New York Rangers: Who Are the 10 Greatest Blueshirts of All Time?

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New York Rangers: Who Are the 10 Greatest Blueshirts of All Time?

Throughout their first 83 years in the NHL, the New York Rangers have established themselves as one of the premier hockey teams in the NHL.

Despite 54 years of Stanley Cup frustration, they have had a rich history and tradition as a member of the Original Six.

Here are 10 of the greatest players to play for the Blueshirts in the World's Most Famous Arena:

 

10. Bill Cook (1926-37): 474 GP, 229 G, 138 A, 367 P

The first star in the Rangers' history, Bill Cook was the Rangers first captain—a position which he held for his entire 11-year career with the Rangers. Cook made up the famous "A"-line with brother Bun Cook and Frank Boucher. Cook was a member of the 1928 and 1933 Stanley Cup Champions.

 

9. Harry Howell (1952-69): 1,160 GP, 82 G, 263 A, 345 P

The Rangers' all-time leader in games played, Howell was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1979. Howell was the winner of the Norris Trophy in 1967 and a six-time All-Star. Howell was captain of the Rangers for two seasons, and when he retired was widely regarded as the greatest defenseman in Rangers history.

 

8. Vic Hadfield (1961-1974): 839 GP, 262 G, 310 A, 572 P

The left wing on the GAG line—and the "other" No. 11—Hadfield was the first Ranger to score 50 goals in a season, in 1971-72. Hadfield was joined by center Jean Ratelle and right wing Rod Gilbert to form the GAG (goal-a-game) line—the greatest threesome in Rangers history. Hadfield served as captain for three seasons in the early 1970s.

 

7. Adam Graves (1991-2001): 772 GP, 280 G, 227 A, 507 P

The man who broke Vic Hadfield's single-season goal record in the greatest Rangers' season ever, Adam Graves was the heart and soul of the team during his 10-year tenure.  In 1994, Graves scored 52 goals during the regular season, breaking Hadfield's 22-year-old record.

In the '94 playoffs, Graves added another 10 goals in 23 playoff games, including a goal in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals to help the Rangers break the 54-year Stanley Cup drought.

Graves was a fixture in the community, helping out with many charitable organizations in New York. Graves will be honored in 2008-09 when his No. 9 will be raised to the Garden rafters.

 

6. Jean Ratelle (1960-75): 862 GP, 336 G, 481 A, 817 P

The third all-time point scorer in Rangers history, Ratelle centered the GAG line with Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert for 10 years. During Hadfield's 50 goal season in 1971-72, Ratelle set a Ranger record by recording 109 points (46 G, 63 A) in only 63 games.

Ratelle missed the last part of the regular season with a broken ankle, and returned for the playoffs less than 100 percent, and the Rangers lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins.

In 1975, Ratelle was part of one of the biggest trades in Rangers history, when he and Brad Park went to the Bruins for Phil Esposito.

 

5. Eddie Giacomin (1965-75) 538 GP (266-172-89), 2.73 GAA, 49 SO

When Eddie Giacomin was put on waivers in 1975, he held every single Rangers' goaltending record in the book. The co-Vezina winner in 1971, Giacomin was a six-time NHL All-Star. Giacomin was the Rangers main netminder for eight seasons, and his No. 1 was retired to the Garden rafters in 1989.

 

4. Mike Richter (1989-2003) 666 GP (301-258-73), 2.89 GAA, .904 SV Pct, 24 SO

Simply the greatest goaltender in Rangers history, Richter was the Rangers' backbone for over a decade. Richter wrote his name in Rangers lore, winning a Rangers-record 42 games in 1993-94 (including the '94 All-Star Game MVP at the Garden), as well as another 16 in the playoffs to lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup.

His greatest moment came in Game Four of the Finals, when he stopped the Canucks' Pavel Bure on a penalty shot to key a Rangers comeback win in Vancouver.

Richter also represented Team USA in the Olympics in 1998 and 2002, winning the silver medal in '02, as well as winning the MVP in the 1996 World Cup with a gold medal win over Canada. Known for his work ethic and acrobatic saves, Richter's No. 35 was retired by the Rangers on February 4, 2004, after he was forced to reitre after suffering concussions.

 

3. Brian Leetch (1988-2004): 1,129 GP, 240 G, 741 A, 981 P

The holder of 42 Rangers' records—including most goals, assists, and points by a Rangers defenseman—Leetch is also second in Rangers history in games played and points scored. The greatest defenseman in Rangers history, Leetch was a puck-moving defenseman that provided offense from the blueline that the Rangers haven't seen since.

The Rangers only American-born captain, which he served as when Mark Messier was in Vancouver, Leetch cemented his legacy as a big-game player during the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs, when he scored 34 points in 23 playoff games, and tied a Stanley Cup record for defensemen by scoring 5 goals in the Finals.

Leetch won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs, the only American-born player to do so. In 1992 and 1997, Leetch won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. Leetch appeared in the Olympics in 1998 and 2002 and was the captain of the gold medal winning U.S. team in the World Cup in 1996.

Leetch's No. 2 was retired on January 24, 2008.

 

2. Rod Gilbert (1960-77): 1,065 GP, 406 G, 615 A, 1,021 P

The only player to score over 1,000 points as a member of the Rangers, Gilbert is synonymous with New York Rangers hockey. Gilbert was a member of the GAG line, recording 97 points—at the time the most ever by a Rangers' right wing—during the record-breaking 1971-72 season.

Even after his playing career, Gilbert stayed in New York, continuing to be a part of the Rangers organization. Gilbert's No. 7 was the first to be retired by the Rangers organization, going to the rafters in 1979.

 

1. Mark Messier (1991-97, 2000-04): 698 GP, 250 G, 441 A, 691 P  

"The Captain" Mark Messier is the greatest Ranger of all time. He changed how the Rangers organization functioned, and he killed the curse of 1940. After winning five Stanley Cups in seven years with the Edmonton Oilers, Messier was acquired by the Rangers on October 4, 1991.

In his first season on Broadway, Messier scored 107 points, second in Rangers' history for a single season, and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He also had a great influence on his roommate, young defenseman Brian Leetch, who scored 102 points in '92.

In the 1994 playoffs, Messier tied a Rangers playoff record by scoring 12 goals, as well as adding another 18 assists in 23 playoff games. In perhaps the greatest single-handed performance in NHL playoff history, Messier guaranteed victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Rangers facing elimination, then rallied the Rangers from a 2-1 third period deficit by scoring a natural hat trick.

Messier's 12th goal of the playoffs was the game-winning goal in Game Seven of the Finals against the Vancouver Cancuks. Messier's No. 11 was retired on January 12, 2006. 

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