Is this the greatest Rangers team in franchise history?
The New York Rangers set franchise marks in wins (53) and points (113), breaking the records held by the 1994 Championship Squad. They did it in 2 less contests, because in 1994 the regular season was 84 games long. By default, this makes the 2015 version of the Blueshirts the best ever…for the regular season.
No matter what happens this post season, those numbers are not only impressive they are remarkable. This Rangers team is playing in the cap era and did not have the luxury of bringing in high priced free agents at will or making lopsided trades to fix mistakes.
The 1994 team was built with some home grown talent in Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov but the rest was acquired through trades and free agency. Mark Messier, widely considered the best player in hockey at the time after winning the Cup in 1990 without Gretzky was moved because the Oilers couldn’t afford him.
Could the Rangers have acquired Messier today in the cap error without giving up key roster pieces and/or prized prospects? Likely not. Neil Smith parted ways with Bernie Nicholls, Louie DeBrusk and David Shaw in return for Messier and Jeff Beukeboom. A Stanley Cup winning move for sure.
In 1994, the bulk of the roster was playing somewhere else that year or the years before. Kevin Lowe, Steve Larmer, Esa Tikkanen, Stephane Matteau, Adam Graves, Glenn Anderson, Brian Noonan, Craig MacTavish, so on and so forth.
This Rangers squad is the exact opposite. The core of this team was either drafted or developed in the system. Henrik Lundqvist, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, JT Miller, Jesper Fast…you get the idea.
The bulk of these Rangers are young and have grown up with each other. They’ve become like brothers – a family. Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers traded Ryan Callahan to bring in Marty St. Louis and fan favorite Brandon Dubinsky to obtain Rick Nash in order to find proven offense.
They also signed Dan Boyle this past off-season and traded away highly touted prospect Anthony Duclair for Keith Yandle in order to solidify their defense. A blue-line that will also get a jolt with the pending return of Kevin Klein who was acquired in a great trade for troubled young defenseman Michael Del Zotto.
The point here is that instead of the home grown talent complimenting the hired guns like in ’94, this is the exact opposite. That team was super talented from the top of the lineup to the bottom of it. When it is all said and done, many of them will be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Currently Messier (2007), Anderson (2008) and Leetch (2009) are in the Hall. In the upcoming years, you can expect Kevin Lowe, Mike Richter, Craig MacTavish and Steve Larmer to likely get in. Even Sergei Zubov deserves some consideration for his illustrious career.
This Rangers team is still making its mark on history. The majority of these guys saw action in the 2011-12 run to the Eastern Conference Final and the magical ride to 2013-14 Stanley Cup Final.
They have fought together and bled for one another. They have tasted defeat as a group and have felt the pain of losing. They now know what it takes to get back to that place where they can find ultimate victory.
This Rangers team is not the greatest in franchise history. However, they stand on the edge of greatness as the 2015 Playoffs are about to commence. They are on a road to glory that will require 16 more hard fought wins. If they can do it, this will be the greatest team Rangers’ fans have ever known.
LET’S GO RANGERS