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Sather savoring Rangers' run to Stanley Cup Final

by Dan Rosen

LOS ANGELES -- Being in Southern California to watch your team play in the Stanley Cup Final can be like a dream vacation for a general manager.

Just ask New York Rangers president and GM Glen Sather, who on Tuesday explained what he does now that his team has reached the championship round and will face the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Ramsay: Rangers, don't change a thing

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Craig Ramsay to break down the action. Ramsay will be checking in throughout the series.

Ramsay played in more than 1,000 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres before going on to coach the Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers. In the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led the Flyers to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Final. Ramsay most recently was an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.

Craig Ramsay's one piece of advice to the New York Rangers on the eve of the Stanley Cup Final is as simple as it can be effective: Don't change anything.

Ramsay knows everyone is calling the Rangers the underdog to the Los Angeles Kings with Game 1 on Wednesday at Staples Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). He understands why: The Kings won the Stanley Cup two years ago and are coming off a seven-game win against the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.

Ramsay also knows if the Rangers play their way, the way coach Alain Vigneault has trained them to play, the way that got them here, that whole underdog thing won't matter.

"They don't have to change anything, they just have to be on top of their game," Ramsay told "Don't go out there and try to play 1-on-1 hockey and be the star. Go out there and let it happen with your speed, your game plan and the togetherness in your group."

The Rangers eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens by relying on those three ingredients. He said they can't attempt to defeat the Kings any other way because it won't work.

"They have guys who are quick, guys who can skate, like Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin," Ramsay said. "They've got guys who can put speed at the Kings, and that's where they can make that defense turn back, get the puck in behind them and make them play defense. L.A. likes to get the puck in the offensive zone and play with it. They have to get them backing up and play with speed. They did it against Montreal and they have to do it again."

Ramsay also knows that in order to play with speed the Rangers have to be physically engaged, especially against the Kings. Los Angeles will initiate the physical play, and Ramsay said New York can't get caught backing off because that will nullify any chance it has at getting the puck and using its speed.

"The Rangers have to be willing to be hit, to go into corners and come up with pucks, and to get their battle level up and keep it up," Ramsay said. "It's not like the old days, they don't have to fight anybody, but they have to be physically engaged. It's harder to do against the Kings."

Ramsay identified forwards Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Brian Boyle and defenseman Marc Staal as being essential to the Rangers' success because they have size, can get to the net (even Staal), and at least in the case of Kreider, have the speed to blow past Kings defenders.

"Kreider is a guy that with his speed he can challenge every defenseman the Kings have," Ramsay said. "They're all good players, but if you make [Drew] Doughty play [defense] all the time then you inhibit what he does best. So make him chase Kreider all night."

Ramsay said Staal has to be involved in the offense, which he has been sporadically in the postseason. He has five points in 20 games.

"Staal has to skate up ice," he said. "He has to be a presence."

Ramsay said Nash has to become a net-front presence, which he has been on an inconsistent basis in the playoffs. He has three goals in 20 games.

Ramsay also said Boyle and linemates Derek Dorsett and Dominic Moore have to continue to be a factor, which they were against the Canadiens in the six-game, Eastern Conference Final victory.

In fact, Ramsay said the Rangers' ability to play four lines could be one of their greatest advantages in the series.

"They can play everybody, which is a key issue," Ramsay said. "Get it out, change, keep yourself fresh and keep everybody going. If they can play their lines, and they have so far, why not keep doing it?

"Because it's the Final there's a little extra oomph in your step and [you have to] take advantage of it," he continued. "They should be thrilled to be there. They should be thrilled people are saying they're the underdog. They should be saying, 'Oh yeah; watch this.'"

-- Dan Rosen

"It's really complicated," Sather said. "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? Is 'Game of Thrones' on? It's tough."

Sather was joking, sort of.

As an avid golfer, he most likely did have a tee time set up for Tuesday. He has to eat dinner somewhere, and there are plenty of options in the L.A. area. There is a television in his room. "Game of Thrones" is indeed on.

But deciding what course to play, where to eat and what to watch aren't tough decisions. He made enough of those long before the Rangers clinched their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years with a six-game victory against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final.

Now it's time for Sather to just watch. He's OK with that.

"I think it's fun," Sather said. "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."

Sather has five Stanley Cup championships on his Hall of Fame resume, but he hasn't been to the Final since 1990, when he was the GM of the Edmonton Oilers. His tenure in New York started in 2000 and it hasn't been a smooth ride.

The Rangers didn't make the Stanley Cup Playoffs until his sixth season. They didn't advance past the second round until 2012. Sather went through five coaches, including himself, before hiring Alain Vigneault during last year's Cup Final.

"I don't think it's been rocky," Sather said. "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."

Sather fought through the complications to be the proverbial headmaster that built this Rangers' roster. It hasn't been easy.

He traded away depth in the form of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick to get Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets after the 2011-12 season. In a circuitous way that led him to trading Marian Gaborik late last season to the Blue Jackets to re-build the Rangers' depth.

The three players he acquired -- Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore -- have been regulars throughout this playoff run, but Gaborik now plays for the Kings and could come back to beat his former team in the Final.

Gaborik leads all players with 12 goals this postseason.

"I like Marian a lot. I think he's a great guy and a great player," Sather said. "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."

This season, Sather felt forced into trading captain Ryan Callahan shortly before the NHL Trade Deadline because the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on a contract extension. Callahan is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Sather got Martin St. Louis back in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but even he knew it was a trade that could have shaken up the Rangers' dressing room in the wrong way.

"It was a bit of a chance, but it certainly worked out well," Sather said.

St. Louis has 13 points in the postseason and the Rangers have rallied around him in the aftermath of the death of his mother, France, on May 8. New York is 7-2 since.

"Getting rid of our captain was something that we obviously discussed," Vigneault said. "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."

Then there are arguably the two most significant moves the Rangers have made since 2000, and Sather played a minimal role in both.

He was the GM and president at the 2000 NHL Draft, but it was former assistant GM Don Maloney, with advice from former European scout Christer Rockstrom, who made the decision to choose Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round with the 205th pick.

Nine years later, Sather made a trade with the Montreal Canadiens that sent center Scott Gomez up north and brought back defenseman Ryan McDonagh, then just a highly-rated prospect, to New York.

"I had never seen him play," Sather said of McDonagh. "That was entirely our scouting staff. [Assistant GM] Jeff Gorton had seen him. [Director of Player Personnel] Gordie Clark [had seen him]. 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."

Sather has another big decision looming after the Final: Does he keep center Brad Richards or issue him a compliance buyout, which would take his $6.67 million off the Rangers' salary cap and make him an unrestricted free agent?

Richards has become the Rangers' de-facto captain since Callahan was traded. He is a vital piece of the puzzle. But he averaged a career-low 0.62 points per game during the regular season, is 34 years old and is signed for six more seasons.

"I've thought about it a lot, but it's not something that we're thinking about right now," Sather said. "That decision will come in the summer."

The summer in the NHL will be here soon, no more than 15 days from now. But for now, Sather is just trying to enjoy the ride, especially when the stops feature a golf course, a nice restaurant and a fight between The Mountain and The Red Viper in King's Landing.

"Anybody's fortunate to be in this position," Sather said. "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."


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