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The Legacy of Neil Smith

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Old
03-24-2014, 03:39 PM
  #1
Beacon
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The Legacy of Neil Smith

I used to like him because he was our GM when we won the Cup. But in a way, that is like saying, "how does a wife turn her husband into a millionaire? She has to marry him when he was a billionaire."

Smith was given a tremendous young team even he was hired. He did do a good job acquiring Messier for Bernie Nicholls and our overrated prospects (and you said Sather never helped the Rangers!) and lucked into drafting Zubov in the 5th round just days after he got hired. That's when he began hemorrhaging players and prospects.

1. Immediately after acquiring Messier, he forgot - FORGOT! - to protect the 25 year old Ray Sheppard from waivees. Sheppard went on to average 36 goals goals per 82 games in his career.

2. Doug Weight was traded for Tikkanen who spent the next season on the third line with Nemchinov. Weight went on to score over 1,000 points.

3. Beezer was a quality NHL starter in his prime in 1993. Smith had offers, but failed to pull the trigger. When the 1993 expansion draft rolled around, he could only get the 35 year old #7 defenseman Doug Lidster.

4. Right before that, two quality bottom 6 guys Kris King and Tie Domi were dealt away for Olczyk, who became an extra forward, not part of the top 12.

5. Tony Amonte was dealt away for a pair of third liners in Matteau and Noonan, then went on to get almost 500 NHL goals.

6. Mike Gartner was a superstar, but Smith sent him to the Leafs for Glenn Anderson, who was too old and quickly found himself benched or on the 4th line.

7. Meanwhile, he got busts in 1990 & 1992 first rounds, with so-so players in 1993 (Sundstrom at #8 overall) and 1994 (Cloutier). Only Kovalev was a good first rounder.

8. He won the Cup, and tried to repeat the same thing he did before, but now he didn't have as much youth. As the Rangers struggled to make the 1995 playoffs, he declared on 660am that he wants to "get something for nothing", and the first round pick turned out to be that nothing. Pat Verbeek qas acquired from Hartford and the team got swept in the second round.

9. Smith convinced Dolan to spend big in the summer of 1995. Ray Ferraro was acquired to center the second line, Driver to help our defense. That freed up Nedved and Zubov because... who needs two budding young stars when you can have two aging vets. The Rangers were suddenly the league's oldest team by a significant margin; most highly paid too.

10. The 1995-96 season began well and the team's unbeaten streak the whole January had them first in the NHL. But new acquisitions Robitaille and Driver struggled. On February 1, they lost big, something like 7:1 or 8:1. As good as January was, February was bad. Trader Neil set to deal! Future All Star and the team's top prospect Norstrom was sent to LA along with Ferraro and fourth liner Lapperiere (and borderline NHLer LaFayette) in return for the injured and old McSorley who was a shell of himself, an injured fourth line goon Churla and the barely alive Kurri, who should've been retired by then.

As a result of losing Zubov, Nedved, Norstrom, Lappy, etc., the Rangers lasted one extra game - losing in 5 instead of 4 games.


======================================


None of these players were a surprise. We all new at the time that Sheppard, Weight, Amonte, certainly Gartner, Zubov, Nedved will be or already are stars.

There were a few decent trades like Lowe for Oksiuta; Karpovtsev for Hurlbut or the Graves trade, and I guess MacTavish for Todd Marchant could be justified. But honestly, if Smith didn't do anything (other than deal Beezer before the expansion draft), odds are the team would've won more Cups.

Weight, Nicholls, Nemchinov, Turcotte (and later Marc Savard) would've been an excellent group of centers.

Amonte, Gartner, Sheppard, Kovalev would've made for a great set of top line wingers, while Nemchinov, King, Domi, Kocur, Broten or later Sundstrom, would make for a solid group of bottom wingers.

On defense, Leetch, Zubov, Patrick would've been phenomenal as offensive centers. The big defensive blueliners would've been weak, but that could've been addressed by dealing away Beezer or later when Norstrom joined the team.

This team had real potential to be a dynasty or more likely do something like what the Devils did by winning several Cups over a dozen year period.

Instead, the youth was thrown away (literally in the case of Sheppard) and by 1996, there were no assets left to mortgage. Poor drafting continued. In Neil's tenure only Kovalev became a good first rounder with Sundstrom and Malhotra being surrounded by busts.

