After essentially being pushed out of Washington in 2003-04, Jaromir Jagr returned to the NHL following the 2004-05 lockout with something to prove.
The Rangers, too, were looking to reshape their image, after missing out on the playoffs in the previous seven seasons.
General manager Glen Sather did all he could to surround Jagr with familiar faces and countrymen. Michael Nylander and Marty Straka were brought in to play alongside the five-time scoring champion, and a total of seven Czech players in total graced the Blueshirts roster.
As a result, Jagr would compile the third-highest point (123) and assist (69) totals, and second-highest goal (54) total of his illustrious career. All three marks also set Rangers single-season records.
All season long Jagr appeared the favorite for the Hart, Art Ross and Maurice Richard Trophies, but a mid-season trade between the San Jose Sharks and the Boston Bruins derailed all of Jagr’s hopes.
Joe Thornton was shipped out west and instantly found chemistry with winger Jonathan Cheechoo. In 58 games with San Jose, Thornton tallied 20 goals, 72 assist for 92 points (overall season total of 125), while Cheechoo compiled a season total of 56 goals.
Thornton would be awarded the Hart and Art Ross Trophies while Cheechoo took home the Maurice Richard.
Jagr was rewarded for carrying the Rangers to their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade with the Lester B. Pearson award as players’ MVP, though.