Those who know me know there's only one sport I follow with anything resembling interest (though I've been getting more and more into MMA of late). So this is a hockey entry. Sue me.
Someone showed me Puck Daddy's new summer time waster yesterday: the 'Summer of Disappointment' (why not 'Summer of Discontent'?) detailing the lows of each of the NHL's thirty teams. I read the Islander entry (with a tremendous amount of glee, since that fan base can never suffer enough) and thought "wow, doing the Ranger one would be an exercise in madness" while reading the questions about the biggest disappointments in franchise history. I started mentally noting my answers until I found someone else already did the Rangers' entry.
I have kind of a policy against critiquing other writers, so I'll just say this. Yeeeeesh. Someone get this kid a spell check program. Oh wait. Word has one built in.
While some of our answers overlapped, the overall writing is....er....to quote my old professor Klaus Janson, it shows a lot of energy.
Having a few minutes of free time, I decided to answer the questions myself, being a bit of a history geek. So without further ado....
Puck Daddy's Summer of Disappointment: New York Rangers (Bootleg) Edition
Most Disappointing New York Rangers Team: 1992-93
Can I say all but one of them in my thirty-five years of watching this team?
If the goal is to win a Stanley Cup and every year you don’t is a disappointment but you get a banner for those disappointments, Madison Square Garden would look like a fabric store with the amount of material hanging from the ceiling.
I have to go with 1992-93, if only because that was supposed to be THE YEAR where the curse ended. Instead, we got Brian Leetch injuring a nerve in his shoulder playing on the right side, missing a bunch of games, then drunkenly falling out of a cab fighting with Messier in the street slipping and falling on black ice and breaking his ankle, Messier getting Roger Nielson fired, Doug Weight for Esa Tikkanen, Mike Richter in the minors, Corey Hirsch as the new goaltending savior for five games, Eric Lindros (almost), an entire team quitting and being forced to watch the Islanders knock off the Penguins in the playoffs. On the positive side, newly signed Phil Bourque confirmed Mario Lemieux had faked his broken wrist sustained at the hands of Adam Graves’ ever-so-vicious slash the previous spring. Yay.
Most Disappointing New York Ranger: Petr Nedved
Apparently everyone who writes one of these starts this section with “Having to pick the most <insert team name’s> most disappointing player is like having to <insert geographic reference of something painful and horrifying to think about> so I’ll skip over that and just say this is a really, really, really difficult task for someone who roots for a team that has historically imported past-their-prime players who flame out like the Human Torch in space fighting Galactus.
Names like Ken Hodge (more on him in a bit) and Marcel Dionne and Mike Allison and Carey Wilson and Bernie Nicholls come immediately to mind. You could technically kinda/sorta make a case for Gretzky or Lafleur, but only if you were insane and thought that either player was going to perform like they did fourteen years before they were acquired. You could put Barry Beck on there, but then I’d hate you and call you names and remind you it wasn’t his fault his shoulder got wrecked by Pat Flatley. Someone will name one of Scott Gomez, Chris Drury or Wade Redden, but they didn’t disappoint unless you suddenly expected an act of god that would allow them to play to their contracts.
No. The honor goes to Petr Nedved.
After escaping the communist bloc in the trunk of a car and being drafted by the Canucks, Petr decided he wanted out of Vancouver and sat out a year until he was dealt to the Blues. A couple of month later, after leading the Rangers to a Stanley cup engineering his way out of town by negotiating a backdoor deal with Mike Ilitch to take over the Red Wings for the to-that-point despised Scotty Bowman alienating everyone involved in the Rangers’ ownership hierarchy suing for breach of contract for a late bonus payment and opting out of his deal with the blessing of Neil Smith, a compensation deal was worked out between the Rangers and Blues. The Blues got Keenan and Esa Tikkannen. The Rangers got Nedved, who figured to be the young, stud scoring center the team hadn’t had since…Bryan Hextall five decades before.
Alas, Nedved turned out to be Czech for “telegraphing wrist shots while wearing blue” and his indifferent play infuriated both the team captain and the head coach. After a lockout-shortened season with the team, he was sent to the Penguins in a deal that ranks with the worst in team history (mostly because of the other guy he was dealt with), where he promptly turned into the high scoring playmaking center everyone hoped for.
Most Disappointing Moment in Rangers History: Tie: Ken Morrow/Ron Francis
Were I an older man, I’d probably say “Dave Schultz punching Dale Rolfe while pulling his hair in a move he must’ve seen in a bad 70s porn flick while Brad Park watched”.
Were I an older man that that guy, I’d probably say “Listening on the radio when Pete Babando scored in double overtime of game 7 of the 1950 finals to give Detroit the Cup in a series where the Rangers had no playoff games at Madison Square Garden because of the contract with the circus and because James Norris, the Detroit owner, also had a partial ownership stake in MSG and refused to allow any scheduling changes because the hell with collusion”.
Instead, I have to go with a tie: Ken Morrow in overtime in 1984, which broke my nine year old heart and ended the Rangers’ best chance to stop the Islander dynasty.
Ron Francis from just-about center ice in 1992 in the infamous “ADAM GRAVES IS A PROFESSIONAL HITMAN OUT TO KILL ME” series versus noted whiner Mario Lemieux and the Penguins. Anyone who doesn’t think of this as a franchise defining moment isn’t old enough to remember that they were FIFTEEN MINUTES from going up three games to one on the defending champs with a return to the Garden on tap for game five, and matchups with the entirely beatable Bruins and Blackhawks on tap after that.