Neil kept spending Dolan's money. Gretzky was signed. Then Scrudland and Keane to replace Messier.

Then we suddenly developed a star in Marc Savard, but quickly shipped him away for a third liner Hlavac and a few positions move up in the draft that gave us a bust.

Having gotten rid of all our youth, Neil was fired with nothing more than a few old men finishing out their careers left behind.


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Old
03-24-2014, 03:45 PM
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Yes whatever you want to say about Sather, Smith was even worse after '94. He left the team in shambles and it too years to rebuild the scouting and drafting and prospects

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Old
03-24-2014, 03:46 PM
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Neil Smith's legacy is definitely the Cup and the shambles he left behind when he was fired. Drafting, to be specific. The scouting department was virtually non-existent towards the latter part of his tenure. Even when we had picks, our atrocious scouts managed to pick duds. I know a lot of people are against trading pick and young guys for established vets but I'm not as worried this time around because when we do have picks we do a good job of turning them into NHLers, which are assets. It's a different organization in that regard.

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03-24-2014, 03:53 PM
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Despite the mistakes he made and multiple "win now" trades that sacrificed our future, he will still be remembered as the GM of the team that ended the 54-year drought.

Smith has admitted that he knew the trades he made in 1994 could be detrimental to the team's future, but he had already felt like they squandered an opportunity in 1992 and that this could be the team's final shot at a cup. There was such a level of desperation to lift the curse that it outweighed any concern about how the team would perform in ensuing years.

However, many of the trades he made post-1994 were inexcusable, and he, like Sather later on, gave far too much deference in satisfying what Messier wanted rather than what was best for the team.

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Old
03-24-2014, 03:53 PM
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Side note: Dolan did not take a lead role in managing his sports properties until the very late 90s.

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Old
03-24-2014, 03:59 PM
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He made mistakes, but he did enough things right to win a cup. Sather has had his share of wins and losses, but his wins haven't come close to getting us a cup.

That's the only comparison I care about. Every GM makes mistakes, just like every coach and every player makes mistakes. I may like some moves and hate others, but ultimately all that matters are the results.

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03-24-2014, 04:07 PM
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Some of the moves mentioned in OP were on Keenan. Keenan hated Gartner. He felt the Rangers weren't physical enough for the playoffs and pushed for Matteau and Noonan.

I also truly think that the brain trust believed they really made an unmatchable offer to Joe Sakic.

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03-24-2014, 04:11 PM
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Bunch of history both misstated or completely left out. He was hired in July 1989. Smith drafted Zubov a full year after being hired. He also drafted Weight. Sundstrom was much more than a bottom line player. So was Hlavac in his time here. Smith also made the trades the brought Gartner and Nicholls to the Rangers in the first place. Yeah, that was definitely a lot of great young talent he inherited. Those two trades would be destroyed on these boards today. When he got here, there was a lot of young talent, but nothing elite or spectacular outside of guys that he kept, at least at first. He turned a good group into a team that won two Presidents Trophies and a Stanley Cup within 5 years of his arrival.

What happened after the Cup was unfortunate, but it's hard to blame a guy for trying to repeat success when it worked so well before.

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03-24-2014, 04:17 PM
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I agree with everything you said (OP) but he still won the cup. Spend the next 10 years from 92-02 chasing the cup (sharks) and get nothing is worse IMO than winning the cup in 94. Could we have won, hell yeah anybody could have but the fact remains we were good/great in some seasons before 94 and never won.

I do also believe mad Mike had A LOT to do with the Amonte trade and a few others. At the end of the day that team won the cup.

Any deals he made after 94 you can rip his balls off and feed them to the wolves. Like mad Mike I wish Smith would have left after winning.

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03-24-2014, 04:20 PM
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We won one cup in 74 years and he was the architect of that team. I say he also deserves more respect. Like the poster below me, sucked what happend post 94.

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03-24-2014, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Tawnos View Post
He turned a good group into a team that won two Presidents Trophies and a Stanley Cup within 5 years of his arrival.
That's it in a nutshell. You are right. What happened after the Cup was unfortunate. However, given that Rangers fans have seen 1 Cup in 73 years, it is hard to equate him to Sather.

