As part of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final Media Day in Los Angeles, here are comments from New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather and Head Coach Alain Vigneault…
Q. Alain, do you think your time in Vancouver helps you in terms of familiarity with this team?
VIGNEAULT: Well, it’s definitely a team that I know real well. Played against them for seven years. Had a couple of playoff rounds against them. It’s a team that obviously has grown through the years. It has a real good balance. That’s why they’re getting another chance to compete for the Cup.
Q. Glen, it’s been a while since you’ve been a GM of a team that’s got this far. Did you ever wonder whether you’d have another crack at a Stanley Cup?
SATHER: We’re fortunate to be here. Anybody’s fortunate to be in this position. It’s not every team in the league that gets a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. I’ve been around for a little while, couple years. I know what it’s like. I know how hard it is to get here. We’re appreciative of the opportunity.
Q. Glen, when you traded Ryan Callahan, how much did you take into account the leadership core that was already in place on this team?
SATHER: Well, first of all, the opportunity to make the deal was something that we were probably fortunate to get involved with. I knew that when we got Marty that he would be a strong leader in his own right. It’s difficult to trade anyone. Ryan was a good player. He was a great player for us for a long time. I think everyone knows the story that his contract was up and it was difficult to get anything done.
So it was a good chance to get a good player like Marty. We knew that leadership internally on the team was strong. It was a bit of a chance, but it certainly worked out well.
Q. Glen, is there any sort of sense of personal satisfaction for you getting here? Some of your tenure in New York has been a little bit rocky in terms of how you’ve been perceived. Do you take any personal satisfaction out of this?
SATHER: I don’t think it’s been rocky. Every year there’s only two teams that fight for the Stanley Cup and there’s one that wins. It takes time to get in this position. Anyone that’s been in the hockey business knows what it can be like, and it’s complicated. I don’t see any great personal satisfaction. I’m satisfied that the team is here. I think the job is partly done. We know that we’re up against great forwards, great defense and great goaltending, so it’s going to be tough.
Q. Glen, I don’t expect Alain to be able to speak to this, but can you sum up why it’s worked with Alain. Why it worked or didn’t work there at the end with John?
SATHER: He’s obviously a very good coach. I’ve known a lot about his history. I can’t make a comment why it didn’t work. It did work with Torts for a while. I’m glad the opportunity was there to make a deal. We’ve had nothing but fun with each other. We continue to do it. It’s been a good relationship. Coaches sometimes run out of time wherever they are.
VIGNEAULT: I don’t agree with that, but that’s all right.
SATHER: You mean the good part or the bad part (laughter)? It’s like you start trying to train your kids. They get tired of listening to you after a while. I went through it myself and everything for 10 years. If it was easy, I could fire myself.
Q. I know it’s not foremost in your mind, but you face a decision with Brad Richards pretty soon afterwards. Must be a difficult decision to make. Have you come to a decision?
SATHER: I’ve thought about it a lot. But it’s not something that we’re thinking about right now. We’re focused on what we’re doing, what the team is doing, how we’re going to play, who we’re playing against. Certainly haven’t thought much about it lately. But that decision will come in the summer. It’s like all the decisions, we’ve got lots of free agents to sign. We’re happy with the way it is right now.
Q. When you look back on the Marian Gaborik trade, what was your philosophy behind that deal?
SATHER: I like Marian a lot. I think he’s a great guy and a great player. To get the kind of quality players that we were able to get, we needed depth on our team, and it certainly did it for us. I’m happy for Marian. He’s a terrific guy. It was like every trade. It’s complicated and difficult.
Q. Glen, having been through this before, what is the Final like for a GM? What do you do during this time?
SATHER: It’s really complicated. Today it took us about three hours to figure out which golf course we were going to play on this afternoon, then later on this evening we have the question about dinner, what are you going to watch on TV tonight (laughter)? Is Game of Thrones on? It’s tough.
Q. How much do you enjoy it?
SATHER: I think it’s fun. I hope our team thinks it’s fun. I hope the fans like it. It’s a very intense time of the year for everyone. If you can get through that intensity and enjoy it, it’s great.
Q. Alain, you mentioned you learned a bit about the Kings while you were in Vancouver. What are the challenges you can communicate to your team about playing a team that is physical and can score?
VIGNEAULT: Great thing about the playoffs is you watch the other games, and all our players had an opportunity to watch the Kings throughout these playoffs — their comeback against San Jose, their tough series against Anaheim, and obviously the last one against the Stanley Cup champions. Our players got a real good idea of what’s coming up here as far as the challenge. We know they have balance on their four lines. Doughty is probably one if not the best defenseman in the NHL, and they’ve got one of the best goaltenders. We got our hands full and we’re ready for it.
