Here’s a note to all local NY media. DO NOT,DO NOT ,DO NOT, mix the Rangers with the Knicks in the same conversation. With all the turmoil going on surrounding Madison Square Garden, writers and broadcasters are quick to make broad statements lumping them together. I’m not quick to burn Charles Dolan at the stake either. Sure he’s like a glorified fan buying up as many toys a s possible, but at least he leaves gifts for the kids under the tree. Most owners these days are stingy, complaining billionaires. If your going to own a team in any sport you should be prepared to spend a little. When someone walks into buying property, a house, or even a car they know they’re going to have to maintain that new investment. People like George Steinbrenner and Dolan are chastised constantly for spending hand over fist. Yet, look at the market and look at the fan turnout. If over 40 K show up for Yankees and Tampa on a Tuesday use your head. When the Rangers went out and picked up two top free agents ( Gomez,Drury) , one month later not a single ticket was left in the house.
I want to a look at both of Charlie’s biggest toys in a quick breakdown….
Coaches and management…….
The Rangers have Glen Sather a proven winner and cup Champion. Do I really have to go through the list of superstars Glen Cigar has drafted ? From the Edmonton years of Messier and Gretzky to the modern-day steals of Prucha and Lundqvist , Sather is one of the best in the bizz. Sather has also brought in a winning coach in Tom Renney.
Tom Renney has won two WHL titles with the Kamloops Blazers and a Memorial Cup as the leagues top team. Winning on the biggest stage in sports,Tom has won 10 World Hockey Championships and several Olympic Medals with team Canada.His winning resume speaks wonders for itself and both for Tom’s coaching ability. In junior hockey dealing with young player’s growing pains is a struggle in itself, not to mention putting together 2 championship teams. In the Olympics Renney was able to balance proven stars and their egos with young starts on the rise. His experience would prove vital in the rebirth of the Rangers. He has implemented a training program that applies to all players. Youngsters know what to expect heading into each camp and vets know if they can’t hack it then pack it. When drafting players not only does the team draft for skill and need, they draft for character. If you don’t act like a Ranger off the ice then you won’t act like one on the ice!
Thomas is both Gm and coach of the New York Knicks which makes this a quick one. Although he had a junk heap to deal with when he inherited the team, he has failed to bring in any proven winners. Although he has decent track record with drafting players, most of them have character issues. It shouldn’t take certain players a year or three to realize you shouldn’t sulk on the sidelines. Nor should an individual or ego be more than the team. Basketball lacks the farm systems that pro hockey has access to. With lack of that access they lack time to develop players, develop egos, and develop an implemented system. When a player is brought up to fill in or take a shot in the NHL it is a reward not a privilege. In a smaller NBA roster it’s harder to dodge bruised egos. Lack off playing time and sulking faces soon become sports page headlines. That’s why it is vital to have players who put team success before their own numbers. But first and foremost you need all parties on the same page. A team needs respect for each other, respect for the fans that pay them, and most of all respect for the coach. If crew hates the captain chances are there could be “A Hunt for Red October” in team revolt. All the stories leaking out of NY papers are that the Knick players revolted against Thomas. Marbury, the team captain left the team because he was hurt about his lack of playing time. The other Garden Captain pulled his coach aside and let him know that taking him out of a shootout lineup would be best for the team success. There is a mutual respect there that one team lacks. Both coach and captain have slander each others names in the papers following the Brown Scandal. While in the other dressing room all private matters are kept fairly quiet and then dealt with, just ask Aaron Ward. Jagr has stated that he thinks Coach Renney is the best he’s ever played for. Renney on the other hand this season took the blame for blowing a Lundqvist shutout reciprocating it back. But the clearest sign of respect may have bee when a Hall of Fame player Cried once again, thanking his former GM and Coach for teaching him about life and a game. (The Best to # 11) . I have yet to see Nate Robinson, Mr. Marbury, or Eddie Curry cry for Thomas.
The last few seasons the Rangers have brought in “The Right Guy” countless times. The team needed a franchise goalie and Lundqvist fell in their lap. They needed a veteran who could take the heat off of Jagr and Shanny stepped in. This year they needed to address their center position and they bring in a born champion and local kid, Chris Drury. They also brought in another champion in Scott Gomez, solidifying the middle of the ice. But, the biggest reason they were brought in is because they were the right guys fro the team. Drury and Gomez were respected by former teammates, by the media, and most of all by you and me. The team is built on the backs of winners and Stanley cup champions. Their goaltender has won a gold medal and championships in Sweden, and boils at the thought of a single loss. Between Shannahan, JJ, Drury, and Gomez gee that’s got to be about 6,000 cups I think. With the constant influx of young players that wear their hearts on and off the ice (Dubinsky, Dawes, Callahan), it is natural for them to look to their veterans. They can look at a captain who has learned and won with Mario and the greats Why?....... because they are simply “The Right Guys”.
The last few seasons the Knicks have brought in “The Wrong Guy”. They have imported a point guard who has never one a ring. Marbury has also given his former teams the ability to miraculously turn a season around upon his exit. Although I applauded the move initially, it is clear that the “Starbury” cannot lead a club to a championship ring or a championship attitude. Up until a few years ago NBA teams could draft right out of high school. With the exception of a few players (King James), there is a lack of character building that NHL players pick up in junior leagues and Pro Euro Leagues. There is also a head start on the scouting and the management process that gives NHL teams an early clue about a players make up. Again it’s only an opinion, because there are guys like Duncan and hmmm Tim Duncan out there. Getting back to the Knicks roster there are too many of the same players on this club. Its members either they have a heart and limited skill or they have skill with personality issues. The team has to look to a captain that really hasn’t played with any greats and when he did (Kevin Garnett) ran away so he could take away the spotlight. There is no bigger spotlight than Madison Square Garden and everyone is watching. We watch the Rangers continue to put together winning seasons now. We have been treated to watching the Knicks loser games on and off the court. We have seen the Knicks throw their coaches under the bus, while the Rangers get on the bus after another win. Knicks management has gone to court off the court and the Rangers continue to court players into a new jersey. The Knicks are trying to bring in quality guys (David Lee) while the Rangers are going to have to trade some because there aren’t enough spots.
Ok so both teams have had issues with legal matters at the Garden. The difference is that the Knicks GM and head coach was accused and found guilty in a sexual harassment case. While a Rangers Ice Girl (From what Year?) is suing some mystery executive now. Harassment is wrong no matter what the case, but if it was Sather or Renney acting up you could compare. Let’s not mix in a harassing drunk ego maniac with a Rangers name or management or players. A jerk can be dug up from any rock or office in America. A few beers and poor judgment can create a world of problems. Yet, it’s not the Rangers problem or case or issue. This is a Human Resources issue that is getting a shot of gasoline with the Rangers name.
The games have changed too! Basketball has increased fowls and slowed down the speed and flow of a game. Hockey has increased penalties and there is still toughness and speed. In 1994 I watched the Rangers and Knicks battle all the way to the finals. Each team was led by outstanding winning coaches. They had mixes of skill and a lot more character too. There was guts ( NBA lost them) and Glory. I remember during the NHL playoffs when Anthony Mason ( Knicks PF) showed up in a Rangers jersey to a Rangers madhouse. It was a Rangers/Knicks fan ultimate dream. The two teams were both like one and that was the best example. But today on November 27, 2007 please DO NOT MIX RANGERS WITH NIX!