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20 NEW YORK Rangers
Kostya Kennedy
October 08, 2001
So much of the Rangers' future is tied up in their acquisition of Eric Lindros that general manager Glen Sather, a thoughtful man of 58, has been characterizing the deal as a symbol of his larger philosophies. "You can be a lion maybe once in your life, but if you don't make this deal, you're a mouse forever," he mused just after acquiring Lindros from the Flyers in late August. Then at training camp Sather reflected, "The biggest chance you can take is not taking a chance at all."
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October 08, 2001

20 New York Rangers

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Insider

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

FORWARDS

11

Healthy Fleury, Lindros boost Messier's production

DEFENSE

22

Newcomers Karpa and Ulanov add toughness

GOALTENDING

26

Can Richter come back? Blackburn top prospect

SPECIAL TEAMS

8

Skill level high; Leetch still a fine power-play QB

MANAGEMENT

21

G.M. Sathergot Lindros cheap, sparked rebuilding

So much of the Rangers' future is tied up in their acquisition of Eric Lindros that general manager Glen Sather, a thoughtful man of 58, has been characterizing the deal as a symbol of his larger philosophies. "You can be a lion maybe once in your life, but if you don't make this deal, you're a mouse forever," he mused just after acquiring Lindros from the Flyers in late August. Then at training camp Sather reflected, "The biggest chance you can take is not taking a chance at all."

The measure of this risk lies not only in the well-documented precariousness of Lindros's health (he suffered six concussions between March 1998 and May 2000, the last time he played in an NHL game before this preseason), but also in the high stakes at hand. Lindros is being asked to enter a hostile environment—most Rangers fans strongly opposed the acquisition—and to resurrect a gasping franchise that has missed the playoffs for four straight years.

Consider the benefits if Lindros is the physical offensive force he was in the mid- and late 1990s: Creative center Petr Nedved would no longer face opposing teams' ace checkers; Mark Messier, 40, could scale back his playing time and preserve his aging-but-still-able body for crucial spots; center Mike York, the Rangers' best two-way forward, could be moved to wing, where New York desperately needs help; and diminutive right wing Theo Fleury, Lindros's preseason linemate, could thrive in the open spaces created by Lindros's barreling 6'4", 236-pound frame.

If Lindros goes down, however, the Rangers will suddenly be three steps back from where they stood at the end of last year's dismal 33-43-5-1 season. In surrendering top-line winger Jan Hlavac, solid defenseman Kim Johnsson and touted right wing prospect Pavel Brendl for Lindros, Sather weakened his depth on the ice and at the trade table.

New York is particularly vulnerable on defense, where Brian Leetch's supporting cast is made up of journeymen, and in goal, where Mike Richter, 35, is attempting to rebound from a torn right ACL. Coach Ron Low has thus pledged to employ a more careful defensive style than the gambling version he relied on last season. "If we're going to err, I'd rather err on the side of caution," Low says. That's a reasonable hockey philosophy, perhaps, but not one recently espoused by Low's boss.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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