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Glen Sather's hovering presence adds to Rangers intrigue

Rangers' Glen Sather addresses the media before their

Rangers' Glen Sather addresses the media before their game against the Devils on Feb. 27, 2012 at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The most interesting thing about Thursday’s introductory news conference for the new-look Rangers front office was the guest list.

The headliner naturally was Chris Drury, elevated to president and general manager in the wake of Wednesday’s firings of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton.

But right there in the Zoom box beside him was Glen Sather, senior adviser to the owner, alternate governor, old-school hockey icon and architect of the mid-2010s Rangers.

On the surface, having "Slats," now 77, join Drury to discuss the next phase of The Process made sense. His role is no secret, having been included in the first paragraph of the news release about the management shake-up:

 

"Senior Advisor Glen Sather will work with Drury during this transition and continue to consult with the team."

But still. Sather did not do many interviews when he was the team’s GM and president, and here he was, two years since transitioning into a presumed semi-retirement.

All of which naturally leads to palace intrigue over precisely what went down in this week’s shocking makeover.

Did Sather whisper displeasure with the direction of the team into the ear of MSG Sports executive chairman James Dolan? Did he merely confirm Dolan’s sense a change was needed? Did he have nothing to do with it?

None of that was settled by Thursday’s interview, but Sather did have an interesting answer when I asked him to detail the extent and nature of his current role.

He said that since assuming it, he has sought "to be available to anybody within the organization that I can help, and that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do — try to make the team better. And if Jim asks me a question, I give him an honest answer, the same as I did with Jeff or J.D. or Chris.

"I’m not there to tell anybody what to do. I’m there to help them make a decision or counsel them to look somewhere else for an answer. I’ve been around this league for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of certain things that I like and that I don’t like, and I have an opinion on them. When somebody asks me, I’ll share it with them."

Fair enough. Now the question is just how hands-on Sather will be with Drury, who at 44 is viewed as a rising management star but is new to his current position.

Will Sather seek to bring in his long-ago superstar, Mark Messier, as coach? That would be an awkward fit, and while Drury was noncommittal about David Quinn, the two have a long, close relationship.

Will he suggest to Drury that he add some size, toughness and grit to a finesse-heavy lineup that was manhandled by the Islanders and Capitals in recent weeks?

Probably so, but Drury does not need Sather to tell him something everyone who follows the sport closely knows.

When I asked about the "grit" deficiency, he pointed to Wednesday’s six-fights response to the Capitals as a good sign, even though as the Rangers themselves admit, they are not built for that sort of thing.

"That's part of the whole team-building process that young guys have to go through," Sather said. "I talked to so many kids after the game [Wednesday] night in the dressing room and asked, ‘Have you ever been involved in something like that before?’ And virtually every one of them just shook their head.

"Particularly from the teams that I've been involved with, you need a certain element of being able to defend your players, and it has to come from within the team. The team has to have a feeling for each other. They care for each other and support each other. And they certainly did that last night."

Sather’s comments about the importance of a tight-knit culture were interesting in light of an interview of Dolan in the New York Post, in which he said a key motivation in Wednesday’s moves was that he thought the organization was lacking in that area.

"When I looked at our organization," he said, "I felt that we need to change the whole organization and change the culture."

(Side note: The NHL’s $250,000 fine of the Rangers for saying mean things about a league executive would be easier to accept if not for the non-suspension and CBA-limited $5,000 fine of the Capitals’ Tom Wilson. Terrible look.)

There is nothing inherently wrong with Sather as an owner-whisperer and a new-GM adviser. In a perfect Rangers world, having him available to Drury is a benefit, not a distraction.

But if Sather did play some role in blowing up the front-office roster, it only adds to the pressure on everyone involved to make this gamble pay off, and it gives the rest of us plenty of intrigue to chew over in the meantime.

New York Sports