One thing athletes have learned over the years is that it’s not easy playing in New York City. In fact, it’s really not easy to do anything in New York City – even basic daily activities like walking, working, getting a drink at a bar, judging people without whispers being heard, and avoiding a graze from another’s shoulder. Solution: stop walking, quit your job, become an alcoholic at home via drone deliveries of booze off Amazon (if that’s allowed), become an internet troll (your appearance will match your label eventually), and completely seclude yourself from even your family because – let’s get real – if you’re doing all those other things then no one wants to touch you anyway.
See, it’s a tough city, and the media and fans are the toughest critics of all. It takes a certain player to survive in the Big Apple: thick skin, charm, and of course, performance. Results are required. Don’t be surprised if they ship the New York Knicks to New Jersey – where all other garbage goes – just because they’re tired of waiting. Luckily the New York Rangers won a Stanley Cup in 1994 or they may be on the same bus.
I say blame the New York Yankees – everyone blames them for everything else, so you might as well jump on that wagon. The Evil Empire set the bar way too high for New York City franchise, even the New York Giants Super Bowl wins of recent seem pathetic. Maybe NYC residents need to take a page out of Buffalo’s fan base and ease up a little, realize it’s not going to happen all the time (or ever in their case); especially in hockey. The NHL is one of the better leagues because there’s a lot of parody in the modern era - with the exception of the pesky Chicago Blackhawks. With that being said, it took the Rangers 20 years to return to the Cup Finals, falling short against the Los Angeles Kings. And with that being said, you never know when the next chance is going to happen.
Madison Square Garden has seen some great players and some horrible players skate down the converted basketball court in the World’s most famous arena since the glory of the 1994 squad.
20 WORST: RICK NASH
Okay, right off the stick there’s going to be some controversy. We all know how New Yorkers love to express their opinion no matter how, what, when, where, or why. Rick Nash is a very good hockey player and has been since his NHL debut in 2002 for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Playing in Columbus for nine full seasons, Nash eclipsed the 50-point mark in eight of those years. For the New York Rangers, he’s done it once in four seasons. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt: he was by far the best player on the Blue Jackets during his tenure in Columbus and since has been playing with better skaters in New York so production is spread around; however, stars are supposed to shine; especially in New York – which makes no sense because of all the pollution. Seriously, I wonder when a city dweller last saw a star in the sky? There’s not many at Madison Square Garden nowadays either – unless it’s like a Jay-Z or Billy Joel concert.
19 BEST: DEREK STEPAN
Derek Stepan has been a solid player for the New York Rangers ever since he signed his first contract in 2010. He had an immediate impact, playing in all 82 regular season games and recording 45 points that year. With the exception of the 2012-2013 season, Stepan has eclipsed the 50-point mark every year – that’s something that Rick Nash guy can’t say he’s done in New York. Currently, he’s on pace to do it again, and currently, Nash is on pace to not do it again. In fact, Stepan has been in the top five of scoring for the Rangers since he entered the league, the top three since 2012 (which makes you wonder much New York didn’t score that year). The future is bright for this guy, and it was apparent during his first game as a pro as he tallied a hat-trick against Ryan Miller – who used to be really really good, but now suffers in Vancouver. At least he’s in a cooler city than Buffalo. Cooler as in nice not weather wise.
18 WORST: SCOTT GOMEZ
Here’s a personal note since you care so much – and if you don’t, too bad, it will only take a second (depending on your reading level) – but my sister dated someone who was friends with Scott Gomez in high school. There, that wasn’t as lame as you thought it was going to be, now was it? Gomez was a terrific player for the New Jersey Devils, winning the Calder Trophy in 2000 as well as the Stanley Cup, and then added another title in 2003. Here’s a fun fact – and no, it’s not personal – but Gomez actually won the MVP of the ECHL during the lockout season of 2004-2005. Obviously the New York Rangers were stoked to steal the center from their neighbors, but it didn’t pan out as originally hoped. He only stayed in New York for two seasons, and though they weren’t bad years, they just didn’t meet expectations. Actually, his last year as a Ranger was the start of his declining career; he bounced around from Montreal to San Jose to Florida to St. Louis to Ottawa. He’s now an analyst on NHL Network, offering advice to players how not to fizzle out.
17 BEST: RYAN McDONAGH
He’s the captain of the New York Rangers and a fan favorite. Did you know there’s also a Ryan McDonough that plays hockey in Canada or somewhere like that? Feel free to look him up, obviously I’ didn’t do a whole lot of research on the guy. McDonagh is kind of like the Derek Stepan of defensemen for the Rangers. Both were born in Minnesota, both played for the University of Wisconsin, and both were rookies in 2010. McDonagh’s production has been steady during his career as a Ranger, and his toughness and work ethic has certainly helped him contain some of the great superstars in the league over the past few years. Teams need good leadership in the locker room and McDonagh has also provided that, but with great power comes great responsibility as a famous uncle said to a nephew who likes to destroy New York City while brawling with the likes of the Green Goblin. I guess New Yorkers like their heroes reckless and their hockey players tough.
16 WORST: CHRIS DRURY
Since were on this kick of personal information regarding the worst New York Rangers since 1994, I will add another note: Chris Drury is from the town in Connecticut where my uncle lives. Pretty cool, huh? It’s like I know these guys. I don’t. Anyway, like Scott Gomez, Drury didn’t meet expectations for the Rangers when he arrived in New York in 2007. In fact, there’s another eerie similarity to Gomez: Drury also won the Calder Trophy his rookie year; they won it back to back. Here’s another tidbit of info: they both wore the number 23! This is getting weird… they were even signed by the Rangers on the same day. Gomez was the one who changed his jersey number though after a flip of the puck to determine who kept the number 23. I’m not superstitious – okay, I am – but perhaps the reason their production wasn’t as good as expected is because of craziness like that. They jinxed it, and Drury’s statistics steadily declined until some knee issues forced him to retire in 2011.
15 15: BEST: MARTIN ST. LOUIS
Martin St. Louis is one of hockey’s great players of the 21st Century. This year, St. Louis had his number retired in Tampa Bay where he spent most of his career, winning the Hart Trophy and the Stanley Cup in 2004. From 2000-2014, he was the heart of the Lightning franchise, but his final two years in the league were spent with the New York Rangers. His emotional playoff performance in 2014 helped earn the trust of New Yorkers and he had a solid 2014-2015 season to follow. His tenure at Madison Square Garden was short lived, but he was hard-working and durable and the city respected that – kind of like an old deli owner: small, tough, but really nice when you get to know them. I would expect him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at some point… unless Steve Yzerman is voting (that’s an Olympic joke if you didn’t know).
14 WORST: BOBBY HOLIK
Another New Jersey Devil transplant, Bobby Holik joined the New York Rangers in 2002. Now, the ongoing joke is that New Jersey smells like garbage – along with having a bunch of tan people strolling the shore – but who would have thought New York would have signed two Devils and the contracts both ended up being trash. First it was Holik, and then Scott Gomez followed. There was so much promise with Holik: a veteran, two-time Stanley Cup winner, and a very talented center. Again, there was so much promise with Gomez as well: a veteran, two-time Stanley Cup winner, and a very talented center. What’s with the strange comparisons involving Gomez? Anyway, it seems he’s taking over every post now. Back to Holik, his play was sub-par in New York – which means it was pretty good if he was playing elsewhere. He lasted two seasons of his five-year, $45 million deal which now doesn’t seem like the best financial decision for the Rangers.
13 BEST: JAROMIR JAGR
On the other hand, the New York Rangers got a great deal on Jaromir Jagr, receiving the great skater for a reduced price in 2005. What they also received was a trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs after missing the postseason for seven consecutive years. In 2006, Jagr eclipsed the 100-point mark in a season, and before the start of the following season, he was named captain of the Rangers. Pretty impressive in such a short amount of time. The guy has done it all, and is still playing which is amazing – and he still has a mullet which is even more amazing! That’s the style now: successful and unkempt. What a world we live in. He holds six Rangers’ records, but that’s nothing because he holds 31 Pittsburgh Penguins’ records and 20 NHL records. If it wasn’t for his disappointing stint with the Washington Capitals, he would pretty much be the perfect hockey player. The Rangers certainly benefitted from his performance.
12 WORST: ERIC LINDROS
How can a Hall of Fame player be considered a worst for anything? The freshly-inducted Eric Lindros had a great career, but after an amazing start to his New York Ranger tenure, he declined severely the following season. Of course, let’s not add insult to injury because that’s essentially what affected the star center. He was an enormous man, a physical player, and could score with the best of them, however, his three seasons in New York began his descent from playing in the NHL. I’m not going to say it because he’s already been mentioned a handful of times. Okay, I will bring him up again: it’s kind of like what happened to Scott Gomez – except with injuries. See, that wasn’t all that bad. Lindros was a 7-time All-Star, an MVP winner, and a man who was tough as nails; if he didn’t play for the rival Philadelphia Flyers for so many years before he would have fit the New York pedigree; if he stayed healthy and didn’t make the Rangers’ front office look like bad businessmen once again then that would have helped as well.
