Just to be crystal clear, the Rangers made the right choice waiving defenseman Wade Redden this weekend. It should have happened months, if not years, ago.
Having said that, I do feel a little bad for the insanely expensive blueliner who seemed completely unable to perform at even just an average level during his two seasons in New York.
It was easy for fans to get mad at Redden because he took up both salary cap and ice time, but now that he’s gone, I feel a little bad for the guy.
Here are five reasons Redden’s colossal failure as a Ranger wasn’t entirely his fault.
Part I: He was dramatically overpaid by the Rangers
The Rangers made Redden the highest paid defenseman in the league both years he played in New York. In fact, he was one of the NHL’s highest paid players period. This was in spite of his production steadily decreasing in Ottawa, before the Rangers signed him. The Rangers threw a sick amount of money at a guy who could never be worth it all. In fact, I’m not sure Redden in his prime would have been worth his front-loaded six-year, $39 million contract. But in the end, it was the Rangers who decided to give Redden that much money.
Part II: He was dramatically overpaid in his own head
Further compounding the Rangers’ dramatic overpayment of Redden was that he was forced to measure up to a value he could never reach. Redden’s entire time as a Ranger was spent either trying to prove he was worth what he was getting paid and wilting under the pressure of the sheer impossibleness of it all, or not even trying, having realized he could never play up to the number of zeroes on his check (one of the few examples of Redden successfully checking as a Ranger, too).
Part III: He was hired to play for Tom Renney
The Rangers signed Redden while Tom Renney was still coaching. Renney played a very conservative system that didn’t ask much of the defense, other than to stay back. When Renney was fired and the Rangers hired John Tortorella, Redden suddenly found himself playing for a coach that likes to see the defense involved in the offense. Suddenly Redden was being asked to play a style he hadn’t really played in years. He looked completely unprepared and uncomfortable with Tortorella’s high-risk style and he never got the hang of it.
Part IV: He was no bigger a bust than other Ranger free agent signings
Redden’s signing looks pretty bad, but was it really worse than Scott Gomez or Chris Drury, two other salary-cap era signings that did/have done nothing but limit the options of the team? The Rangers managed to trade Gomez and have made their peace with Drury as the world’s most expensive third-liner, but is Redden that much worse a player than Drury? Or is that Drury is one of 12 forwards, while Redden is one of six defensemen, making Redden’s impact (or lack thereof) that much more noticeable?
Part V: No one bothered to coach him
Renney never sat Redden. Tortorella experimented with it, but never for an extended period. Consequently, Redden took away that he made too much money to ever have to miss ice time for his sins. If Renney or Tortorella had made Redden scared he might lose his job, as he was during this summer’s camp, where he seemed to think he might be able to play himself out of waivers purgatory, Redden might have stepped up his game. But neither coach ever did that and so Redden continued to drift through the season, often looking like a fan who had won some kind of on-ice experiential contest. Sure, an NHL veteran making a Zamboni-ful of money shouldn’t require extensive coaching. But Redden did and no one stepped in to take care of it and now the Rangers are eating a very expensive contract.
The Rangers are a better team without Redden and his yoke of a contract. While that contract was impossible to live up to, Redden would probably still be a Ranger if he could have maintained even just an average level of defensive ability. But it’s not entirely fair to place the failure entirely at the feet of Redden. His time in New York didn’t have to be the embarrassment that it was.