NEW YORK -- In a rare, impromptu news conference Tuesday night, New York Rangers owner James Dolan said he feels his Blueshirts are
closing in on the Stanley Cup.
"I'm very proud of the organization," Dolan said after the
team's 3-0 win over Nashville. "I'm particularly proud of Mr. [Glen]
Sather because all the way back to 2004 when things weren't going so
well and we had a lot of free agents here and we decided to basically
re-do the strategy, Glen and I made a pact.
"I gave him something, which I won't reveal today, but I gave him
something to seal the pact. I said 'You can't give it back to me until
we win the Stanley Cup.' And I think we're pretty close to getting that
thing back," said Dolan, who has not addressed the Rangers media since
the 2005-06 season.
Dolan went on to laud his general manager for constructing the team
the right way -- building through the draft and cultivating a
foundation of home-grown nucleus players.
"For me it's all about the system he built. Of course its great
coaching, but it's about the farm system, the scouting system and
the development -- going with kids -- and sticking with that
philosophy even at times when it didn't look so good. So, I'm very
proud of him and the organization," Dolan said.
With their shutout win over the streaking Predators, Dolan's
Rangers are 29-11-4, which puts them first in the NHL standings with 62 points and three points ahead of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference. But even after the surprise endorsement from his
owner, coach John Tortorella said he didn't want his squad overlooking
the task at hand.
"I have my owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That's a bunch
of bull----," Tortorella countered good-naturedly. "We need to take
one game at a time."
The team's .705 winning percentage through 44 games is the team's best
start in 40 years and the third best start in franchise history.
Although Sather's tenure as general manager has, at times, been
characterized by his willingness to throw loads of cash at some of the
league's biggest free agents, the team is enjoying success with a
promising crop of young, homegrown talent. Of the team's 20 players
on Tuesday's roster, eight were Rangers draft picks.
Dolan isn't the only one within the organization to share his lofty
postseason expectations. Sather guaranteed a Stanley Cup championship
during a Winter Classic news conference in Philadelphia this
September. He also guaranteed the Rangers would beat the Flyers on
Jan. 2 (they did, 3-2) and that the New York Yankees would win the World
Series (they didn't).
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.