Let's not forget that it was also Smith who was responsible for bringing over a young Adam Graves and acquired Beuk. Yes, the post Cup and even some during 1994 moves were horrendous. And in fact did wreak the organization. However, there were the pre-1994 and that he DID bring the Cup to NY. Something no other GM in 73 years has been able to do.

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03-24-2014, 05:59 PM
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Beacon - this was sincerely an excellent well thought out post and was a nice trip down memory lane. I never knew he forgot to protect Ray Sheppard!! From different books, some old videos and (a fading) memory there are some things that should also be considered.

Neil Smith - did in fact have a deal in place for Lindros (There is a book on the 1991-92 through 1992-93 seasons http://thumbs4.ebaystatic.com/d/l225...IaoVlG3yNA.jpg) Vanbiesbrouck would have been included in that trade among other assetts. That deal was about as good as done. So much so that Smith arranged the Garden to stitch a jersey and prepare for a press conference before Philadelphia claimed they had the trade completed.
Quote:
The players New York was reportedly offering Quebec were forwards Tony Amonte, Sergei Nemchinov and Alexei Kovalev, defenseman James Patrick and goalie John Vanbiesbrouck. Plus two first-round draft picks. Plus an amount of cash to be negotiated immediately by Aubut and Stanley Jaffe, the corporate operating officer of Paramount Communications, which owns the Rangers.
http://si.com/vault/article/magazine...75/1/index.htm

Neil Smith was limited with Vanbiesbrouck and Richter - remember the league had 5 teams within 3 seasons part of the expansion, which meant that other GMs knew that the Rangers could only protect one goalie. Vanbiesbrouck and Richter were both starting goalies and at that point, probably were causing GMs to be hesitant to overpay. If some of you guys remember 1992-93, Tie Domi was popular but started to become a bit of a whiner. He took some shots at Colin Campbell and demanded a trade, Also, the failed Lindros deal left the Rangers with a ton of depth. They brought in Phil Bourque and wanted to get Kovalev and Dave Archibald (among others in the line up). I remember the late Roger Neilson said he had to treat his lineups as if he was facing a starting pitcher (different games dictated a different line up).

I have read that Messier was very influential on Neil Smith and at the time. The Zubov trade was really more about Nedved part 1. I blame Neil for allowing Messier to bully him a bit but Messier following the cup could do no wrong.

I LOVED Pat verbeek when he was here and when he signed elsewhere, I was really disappointed. If you remember 1995-96, he could have netted 50 but missed a few games.

Skrudland and Keane were originally signed to SUPPLEMENT Messier with Gretzky, not replace him. When they signed, the thought was that there was no way the Rangers are letting Messier walk. When he bolted to Vancouver, it was actually Sakic who they wanted to replace Messier and was signed to the offer sheet, after Colorado matched, the Rangers brought in LaFontaine.

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Old
03-24-2014, 06:25 PM
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Something else to remember, the Dark Ages were only partially brought on by roster issues. Inability to hire a good coaching staff plagued Smith (and Sather too). Neilson was a great hire (albeit one they had to basically beg). Keenan was a great hire. Campbell was good too. We didn't have another decent coach until Renney. Muckler was flat out awful as a coach.

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03-24-2014, 06:29 PM
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A legacy isn't a comprehensive history of something. It's what's remembered and the fact that the Rangers Cup drought was so insanely long, makes it hard to think about anything other than Neil being the GM who helped bring the Cup to NY. That's his legacy AFAIC.

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03-24-2014, 06:41 PM
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Can someone corroborate the Ray Sheppard story? All I can find anywhere is that he became a free agent after the1990-91 season and signed with the Red Wings. And that the Sabres traded him to the Rangers for $1. I don't think the Rangers qualified him. Or maybe they forgot and that's what you meant Beacon?

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03-24-2014, 06:45 PM
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So many of those 1994 moves are complicated, because in vacuum, they are terrible terrible trades. But a Stanley Cup was won, and those moves helped contribute to it. So, were they good moves, or bad? I don't know. Would a cup have been won with Tony Amonte and Doug Weight still on the team? No way to know. I don't really know what to make of those moves.

And then post 1994 moves, yeah, ****ing awful.

