The Summer of 2003 will most likely become one of the most frustrating
summers that Ranger fans will have had in years. Sadly but perhaps
rightfully it looks like the apparent suicide of Ranger farmhand Roman
Lyashenko is going to the biggest news to come out of it. For most of July
it had been mostly non-news that was happening for Ranger fans.
Slats was going to return as coach wasn't a real story as most
knowledgeable Ranger fans already knew he was going to be the coach based
on the combination of Slat's own words and the real lack of true coaching
candidates for the job. The players wanted him back, Junior wanted him
back and for many Ranger fans they wanted him back as well but not for the
reasons the Rangers would like to hear. Many Ranger fans wanted Slats
right behind the bench so he would be in a sink or swim situation with the
team next year.
They wanted him so there would be no more excuses about injuries, no
more blaming Ranger fans and mainly so that if things go south they would
have him right where they could boo him out of the Garden once and for
all. Count me in as one of those fans because it is way past time for
Slats to be held accountable for the direction (or non-direction) that he
has led the Rangers on.
There has been very little movement regarding the resigning of Brian
Leetch but in his case one could call that bad news for several reasons.
For one thing not having Leetch under contract leaves open the possibility
of him signing elsewhere. Sure Leetch has said that he wants to return to
the Rangers as his first choice but the longer he remains unsigned sooner
or later the stalemate might get to the point where Leetch starts to look
at other offers.
If Slats remains too stubborn or does one of his worst tricks (which is
the "take or leave it offer) he risks alienating a player who
everyone in hockey knows will be the best hope for next season for the
Rangers. Lose Leetch before the season begins and you might as well skip
the season as they will go no place without him. Leetch showed in the
second half of last season what kind of affect he can have on a game for
the Rangers. He also showed that at the same time they will need to keep
him fresh all season long not burn him out by playing 26 minutes a night.
It has also been the summer where the biggest UFAs on the market for
the most part weren't even interested in the Rangers. Kariya and Selanne
choose the Avs while Hatcher choose the Stars. It wasn't about money for
these players it was about who offered them the best chance to win a cup.
None of them gave the Rangers any kind of serious consideration despite
the reported better money offers made by Slats.
This Ranger fan got the message loud and clear that players who want to
win the Cup don't consider the Rangers to be anything close to a cup
contender. He also got the message that players who are looking for money
first winning second are as based upon reports that Fedorov was interested
in the Rangers after not getting the kind of money he wanted from the
Here is a hint to the ownership: If a player only wants the money pass
on him as he really isn't interested in winning. After all these years one
would pray that the Rangers would have learned that lesson. Further
evidence came from Marchant signing with the BlueJackets for less money
that he reportedly wanted from the Rangers.
If someone choosing the Blue Jackets over the Rangers isn't a sign of
how bad NHL players are viewing the Rangers I don't know what is. While
there remains several mid level free agents who could help the Rangers
still unsigned with each passing day the list gets smaller and smaller. If
the Rangers don't address needs like a couple of real LWs or a true stay
at home defensemen then even with Leetch making the playoffs next year
will be almost impossible.
Then of course there is the most recent of stories which involve Cujo
of the Red Wings. Hasek returns so Cujo is now expendable with his fat
contract. Of course when players with fat contracts are made available the
first place people tend to think they are headed is to the Rangers. So far
Slats says he isn't interested in Cujo and let us hope that lack of
interest remains that way.
The Rangers don't need to tie themselves up with a goalie who carries
such a fat contract with the unknown of the next CBA staring them in the
face. Not to mention that the Rangers already have a goalie who clearly
proved that he could carry the team even with the kind of non-defense the
Rangers play. Cujo is that kind of goalie so let someone else trade for
The Rangers also have other free agents of their own both restricted
and unrestricted to sign which needs to be addressed. For the unrestricted
hearts won't break if Mironov (wants 4 million), McCarthy (made 1.3
million but doesn't fight), Donato (nice heart but 4th liners are easy to
replace) aren't resigned. Messier will resign once he tells Slats how much
to pay him so he will be back despite the rumors of the Panthers wanting
As for restricted free agents Kovalev, Poti, Carter, Markkanen and Pisa
there really isn't much to say except the odds are they will eventually
all sign one year contracts. Being an RFA is really a joke in the NHL so
unless something really drastic happens they will all be in uniform come
the start of training camp.
Finally we get to the sad and tragic passing of Roman Lyashenko who
took his own life earlier this week. While it is so hard for people to try
to understand why a 24 year old who was getting to get paid for something
most of us dream about doing, what needs to be said is that when all is
said and done it was a tragedy. What we can't do is point any kind of
finger of blame at the Ranger organization as they were caught off guard
by this just like Ranger fans were.
Instead of looking for why he did it or anything else we fans should
hope that some good will somehow someway find a way to come of it. Maybe
teams like the Rangers will take a closer look at how they are prepared to
look for the signs of players in trouble and improve on them. Maybe the
players themselves will take a look inside themselves and see the kind of
pain that the Lyashenko family is going though right now. Hopefully they
will learn how to reach out for help so their families don't ever have to
suffer the pain the Lyashenko family is.
More importantly as fans we can learn from what happened also as we can
see right in front of us how nobody saw this coming from Lyashenko. We can
realize that we too need to learn to spot the signs that might prevent
someone we love from taking their own life. We can also realize that
instead of thinking nobody cares or whatever reasoning one uses to commit
suicide that it is a selfish act. It is an act that does nothing except
bring pain to those left behind and hopefully we will seek help to spare
those who love us the same kind of pain.
Roman Lyashenko is gone from us and while we can wonder why he did what
he did instead we should offer our thoughts and prayers to his family.
They need it more than Roman does anymore.
Roman Lyashenko Born May 2nd 1979 Died July 7th 2003 Rest in peace and
may whatever pain you had be gone
Additional stories from this Author: