As a life-long New York Rangers fan, the question of my all-time fantasy roster is an interesting thought.
Over the years, many great players have come through the Garden, so I have plenty of great players to choose from—Shanahan, Lindros, Bure, Jagr, Ozolinsh, Gretzky, the list goes on. Okay, so most of them were past their primes, but still big names nonetheless.
But as for my picks, do I go with my favorites, or pick what would seem to be a well balanced fantasy team? In the case of the latter, I would have to go with the 1994 Cup-winning team, but where's the fun in that?
In the spirit of creativity and fantasy, I'm making my selections based on a combination of three aspects—fan favor, performance, and time spent.
I'm including some players simply because I love them. I'm also leaving out lots of big names from earlier years like Jean Ratelle, Don Maloney, or Andy Bathgate, mainly because they were before my time.
And whether you agree or not, I've picked the best. The BEST! For brevity's sake, because I could go on all night and day, I'm only picking three forward lines and my top four defensemen. Drum role please (as the players skate onto the ice):
My first line is Mark Messier centering Adam Graves and Rod Gilbert. What else needs to be said? Mess is a face-off master and a rugged competitor. Graves held the Rangers single season goal scoring record for over a decade and Rod is has the most goals in Rangers history and the second most assists.
My second line has the familiar post-lockout combination of Michael Nylander and Jaromir Jagr simply because they have performed so well on Broadway the past several seasons.
With Nylander's help, Jagr broke the Rangers all-time single season goals and points marks two years ago. This duo gets lots of credit for helping resurrect a team who could barely spell playoffs let alone prepare for them.
To add a bit of muscle to the line, Matthew Barnaby is as good as it gets. Few players in the NHL were/are willing to fight players a full foot taller than themselves, but Barnaby fought anyone, anytime, anywhere. Gotta love him!
Centering my third line is Mike York. He was drafted by the Rangers in 1997 all the way down in the sixth round! 230 games and 138 points later he was traded for a fourth round pick and Tom Poti, who quickly earned the disgust of Rangers fans everywhere.
York was a steady point producer, as well as a skilled face-off man and has definitely earned his spot on my fantasy Rangers squad.
Next, I have to choose Alex Kovalev to man the right wing. Cry baby, super-skilled puckhandler and deadly one-time artist, Alex gets the nod for his killer numbers and Stanley Cup ring.
Like the second line, I want some more grit, so I'm taking Sean Avery. Although he was let go after a year and half on Broadway, his point production, especially in the playoffs, and deft ability to throw opponents off their games (yes, boohoo, he made a cancer comment!) nestled him deep into the hearts of Rangers fans forever (unless we play Dallas next season).
My top four defensemen are a breeze to pick.—Brian Leetch, Jeff Beukeboom, Sergei Zubov, and Mattias Norstrom.
One time captain and Stanley Cup winner Brian Leetch should be a Hall of Famer whose career speaks for itself. Leetch tallied more helpers than any Ranger in history and is second in points and games played.
Jeff Beukeboom was Scott Stevens minus the scoring touch. Nevertheless, he was effective and intimidating against the league's top forwards.
A similarly fashioned pairing, Sergei Zubov and Mattias Norstrom offer the best of both worlds—top shelf offensive ability and earth shattering physical play. Zubov earned a Cup in 1994, as well as in Dallas in 1999. He led Dallas in scoring two seasons ago and has put up tons of points throughout his career.
On the other side, Norstrom had been the scary blueline captain for the Kings for almost a decade. Since being drafted by the Rangers in 1992, his crushing hits and smothering defensive play have only become more devastating as his career progressed .
My starting goaltender may surprise some Rangers fans, but I must go with Henrik Lundqvist. He's got an impressive European resume consisting of two championships and an MVP title in the Swedish Elite League in the three seasons previous to his NHL debut.He's been in the top five in nearly all major goaltending categories since his rookie season. He will eclipse all standing Rangers records.
Mike Richter is obviously my second pick. As one of the greatest American born keepers, an Olympic gold medalist, the Rangers' all-time wins leader and the 1994 championship backstopper (who could forget the the penalty shot save against Pavel Bure?), Richter is a no brainer.
However, knowing the Rangers' history, we'd probably still lose with this squad since it looks so good on paper. And so we can't forget the crucial role of coach in building a successful team.
Tom Renney gets the nod here. He's been the most influential key to our recent success. His ability to build an atmosphere of teamwork, individual accountability, and a commitment to responsible play has catapulted the Rangers into the Stanley Cup hunt once again.
Well that was fun. Please feel free, as I'm sure you will, to tell me my picks are all wrong. I will gladly reaffirm my belief in my picks and assure you that you are the ones who are mistaken. Thanks!