Where Does Henrik Lundqvist Rank Among the All-Time Great NY Rangers?
It's a question that is already being asked, and one that will be continually asked for decades to come: Where is Lundqvist's place in Rangers history?
Since we don't have the privilege of being able to look into the future, we can only assess what Lundqvist has done thus far in comparison to what former Rangers greats have also done.
Lundqvist was the first Rangers goalie to record 30 wins in his rookie season, but, more impressively, he went on to record an additional six 30-win seasons after that. That's seven consecutive 30-win seasons in as many seasons. That's very impressive when also taking into account that no other goalie had put up more than three consecutive 30-win seasons to begin their NHL career.
There are also accolades aplenty for Lundqvist.
He was nominated for the Calder Trophy in 2005-06, and although he lost, he was named to the All-Rookie Team. In his rookie season, he was also nominated for the Vezina Trophy, and would be an additional three times before winning it in 2012.
He's also appeared in three NHL All-Star Games and was named to the 2011-12 NHL First All-Star Team at season's end. Additionally, he has 252 wins in 470 games.
Furthermore, Lundqvist won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2006, and although he did not do that while wearing a Rangers' jersey, he was still part of the organization and the achievement is a testament to his performance while a part of the club.
Statistically, it would only be fair to compare Lundqvist to the greatest Rangers' goalies of all time, Mike Richter and Eddie Giacomin. Both have the distinct honor of having their jerseys retired by the Rangers.
Giacomin participated in six All-Star Games and appeared on five end-of-season All-Star teams. He also won the Vezina in 1970-71. He is second all-time in Rangers wins with 266 in 538 games.
Richter, on the other hand, appeared in three All-Star Games, but never won any end-of-season individual awards. He is the only one of the three who has won a Stanley Cup, though. Richter is the Rangers regular season wins leader with 301 in 666 games.
The truth of the matter, though, is that until last year, the Rangers weren't a top team. Most of the success the Rangers have had since Lundqvist entered the league is almost solely because of his outstanding performance.
For most of Richter's career, he had Hall of Famers playing in front of him, and that point is even more true for Giacomin. That cannot be said for the Rangers' current roster. Lundqvist doesn't have Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Brad Park or Harry Howell on his team.
In the end, Lundqvist will easily surpass Giacomin and Richter from a statistics standpoint. Even if the guy's career ended tomorrow he'd still have is jersey retired; he's just been that dominant. Giacomin was phenomenal, let's get that straight, but Lundqvist is the best goalie in the world; that's something Eddie never was.
And as for Richter, he was never dominant. Did he catch fire and carry the Rangers to a Stanley Cup championship? Sure he did, and that's why he's been immortalized, but there was never a time where Mike Richter was considered a "dominant" goaltender.
Lundqvist's will to win and talent makes him easily the greatest Rangers goalie of all time.
When it comes to comparing him to the greatest position players in Rangers history, things get tricky.
It's almost impossible to compare skaters to goalies because it really is a different game. You rarely see a goalie nominated for the Hart Trophy—although Lundqvist was in 2012— never mind win the award.
When you must compare them, the only thing to look at is how the players directly affected the team's performance. It's the clear the greats—Leetch, Messier, Gilbert—affected the team immensely, that's why they're greats and their sweaters hang from the rafters.
So where does Lundqvist rank among those players?
Well, yes, he's carried the team for the past decade, but the team also hasn't won anything but a division title in 2011-12. Guys like Leetch and Messier led this club to their first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years—that's huge.
But guys like Gilbert, Howell and Bathgate—these guys are Hall of Famers and amazing hockey players, but did they carry the Rangers like Lundqvist did? I'm sure that they did. They too didn't win anything with the Rangers, despite all spending more time with the club than Lundqvist.
All that being said, I think many Rangers fans would still put Gilbert, the Rangers' second-leading goal scorer, ahead of Lundqvist.
In the end, it's clear that Lundqvist is most certainly one of the Rangers all-time greats. Being the team's best goalie places him ahead of Giacomin and Richter, and his performances with mostly sub-par teams puts him in front of guys like Bathgate, Howell and Graves.
But because of guys like Leetch, Messier and Gilbert—it's gonna take at least seven more years of service on Broadway and/or a Stanley Cup championship before he can even think about leap frogging those Rangers immortals.
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