Just kill me now. Then skip to 2:27.
Most Disappointing Rangers Transaction: Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge
Some will say the signings of Wade Redden/Chris Drury/Scott Gomez to insane contracts across the summers of 2007 and 2008.
Those people don’t know anything. All that was lost there was money. There were no tangible assets going back the other way.
Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge. This is the winner (or loser, depending on your point of view). Looking to shake up the fatcat Rangers teams that had hit their apex three years before, Emile Francis shook things up after the 1974 loss to the Flyers. Out: captain Vic Hadfield. That wasn’t enough to prevent the Islanders from knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs in 1975 in an idiotic best of three (????) series. So more changes were on tap: goodbye, Eddie Giacomin. Hello, John Davidson. Then the mother of all bombshells: Brad Park and Jean Ratelle to Boston for Phil Esposito. Why is this relevant? Because a year later, Esposito convinced new GM John Ferguson that he’d put up in-his-prime-type numbers if he was reunited with his old linemate Ken Hodge. Presumably, Harry Sinden put his phone on mute to prevent his laughs from being heard when Ferguson agreed to send Middleton the other way. Hodge played 96 games for the Rangers and scored 23 goals with 51 points. Middleton played 881 games for the Bruins, scored 402 goals and 898 points and part of me just died a little inside, though I’m sure someone with access to advanced stats can make a pie chart showing how Hodge ‘drove the offense’ in 1976-77 that led to a 35 year old Esposito scoring 34 goals and 80 points.
They seriously traded a guy with an Ogie Oglethorpe face rocking Billy Charlesbois hair....
...for this guy.
Sometimes I just hate this franchise.
Honorable mention 1: GM Phil Esposito isn’t done destroying young talent on the Rangers. On January 1st, 1987, he decides the ‘potential’ of Bobby Carpenter as a 21 year old 50 goal scorer trumps the ‘potential’ of Mike Ridley and Kelly Miller, two integral pieces of the previous season’s conference final run. After watching Carpenter play, Espo decides he likes the ‘potential’ of 35 year old Marcel Dionne better than Carpenter. So in a nutshell, it’s Ridley and Miller for Dionne, with Carpenter showing up to buy donuts for a couple of months.
Honorable mention 2: At the trade deadline in 1996, Neil Smith was possessed by the ghost of Ferguson and agreed to trade Mattias Norstrom, Ray Ferraro, Ian Laperriere and Nathan Lafayette to the Kings for Shane Churla, Marty McSorley, and Jari Kurri. To put this in perspective, Nathan Lafayette alone played more games (84) for the Kings than McSorley, Kurri and Churla did combined (78, and only because Churla actually played part of a second season) for the Rangers. Norstrom spent a decade as the rock on the Kings’ blueline. Not that the Rangers needed him, what with Rumun Ndur, Stan Neckar, Bruce Driver, Stephane Quintal, Vladimir Malakhov, Dave Karpa ready to take his minutes. Laperriere spent a decade and a half as a physical checking winger. Not that the Rangers needed players with a little grit to their game considering the amazing successes they had between 1997 and 2007. Screw Ferraro. He was an Islander.
Honorable mention 3: Doug Weight, a young player with slick playmaking skills, is habitually deployed on a fourth line or scratched by Roger Neilson because Roger believes in matching lines and not playing to a team’s strengths. Eventually, Roger is fired but new coach Ron Smith doesn’t understand playmaking centers or matching lines. Neil Smith does the only sane thing possible: he trades Weight to Edmonton for Esa Tikkanen because it’s all about the rings, baby. Okay, this deal helped cement the cup in 1994, but think for a minute about the Rangers in the latter half of the 90s if they’d kept Weight. And Amonte. And Zubov. And Norstrom. Mix in with Messier, Graves, Leetch and Kovalev. Tell me the Rangers miss the playoffs from 1998-2004 with a straight face.
Most Disappointing Rangers Coach/Executive: Phil Esposito (1986-1989)
Someone out there who has only known Glen Sather as general manager is going to point to ol’ tomato face and say HIM.
I respectfully disagree because they’re wrong.
Espo sent a first round pick to Quebec for head coach Michel Bergeron, a coach he fired after not even one full season in an effort to save his job. I don’t even want to mention the players available when the Rangers would have made their pick. Look up the 1988 draft yourself. Hint: they would have had the fifth pick and Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind’Amour, Teemu Selanne were all on the board. Which means they would have drafted Francois Leroux.
He traded for Bob Froese, which ate into Vanbiesbrouck’s playing time because who ever heard the phrase “Beware division rivals trading goalies to you in an effort to destroy you from within”?
Let’s leave it at this: in the summer of 1986, Esposito took over a Craig Patrick-built semi-decent team that had just made it to the conference finals, looked at the roster, decided “I can make this team better by adding guys I played against in the 70s!” and over the next three years made forty-three trades and seventy-six total transactions.
Hence Kelly Miller and Mike Ridley for Bobby Carpenter for Marcel Dionne.
Hence signing Guy Lafleur who’d only been retired for five years previously.
Hence Trader Phil’s legacy: Two playoff game wins, 1 playoff miss, 0 series wins.
Most Disappointing Rangers Fashion Choice: Torch these Libertys
Fortunately there have been a whole lot of misfires here. I’m more inclined to say the white version of the 1990s Lady Liberty jerseys or the tin foil accented Stadium Series jerseys from last year. Some will point to the Ferguson-designed pajama jersey which he took with him to Winnipeg a few years later. Eh. This is the least of this franchise’s problems.