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03-24-2014, 08:09 PM
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Everything Smith did for the cup was a side note compared to the Messier deal. If Pocklington didn't destroy the Oilers and the league didn't allow $10+ million to be included in the trade for Messier, we wouldn't be able to enjoy the spring of 94 footage on endless loop at MSG.

Lindros deal = Fail

Sakic Signing 1997 = Fail

Brendl Lundmark bust of 1999

Norstrom momentum killer in 1996

I was never a fan of him.

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03-24-2014, 08:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Strauss View Post
Everything Smith did for the cup was a side note compared to the Messier deal. If Pocklington didn't destroy the Oilers and the league didn't allow $10+ million to be included in the trade for Messier, we wouldn't be able to enjoy the spring of 94 footage on endless loop at MSG.

Lindros deal = Fail

Sakic Signing 1997 = Fail

Brendl Lundmark bust of 1999

Norstrom momentum killer in 1996

I was never a fan of him.
Lindros trade was Sather.

I cant blame Smith for anything prior to 94 or, especially, the moves made during the 93-94 season. It brought home the cup. That season was a win-now season if there ever was one -- a win now push that actually had the right foundation in place to really go for it.

I also dont get the problem you had with the Sakic offer sheet.

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Old
03-24-2014, 08:52 PM
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A lot of moves in 94 were mainly cause of Keenan and the guys he wanted

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03-24-2014, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Bleed Ranger Blue View Post
Lindros trade was Sather.

I cant blame Smith for anything prior to 94 or, especially, the moves made during the 93-94 season. It brought home the cup. That season was a win-now season if there ever was one -- a win now push that actually had the right foundation in place to really go for it.

I also dont get the problem you had with the Sakic offer sheet.
I'm talking about the Lindros/Nords trade.

I said the other any other move besides the cash involved for Messier, and there's no cup under his tenure.

Sakic became a Ranger?

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03-24-2014, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Strauss View Post
I'm talking about the Lindros/Nords trade.

I said the other any other move besides the cash involved for Messier, and there's no cup under his tenure.

Sakic became a Ranger?
But there was…..

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03-24-2014, 09:30 PM
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But there was…..
But there was...a cup that he has little responsibility for that over inflates his resume as a Ranger which is the explicit thesis of the OP?

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03-24-2014, 09:57 PM
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Can someone corroborate the Ray Sheppard story? All I can find anywhere is that he became a free agent after the1990-91 season and signed with the Red Wings. And that the Sabres traded him to the Rangers for $1. I don't think the Rangers qualified him. Or maybe they forgot and that's what you meant Beacon?
The Rangers let him walk. He wasn't waived.

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03-24-2014, 10:09 PM
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Side note: Dolan did not take a lead role in managing his sports properties until the very late 90s.
Cablevision/ITT partnership bought MSG in 1994. However, Cablevision did not get sole ownership until they bought out ITT in 1997.

Fun Fact: Charles Dolan/Cablevision actually tried to buy the Islanders before the Rangers/MSG, but were declined.

James Dolan only became a factor after he won a VERY nasty and public fight with his dad for control of the Cablevision board.

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03-24-2014, 10:11 PM
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pld459666
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Strauss View Post
Everything Smith did for the cup was a side note compared to the Messier deal. If Pocklington didn't destroy the Oilers and the league didn't allow $10+ million to be included in the trade for Messier, we wouldn't be able to enjoy the spring of 94 footage on endless loop at MSG.

Lindros deal = Fail

Sakic Signing 1997 = Fail

Brendl Lundmark bust of 1999

Norstrom momentum killer in 1996

I was never a fan of him.
Lindros was not a fail. An arbitrator ruled the Flyers made the deal first. The Rangers had a deal DONE with Quebec. Lets not forget that. A deal was DONE.

The Sakic RFA offer sheet was a thing of genius. 21 million over 3 years with 14 paid up front as a SB. The hockey world expected Colorado to take the compensation. Again, a very savvy move using the teams best resource.

Brendl/Lundmark = somewhat fair. Both guys had dome some impressive things in Juniors that justified the spots they were selected at. Rangers made a ballsy move to get some prime youth (something that Board would cream for today)

Norstrom was a bad deal. Conceded.

Getting Graves for Mallette

Getting Gartner for Dahlen

Getting Nichols for Granato and Sandstrom

Getting Larmer for Turcotte and Patrick

Yeah, NS wasn't ****.


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