New York Rangers: Assembling the Finest Roster in Franchise History

Ben Lippel@thewritebenContributor IIINovember 27, 2012

New York Rangers: Assembling the Finest Roster in Franchise History

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    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle

    One of the greatest philosophers in history expressed it perfectly. And just as his words rang true in Ancient Greece, they also undoubtedly apply to the players who comprise the finest roster in the history of the New York Rangers.

    These are the men who repeatedly raised their games over the course of time. They battled with uncommon bravery. They represented the organization and the fans with passion, pride and power. 

    They are Stanley Cup champions, Hall of Famers and multiple award winners. 

    To them excellence was a habit.

    Since the Rangers came into existence in 1926, there have been nearly 900 players who have worn one of the most famous jerseys in the National Hockey League. But the those listed here are the cream of the proverbial crop.

    They played (and continue to play) Broadway better than all the rest.

    Twelve forwards.

    Six defensemen.

    Two goalies.

    No honorable mentions.

    So who made the finest roster in Rangers franchise history?

    Read on to find out.

    Please Note: Aristotle quotes used on the accompanying slides courtesy of

The Forwards Who Made Their Mark

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    "You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor. "

    These are the Rangers who worked the front lines of the NHL with incredible courage and class. They scored the huge goals, made the great passes and did the dirty work necessary for the Rangers to win big. 

    So without any further adieu, here are the top 12 forwards (four lines) in Rangers history.

    Please note: Order is as follows: Center, Right Wing, Left Wing.

    Line #1

    Mark MessierThe Guarantee. The Cup. The Captain. The best. His number 11 is retired.

    Rod GilbertLeading scorer in Rangers history. Hall of Fame member. Right winger on the famous Goal a Game (GAG) line of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scored 1,021 points in 1,065 regular-season games in Ranger Blue. A nine-time NHL All-Star, he's been a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame since 1982. His number 7 is retired.

    Adam GravesHolds the all-time record for goals by a Ranger left winger, as he tallied 52 times during the '94 campaign. Scored 280 goals in 772 regular-season Ranger games. His number 9 is retired.

    Line #2

    Jean RatelleThe smooth-skating, prolific scorer centered the GAG line, one of the best in league history. In 862 regular-season games as a Ranger, he scored 817 points.

    Jaromir JagrHelped the Rangers climb out of the abyss in 2006 when he recorded a team record 54 goals and 123 points, and the Blueshirts made the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

    Vic HadfieldFirst player in Rangers history to score 50 goals in a season (1972). Tough and talented, he played the left side on the GAG line.

    Line #3

    Frank BoucherA brilliant passer and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame since 1958. Played on two Rangers Stanley Cup winning teams (1928 and 1933) and coached the Blueshirts to the 1940 Stanley Cup. Scored 413 points in 533 regular-season games with the Rangers.

    Anders HedbergThe swift-skating Swede played on the Rangers team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979. Tallied 397 points in 465 games during his regular-season tenure on Broadway.

    Don MaloneyDurable, dependable, determined. MVP of the 1984 NHL All-Star Game. In 653 regular-season games with the Rangers, he scored 502 points.

    Line #4

    Walt TkaczukOne of the most underrated pivots in team history, he played in 945 regular-season games with the Rangers, and finished his career with 678 total points.

    Andy BathgateInducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978, the high-scoring forward tallied 719 points in 729 career regular season games on Broadway. Also an eight-time All-Star with the Rangers. His number 9 is retired.

    Steve VickersWon the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1973. Scored 246 goals in 698 career regular-season games with the Rangers. 

    Next Up: The top six defensemen in Rangers history, in my humble estimation. 

They Put Their Own Unique Spin on Playing D

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    "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work."

    And perfection in the work is a great way to describe the six defensemen who made this list.

    Pairing #1

    Brian LeetchOne of the all-time great defensemen in NHL history. Won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1994 emblematic of the playoff MVP. Scored 1,028 points in 1,205 regular season games on Broadway. Watch the spin goal he scored against the Devils in the '94 Conference Finals (at 00:57 mark of the accompanying video). Unreal. His number 2 is retired.

    Brad ParkA mainstay on the blue line for the great Rangers teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988. In 465 regular season games as a Ranger, he scored 378 points.

    Pairing #2

    Harry HowellPlayed 17 seasons with the Rangers and won the Norris Trophy as the league's premier defender with them in 1967. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame since 1979. His number 3 is retired.

    Sergei ZubovFormed one of the best power play point combinations in Rangers history with Brian Leetch. He only played parts of three seasons on Broadway, but  he led the Rangers in scoring during the regular season in 1994. 

    Pairing #3

    Ron GreschnerTotaled 610 points in 982 regular-season games with the Blueshirts. A superb puck handler and shifty skater, he also scored 51 power play goals during his 16 seasons as a Ranger.

    Bill GadsbyA five-time NHL All-Star with the Rangers, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970. 

    Next Up: The two goaltenders throughout the years who've stood tallest between the pipes for the Blueshirts.

The Puck Stops Here

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    "The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain."

    Avoiding pain in this instance means making the key saves in key situations more than any other goaltenders in Rangers history. And these two men have done it.

    They are net assets of the highest order.

    Starting Goalie

    Mike RichterStanley Cup winner. The penalty shot save on Pavel Bure in the '94 Stanley Cup Finals was as good as it gets. His number 35 is retired.

    Career regular season stats:

    666 Games

    301 Wins

    24 Shutouts

     .904 Save Percentage

    2.89 Goals Against Average


    Backup Goalie

    Henrik LundqvistCan the King really be called a backup to anyone? In this instance, yes. And that's only because he doesn't have a Stanley Cup on his resume. 

    Not yet, anyway.

    Career regular season stats:

    468 Games

    252 Wins

    43 Shutouts

    .920 Save Percentage

    2.27 Goals Against Average


    Many of you may be wondering why Ed Giacomin is not on this list. Even though he is enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, posted 266 career regular-season wins as a Ranger to go along with 49 shutouts (plus his number 1 is retired), the two goaltenders listed above are just a cut above him.

    Next Up: More about the players who donned the Blueshirt throughout history.

    Check out The Bonus Slide.


Retired and Remembered

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    The Bonus Slide

    Above: Check out a fan's perspective on the Mark Messier retirement ceremony at Madison Square Garden.

    You'll find more detail on the New York Rangers retired numbers here.

    Take a look at every player who ever wore the Blueshirt. 

    Here's everything you've always wanted to know about the history of the Rangers.

    Click here to find even more Rangers statistics.