoff time for the Rangers. When he was a player, he was geared up when he heard coach Emile Francis shout his name. Sather was ready to leap over the boards, onto the ice, when he heard the coach say, "No, no. I want you to sharpen Jean Ratelle's skate."
Sather has told that story in the past, and so has Francis. Truth be told, the grinding winger scored only one goal in 72 career playoff games: in 1975 as a member of the Canadiens, of all teams. But he was solid enough to have played in every postseason game for the Rangers when they reached the 1972 Stanley Cup finals.
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More pertinent, Sather has had an even better season this year. Fourteen years into his job as president and general manager of the team (hired June 1, 2000), he has proven wise and prescient in putting together a team that entered Game 6 against the Canadiens last night one win away from the finals.
The man who has had his ups and downs, has heard his share of criticism and who often keeps his distance from the media, looks clairvoyant. Consider his comment on March 5 about having acquired Martin St. Louis for captain Ryan Callahan: "I think the guy that's coming in helps us advance a little farther than we expected to this year."
St. Louis' inspired leadership and clutch scoring has brought the Rangers to their surprising cusp, making the GM look brilliant. Here are some of Sather's other moves that have paid off:
Dealing Scott Gomez to the Canadiens for a package that included Ryan McDonagh, June 30, 2009. So McDonagh was accused by Daniel Briere of being one of the NHL's notorious slashers. He has blossomed into one of the league's top defensemen.
Extending Henrik Lundqvist's contract, Dec. 4, 2013. Has anyone in these Stanley Cup playoffs been more important to his team?
Hiring Alain Vigneault, June 21, 2013. Sather proved he actually does listen to players in exit interviews. It grew clear in those talks last spring that John Tortorella was not bringing out the best in them. So the coach was replaced by a firm but calmer presence.
Signing Dominic Moore, July 5, 2013. There was no telling what the Rangers would get from a player who took a season off after the death of his wife. The Rangers have gotten all they could have wanted and more from a center who has stabilized the fourth line and been a steadying influence for everybody on the team.
Trading Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein, Jan. 22, 2014. Del Zotto never did become the power-play quarterback the Rangers sought. Klein has provided what the Rangers needed: a solid, righthanded-shooting defense-first defenseman under contract through 2018.
Bringing back Mats Zuccarello, March 26, 2013. Entering last night he had 11 points and a plus-5 rating in the playoffs.
Not buying out Brad Richards' contract. You remember how Richards looked last postseason: totally lost and out of Tortorella's plans. Now, Richards wears the alternate captain's "A" but is as much of a captain as anyone on the team. Plus, he has been productive, as Ratelle once was, with those sharpened skates.