During the first post discussing the best European Rangers of all time we discussed a couple of Scandinavian wingers, and the great Jaromir Jagr. We also discussed a certain Swedish goalie that may well end up as the greatest Ranger ever, period. Let’s take a look at a few more great Europeans who lit up Broadway.
I’m old enough to remember Zubov traded and for many Rangers fans it’s still a painful memory. Zubov won a Cup in New York – as a home grown Ranger – and was a dynamic offensive weapon and for those reasons Zubov’s Ranger tenure should be fondly remembered. People forget that during the cup winning season of 1994 Zubov led the Rangers in scoring during the regular season with 89 points, an unthinkable total for a blueliner today. An in-his-prime Zubov would command obscene amounts of dollars from clubs in the current NHL era.
You could make a valid argument that 165 games as a Ranger isn’t enough to be in this discussion but when you average almost a point/game as a blueliner (156 points/165 games) in the regular season and grab 30 in 32 playoff games, including 19 in 22 during the Cup season, the impact is undeniable. Another draft steal (5th round, 1990), his trade to Pittsburgh still hurts.
Just because he’s injury prone and just because he’s a current Ranger doesn’t mean he shouldn’t come in to the equation. The Slovakian winger already has made an impact as a Ranger with two 40 goal seasons in 3 years, which gives Gaborik two of the best goal scoring seasons in Rangers history. With 210 points in 220 games as a Ranger Gaborik has been a successful free agent signing even if individual playoff success still somewhat eludes him.
Gaborik’s skill set and skating ability electrify fans and with the one of the most productive (individual) seasons in Rangers history he has already made his mark on the franchise. Despite all this Gaborik hasn’t convinced the entire (sometimes fickle) Ranger fan base, but with a couple years left on his deal there’s plenty of time for Gaborik to cement his place as a Ranger great. Where would Gaborik rank in the discussion if he had another two 40 goal seasons?
The small Finnish defenseman was the first Fin to suit up for the Rangers and had a spectacular spell with New York, culminating with an All Star nod when selection to the mid season classic actually meant something. Ruotsalainen exploded on to the scene in New York with 18 goals and 38 assists during a quality rookie year. Unfortunately, he was tempted back to Europe a few times in his career, something that prompted the Rangers to trade him away to Edmonton where he went on to win two Stanley Cups either side of one of his returns to European hockey.
Ruotsalainen was another draft steal by the Rangers as a sixth rounder who led the Rangers in scoring one year with 73 points and amassed 316 points in just 389 games as a blueliner. Had the Talented, but undersized fin not been prone to returning to Europe his NHL numbers would probably look a lot more impressive. Ruotsalainen only appeared in a total of 446 regular season games. Ruotsalainen was one of the best, least talked about Ranger blueliners, perhaps in part because he played on some average Ranger teams such as the ’85 team that won just 26 games.
Check back next week for a few more European Rangers that belong in the discussion of Europe’s Greatest Ranger