Q. There’s also a belief based on how competitive the West is that you are heavy underdogs. Do you buy that at all?
VIGNEAULT: I think that perception is out there. The experts probably favor the L.A. Kings quite a bit. That’s not going to change our approach, what we think we need to do. We know we have to play a certain way. There’s a couple areas that we think we can do real well on the ice. That’s what we’re going to try and do starting tomorrow.
Q. Glen, we spend an awful lot of time dissecting the relationship your owner has with his basketball team. What has it been for you to work for James Dolan, what is that like for you?
SATHER: Well, I had another complicated owner that I worked for for a long time, as well. I enjoy him. I think he’s an interesting, complex, caring human being that is probably a little bit apprehensive at letting himself be known by the media. Most people like that are. You have your own private life, your own world that you live in. I get along with him fine. Somebody wrote that I manage him well. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly good manager. I like to be friends with the people that I work with. I like to be friends with the coaches, the players. At the same time you have to be respectful. I do respect him. I like him. I get along with him. It’s about that simple.
Q. Hands-on, hands-off?
SATHER: I don’t know where the hands-on, hands-off came from. If you have a guy that owns a company, you’re going to buy a new building; you certainly would talk to him about buying the building, whatever you’re planning on doing. We don’t ask him permission to do something. We say, what do you think about this? It’s a cooperative decision throughout the entire organization when we do things. It’s just like the assistant coaches and managers. We talk about everything. It’s communication. That’s why I communicate so well with you people, right (laughter)?
Q. Glen, when teams advance this far, inevitably people start looking at the front office or the coaching staff talent. What has Jeff Gorton, your assistant GM, brought to this organization? Has any team asked permission for interviews?
SATHER: What did you say about permission?
Q. Has anybody with openings asked to interview Jeff?
SATHER: Last time I looked we’re in the Stanley Cup Final. Do you honestly think somebody would pick up the phone and say, I’d like to talk to one of your personnel at this time of year? I wouldn’t entertain the thought of letting anyone speak to anyone right now.
Q. What he’s done for this team.
SATHER: When he lost his assistant managers job in Boston, I thought he did a terrific job there. Harry Sinden called and said, Here is a talented guy with a lot of ability. That’s exactly what I found, a ton of ability, a quality person. I’m very happy to have him on our staff, like I’m happy to have everyone on our staff. We’re very comfortable with him.
Q. Glen, about Richards, has this run this spring, his emergence as a leader of this team, has it impacted the decision you’re going to have to make about this buyout? Does his performance over the next couple weeks have the power to determine his future in New York?
SATHER: He’s been terrific. I mean, he’s acting as the captain right now. He’s certainly a leader in the room. He’s been a leader on the ice. Great guy. I really can’t make any comments about what’s going to happen during the summer. I mean, if we win the Stanley Cup, if we lose the Stanley Cup, I mean, I think the decision is something that comes later on in the summer. It’s not something that we need to get into talking with. He’s with the New York Rangers.
Q. How do you feel about the capture rule?
SATHER: We could have a long debate about that one. Amazing how rules change sometimes. It’s not something I can comment on. That’s something you’d have to ask Mr. Bettman. They decided to do something and we had no influence on it at all.
Q. Alain, I asked Glen when you traded Callahan, you got Marty St. Louis. Did you have any concern that risk could have an effect on the room, trading away a captain?
VIGNEAULT: Well, it’s something we definitely talked about. Ryan was well-respected, real good teammate. Getting rid of our captain was something that we obviously discussed. But having the opportunity to get a player like Martin St. Louis, with his background, his leadership qualities, was just something that we couldn’t pass on. That’s why we decided to make the deal, or Glen decided to make the deal.
SATHER: No, no, ‘we’. The other thing about Marty, I’m sure everyone knows the tragedy he went through with his family. The way this guy responded, what he did for our hockey club, that was a tough thing for him to go through, tough for all of us. That tells you the kind of person he is. Someone that can rise up to the occasion through all that tragedy.
Q. What are your dealings like with Dean Lombardi over the years? Neither of you seek the spotlight. What’s he like?
SATHER: Well, he’s Bob Pulford’s son-in-law. That should tell you a lot about him (laughter). If you know Pulford, he’s a quiet kind of a guy. Dino has been fun to be with. We’ve made a couple of deals in the past. Brian Boyle came from him, Carcillo came from him. I have everything but good things to say about him. I don’t think we should be in the spotlight. This is the coach’s world, the players’ world. I think the managers should be in the background.
Q. What were the qualities in McDonagh that you saw?
SATHER: He wasn’t the only guy that came in that trade. He was certainly the key piece we wanted in the deal. I had never seen him play. That was entirely our scouting staff. Jeff Gorton had seen him. Gordie Clark. I had no idea other than seeing the name on the paper. You don’t give the managers credit for that. It’s the people that work in the field that do those things for us.
VIGNEAULT: I really like it when you’re around. I got nothing to do (laughter).
SATHER: I hope this is it for me (laughter).
MORE: From earlier this season – Rangers Brian Boyle still relishes opportunity to show off for Lombardi