This Week in New York Rangers Hockey (Jean Ratelle Edition)

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IFebruary 22, 2009

Is there anything new you can say about this team? Let’s recap the season: The first month they shot into first place by working hard, controlling the puck, forechecked aggressively and had great goaltending.

In phase two of the season, their total game slipped, but Henrik Lundqvist was there to cover up their mistakes. They were still winning games, but all the warning signs were there. And now they’ve just completely fallen apart.

They can’t score, their defensive breakdowns are numerous and they don’t play with any heart or passion. If they fall behind, they give up. And they’re sinking like a stone in the standings. Playoffs? Who are we kidding?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s give a tip of the hat to Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell. The two Hall of Famers deserve to have their numbers retired (somehow I doubt we’ll be honoring Scott Gomez or Chris Drury like this some day).

The Rangers are doing the right thing with all these recent ceremonies honoring the greats of their franchise, but what about Jean Ratelle? How did he fall through the cracks?

Ratelle played for New York from 1960 to 1975 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. It took him a few years to get a permanent spot on the roster, but once he did he was the team’s best all-around player (with Brad Park) for almost 10 years.

He centered the great GAG line with Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield, and they were together longer than almost any line in the history of the NHL.

If we look at No. 19’s stats while he played for the Blueshirts, he’s as deserving of the honor as anyone who’s ever played for the team. On the all-time franchise list, he ranks second in goals (336), third in assists (481), third in points (817), fourth in plus/minus (+168), second in game-winning goals (42) and sixth in games played (862).

Gilbert and Brian Leetch are the only Rangers ahead of him in goals, assists and points. And they, of course, had their numbers retired. He had the team’s single-season points record (109), set in 1971-72 (while missing 15 games with a broken ankle), until Jaromir Jagr broke it.

Ratelle played in four All-Star games as a Ranger and was the second-team center on the 1971-72 All-Star team. He won the Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player) in 1971-72, Lady Byng that same season and the Bill Masterson Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey) in 1970-'71.

He didn’t finish his career with the Rangers (through no fault of his own, in the trade heard round the world), but neither did Howell, Adam Graves, Bathgate or Eddie Giacomin.

He also never won a Cup, but neither did Howell, Bathgate, Gilbert or Giacomin. Here’s hoping the Rangers do the right thing and retire Jean Ratelle’s number. He deserves it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled debacle of the 2008-'09 Rangers...