11 BEST: ADAM GRAVES
Remember when we talked about Jaromir Jagr? Geez, I sure hope so, it was like two slides ago. Well, Jagr set the New York Rangers’ record for most goals in a season, and the man whose mark he took over was Adam Graves. This will be the first of a few mentions regarding the Edmonton Oilers and Rangers, but Graves came to New York from Edmonton in 1991 and eventually helped secure the franchise's first Stanley Cup since 1940 in 1994. Of course, we’re talking about players who played after that glorious year, and believe it or not, many of the roster members stayed on the team. Go figure. Maybe he should of made a move earlier because there was no glory like '94 glory, but he was a great Ranger until being traded away to the San Jose Sharks in 2001. However, he couldn’t get enough of New York – I don’t know why – and now instructs at a youth hockey camp hosted by the Rangers.
10 WORST: WADE REDDEN
What does a contract for $39 million over six years get you in New York? A whole lot of criticism for not proving your worth. That’s exactly what happened to Wade Redden. When he joined the Rangers in 2008, expectations were high, but his performance was so bad that the New York Post even said it was the worst contract in the history of the NHL. Wow. Considering how New Yorkers are dramatic and stressed and think everything is the worst, that’s some serious ridicule. During the 2012-2013 lockout, the Rangers didn’t even put Redden on the AHL roster so they wouldn’t have to pay the defenseman. Sometimes players at least build a relationship to earn a buyout or something, but again, this is New York, and for the city where the Statue of Liberty stands, they prove sometimes that it’s difficult to be accepted. Not in a racist way of course, just making sure everyone is on the same page here.
9 BEST: WAYNE GRETZKY
What is this? The Great One isn’t number one? This is preposterous, I say! Is it though? Wayne Gretzky ended his playing career with the New York Rangers, spending three seasons in the Big Apple. They made the Conference Finals in 1997, but never returned to the postseason during his tenure, and his reunion with his old Edmonton teammate, Mark Messier, was short-lived though it was probably one of the deciding factors for him to sign with New York. In 1999, he broke the NHL record for goals scored which is pretty good I guess – so are all his unbreakable records if you keep track of that kind of stuff. Okay, I will be honest with you, he didn’t play that great for the Rangers in comparison to the rest of his career – especially in his final season – but can you really put him on any worst list? Maybe if it was like a football list or a father with unattractive daughters list or something of that nature.
8 WORST: DONALD BRASHEAR
Donald Brashear became an MMA fighter after retiring from the NHL, and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows hockey. If you don’t know hockey then you’re allowed to act surprised. Go ahead. Whoa! The enforcer was a massive man who loved to hit other skaters and didn’t care about getting suspended. He also didn’t care about who he pissed off – Marty McSorley even had assault charges brought upon him after slashing Brashear in the temple with his stick during the 1999-2000 season. Long story short, the guy made some enemies. I know, hard to believe. He even signed with the New York Rangers just a year after he started an altercation with the team during the postseason while a member of the Washington Capitals – and was booed by Ranger fans at an event before he even officially started playing for them. A very tough crowd for a very tough man. He only had one assist in 36 games.
7 BEST: MIKE RICTER
Usually when a team wins the Stanley Cup it’s because of the stellar play of their goaltender. When hockey starts its postseason, it’s almost like a blank slate is given for everyone and that’s why there’s a lot of parody in the sport when it comes to the playoffs. It’s intense! That means all skaters are playing at a high level no matter what their name or status is… and that’s why it’s important for a goaltender to calm the storm and shift momentum. Mike Richter was drafted by the New York Rangers in 1985 and became the team’s number-one goalie in 1993. Guess what happened at the end of that season? You already know, but after he led the Rangers to a championship he stayed with the team until he retired in 2003 – never to lift the cup again. His number is retired in Madison Square Garden, and his post-playing career included attending Yale and flirting with running for office. Now why the hell would anyone want to do something like that? He can take the criticism directed toward politicians, he’s mentally tough, he played sports in New York.
