Mar 30, 2000
As the curtain falls on another disastrous season in New York, straight across the river, the Devils shake up things in hopes of achieving postseason success. Rangers general manager Neil Smith was finally given his walking papers and was asked to take his head coach John Muckler with him. Assistant coach John Tortorella will coach the Blueshirts for the remainder of the 1999-00 season and the GM spot remains empty for now. Nearby, Devils head coach Robbie Ftorek lasted just short of two seasons before he was fired and replace with his assistant, Larry Robinson.
What went wrong in New York? A season of underachieving hockey by the highest paid franchise in NHL history could go on no longer. One disappointing loss after the next was Muckler and Smithís undoing, but their termination came too late in the season to set fire to this team. New York Ranger fans deserve better than what they have gotten and MSG president and CEO Dave Checketts will not stand by and allow this franchise to disintegrate. The Rangers went from being labeled Messierís squad to Gretzkyís crew to non-existent in six years. Mucklerís departure was guaranteed for months now. He had developed an argumentative relation with some of his players who threatened to demand trades if he remained head coach. As the authority behind the bench, Muckler failed to reach postseason play in the first two seasons with the team and they are going nowhere fast this year.
Maintaining a $61 million payroll, the team exhausted a lot of time and money by signing veteran players who are not positively contributing to the team. Theo Fleury signed a three year $21 million contract and tallied just 15 goals and 47 assists thus far. What happened to the organizationís plan to steadily rebuild this club so they could be strong competitors in the near future?
Although Smith made enormous free-agent signings during the off-season and made premium deals to draft players like Jamie Lundmark and Pavel Brendl, lack of production from nearly the entire roster ended his days as GM. Despite his desire to improve the club and the unparalleled millions to do so, the Rangers failed and therefore so did he.
A Recent slide and a first-round elimination in last seasonís playoff run, spelled disaster for Robbie Ftorek who loved his job and loved coaching in The National Hockey League. Unfortunately, GM Lou Lamoriello didnít think that Ftorek could handle things in New Jersey. About six weeks ago, the Devils had what seemed like an unconquerable 11 point lead in the Eastern Conference, but that lead has begun to dwindle. The Devils are losing more than they are winning.
Did he let the pressure of his job get the best of him? Ö Possibly. But nevertheless, expect him to get a third chance to be head coach in the NHL with another team next season.
The hunt for new management has already begun In ďThe Big Apple.Ē General Manager Candidates include Glen Sather, who probably will not leave his comfort in Edmonton, or current New Jersey Devil GM Lou Lamoriello, who knows how to build a successful franchise. However, no matter who the successor may be, you canít blame one person for a teamís demise. The Rangers are coming to the end of their season and have a lot of maturing to do over the break. The Devils are nearing postseason play and have been forced to proceed under a new coach. Ultimately, as the old saying goes Ö "there is no I in TEAM.Ē Everyone must work together as a team and success is sure to follow.
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