We’ve entered the dog days of the hockey calendar so there’s no better time to start discussing some of the best players in the Rangers long history. With that said, being ‘stuck’ here in the UK I thought I’d discuss the best European Rangers of all time.
What helps classify a player as an all time great for the franchise; Production? Tangible success? Longevity? Breaking down the best of the best in a series of posts, there’s a host of players worthy of discussion.
Some people may think Jagr doesn’t deserve to be considered as the best European Ranger of all time because his time with the franchise was relatively brief and team success was minimal but Jagr almost single handidly brought a once proud franchise off its knees and back to respectability. Jagr played on some patch work Ranger teams that were lacking in the skill department but was still able to rack up a 123 point season followed up with a 96 point effort.
Jagr had the best season offensively in the franchise’s history and was at times unplayable as a Ranger. His historic 123 point season saw him win the Lester B Pearson award, the first major individual award in many years for a Ranger. Accumulating 319 points in just 277 games as a Ranger, Jagr bounced back from an underwhelming spell in Washington in emphatic style and also goes down as perhaps the biggest (trade) steal in Rangers history. After Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, it can be argued that Jagr is the most talented player to have ever been a Ranger. He may not be the Best European Ranger ever, but he’s certainly one of them.
Olympic champion, Vezina Trophy winner, Hart Trophy candidate, first goaltender in NHL history to start his career with seven consecutive seasons with at least 30 wins in each; Lundqvist has already achieved a tremendous amount and is the first Rangers goaltender that can truly be considered the best in the world while a current Ranger.
Simply put, Henrik Lundqvist is the heart beat of the current Rangers. Lundqvist is already only 49 wins behind Mike Richter for the franchise record yet has played 198 games less and at 30 years old has a huge amount of hockey left in him. With sustained success as a franchise, it’s not impossible for Lundqvist to chase some of Martin Brodeur’s NHL records that many think unbreakable; such is his career already.
Lundqvist is probably the only recent Ranger that can lay claim to his number one day hanging from the MSG rafters – something that would be a virtual guarantee if he leads the Rangers to a Stanley Cup.
Historically, the Rangers haven’t been considered a success when they’ve thrown money around during free agency. Hedberg however was a successful free agent acquisition. A veteran of seven seasons in New York, the Swedish right wing had four 30 goal seasons, scoring a total of 172 goals in his tenure with the Rangers. With 397 points as a Ranger, Hedberg left a significant impression on the franchise. The winger was also a productive playoff performer as he went to a Cup final in ’79 and 46 points in 58 playoff games in Ranger blue is pretty impressive in its own right.
There’s a Swedish vibe to this post. Tomas Sandstrom was another talented right wing who enjoyed great success as a Ranger. The Rangers own draft pick enjoyed immediate individual success with the Rangers as he potted 29 goals and had 58 points as a rookie. Sandstrom would enjoy a strong season in ’89 when he bagged 88 points to lead the Rangers despite the Rangers producing a so-so campaign. Before being dealt for Bernie Nicholls in early 1990, Sandstrom would compile 173 goals and 380 points as a Ranger, at close to a point/game pace (407 games). To this day Sandstrom remains one of the better players the Rangers drafted (36th overall, 1982) given his production with the club.
Check back over the next few days to see who else comes in to the equation as the best European Rangers of all time.