6 WORST: ALES KOTALIK
Who the heck is this guy? Why is name Ales and not Alec or Alex? You’re quite rude asking a question like that, but since you clicked on the post, I’m going to tell you about him anyway. Ales Kotalik played for the New York Rangers during the 2009-2010 season. The main reason the Rangers signed Kotalik was so that he would score goals, and that’s exactly what he didn’t do. In fact, he didn’t even last a year in New York before being traded away. That’s pathetic. Want to know something else? No? Too bad; it’s happening. During his 45 games that season he had a +/- rating of -18. That was second worst on the team to someone who played almost twice the amount of games that year. I think there’s a reason not many people recognize his name; I don’t even think New Yorkers had the chance to make him feel bad about himself in that short period of time.
5 HENRIK LUNDQVIST
He’s the King. The Swedish man with the piercing eyes who has manned the net for the New York Rangers since 2005 will go down as one of the all-time greats to play the goaltender position. There have been countless times he’s kept the Rangers in games, and countless times he’s pretty much won the whole thing for them. Unlike Mike Richter, however, he’s never one a Stanley Cup, but the two have both been to the same amount: One. Here’s a fun fact: When he was a rookie, the All-Rookie team included him, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin. That’s an amazing team. Dion Phaneuf was recognized as well, but I only bring that up so people can think about his wife, Elisha Cuthbert. Henrik Lundqvist holds 11 NHL records and even holds an Olympic record for most minutes without allowing a goal. He’s been an All-Star multiple times, a Vezina winner, and the Rangers’ MVP seven different seasons. The King of New York only has one thing left to do: lift the cup.
4 MICHAEL DEL ZOTTO
Remember when I said that Ales Kotalik had the second worst +/- on the 2009-2010 New York Rangers’ roster? I hope you do, but it’s really not that important if you didn’t. Remember the last time I asked you to remember something? I think you need to get your memory checked. Anyway, Michael Del Zotto was that guy who had the worst +/- at -20. Why am I so obsessed about this? Because I’m weird, but more specifically it’s because the 2009-2010 season was the only year the Rangers failed to make the playoffs since 2006. So, with that being said, Del Zotto had the worst +/- during one of the Rangers’ worst seasons, hence making him one of the worst Rangers since 1994. See, now you know how dumb research is conducted. The sad part is that that was his good season! Just kidding, it was 2011-2012 when he was an okay player. Wouldn’t that have been pitiful?
3 BEST: BRIAN LEETCH
Let’s get the first thing on people’s mind out of the way. No, I don’t think he got made fun of in school because his last name is Leetch because younger kids probably have little knowledge of leeches and he’s a hockey player so he’s tough. Brian Leetch was a fan favorite in New York even after the Rangers 1994 championship. He was the team’s captain from 1997-2000 and holds 12 Ranger regular season and postseason records. He skated for New York until 2004 when the Rangers unloaded all their high-priced veterans (it’s a business; it happens), but his number was retired at Madison Square Garden in 2008 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. He accomplished all of this and he was born in Texas where there is no ice… ever. Sure, he moved to Connecticut only three months into his life, but imagine if he had those extra three months in a cold weather. The Rangers may have won another cup.
2 BOB ERREY
Bob Errey is a two-time Stanley Cup winner. However, that was with everyone’s rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve heard that even the Steelers and Pirates don’t like the Penguins. I’m mistaken, I haven’t heard that, but it’s something to investigate if you have way too much time on your hands. Errey’s last year in the NHL was with the New York Rangers during the 1997-1998 season. So why does he top this list? After grueling research (not really), I discovered that this was the Rangers worst season since 1994. Errey had the worst +/- on the squad amongst players who accounted for a whopping 0 total points. Okay, he only played 12 games, but that doesn’t help his cause to get on the best side of things. It was just a bad year for the Rangers, even Wayne Gretzky only had 90 points. That’s just really disappointing.
1 BEST: MARK MESSIER
I don’t think this should come as much of a surprise, but thanks for sticking with the article in its entirety. Do we really have to go over Mark Messier’s statistics and accomplishments? Sure we do; I need to prove that I can search things on the internet. Just kidding, you really don’t need to search much to know how decorated this man is from his time in the NHL. A two-time MVP, a 15-time All-Star, and a six-time Stanley Cup winner should be enough information to help you understand his legacy. Messier did also have the last great moment of New York Rangers’ glory because he scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Finals in front of the home crowd at Madison Square Garden. He stayed with the team until 1997, but then also returned for four more years in 2000. His number is retired in New York, he’s in the Hall of Fame, and he's not just the greatest Ranger since 1994, he’s one of the greatest players of all time.