Rod Gilbert and Andy Bathgate up front, with Harry Howell on defense, and Eddie Giacomin in net.
Mark Messier and Adam Graves up front, with Brian Leetch on defense, and Mike Richter in net.
Although the time periods in which these players donned the Blueshirts are separated by about three decades, these eight people share one thing in common: By the end of the 2008-09 season, they will all have their name and number on a white New York Rangers banner, which will hang from the Madison Square Garden rafters.
It just so happens that four of the eight players played around the same time in the Original Six Era, and the other four were the cornerstones of the team that erased the chants of 1940. Even more coincidentally, each group of four has two forwards, one defenseman, and one goalie.
So, which group can say that they are the best of the best in New York Rangers history? Is it the Original Six? Or is it 1994?
Out of the four forwards, the 1994 team has the best of the four (Messier), and the worst (if you can say that of a Rangers legend) of the four (Graves). Bathgate and Gilbert are both Hall of Famers, and they both are among the greatest players in not only in their era, but in NHL history. However, everything that Messier did on and off the ice, along with Graves' then-Rangers record of 52 goals in '94, gave the Rangers something that Bathgate and Gilbert couldn't deliver in two chances combined: the Stanley Cup
Howell, the Rangers' all-time leader in games played, was a Hall of Fame defenseman who embodied the type of defenseman before Bobby Orr: tough, physical, and defensive. Leetch, although very good in his own end, was known for playing an Orr-like game from the blueline, with his end-to-end rushes becoming common to Rangers fans. Howell and Leetch are both Norris Trophy winners, but in the end, the advantage has to go to the man Mark Messier called the "Greatest Ranger Ever."
The battle for the better goaltender is the toughest, but in a way also the easiest. Giacomin and Richter were both the backbones of the teams they played on, and were loved by Rangers fans. If you go by achievements, Richter won a Cup, but Giacomin won a Vezina, which Richter, for all of his great years in net, never did. However, the bottom line is that while Giacomin set the Rangers' record book for goaltenders, Richter rewrote the book, and got his name on Lord Stanley's Mug.
Better Group of Rangers' Retired Numbers: 1994