The greatest European Rangers:part 3

August 1, 2012, by

After all the Rick Nash hullabaloo has now calmed down, here’s the final part of the greatest European Rangers series. It’s subjective and meant for debate and how much one man’s opinion truly matters is really open for debate. Some players like Ulf Samuelsson and Radek Dvorak don’t make the debate, some people may disagree but that’s the beauty of lists like this.  Anyway, enjoy. (part one and part two are here).

Jan Erixon

The hugely popular Jan Erixon was a one club man in the NHL, representing the Rangers over 550 times during his ten season stop in New York. Unfortunately for Erixon he went back to Sweden before the Rangers cup season. Although not offensively outstanding (just 216 points and 57 goals) Erixon was known as a character player and a defensive specialist.

While some of the Ranger clubs Erixon played on boasted Mark Messier, Amonte, Gartner, Graves, Zubov and of course Brian Leetch Erixon was still a key player that did the dirty work for the offensive stars to thrive. If the Rangers win the cup in the 2012/13 season the Erixon family will have an unfortunate claim to fame with recently traded Tim and Jan both leaving the organisation directly before cup winning seasons.

Martin Straka

Having arrived in New York after the lock out following an underwhelming (at best) season with the Kings and Penguins, Straka became a great free agent find for the Rangers. Straka, along with Michael Nylander and Jaromir Jagr was a key part of the Rangers return to competitiveness after the lock out. Like some of the other Europeans we’ve discussed Straka wasn’t the longest tenured of Rangers’ but with 187 points in 224 games and two seasons where he averaged a point per game in the playoffs with New York, Straka’s impact was both unexpected and undeniable.

Pavel Bure

Bure almost garners consideration simply because he was one of the best players of his generation and arguably one of the purest goal scorers of any generation. Bure is a classic example of ‘if only’. If only the Rangers acquired him sooner, if only he was able to stay healthy, if only the Rangers had better teams back then…

Bure’s immediate impact upon arrival was spectacular, breaking the club record for goals in consecutive games with 12 in 12. In his brief time as a Ranger Bure tallied 50 points in 51 games and 31 goals in the same period. I have no problem going as far as saying had he stayed healthy and remained with the Rangers Bure would have helped re-establish the franchise and become one of the best Ranger goal scorers in franchise history.

The best of the Rest

It’s sad that the ‘best of the rest’ begins with Alexei Kovalev. When a player scores over 1000 career points in the NHL and is still considered to have underachieved you know his talent level was immense. Kovalev was one of the most talented players of the past 25 years but never really hit the heights he could reach aside from the occasional season with Pittsburgh and Montreal. While Kovalev certainly contributed to the Rangers cup win of ’94 he should have achieved more. 330 points in 492 games really wasn’t enough.  Another case of ‘if only’.

Petr Nedved played on bad Rangers teams. Does he even count as a European given his controversial escape to North America? Either way, Nedved was another supremely talented yet underachieving player. While Nedved put together several solid seasons in New York (totals included 78 points, 68 and 58), he was accused of being one dimensional, inconsistent and failing to make those around him better. Like Kovalev, Nedved was capable of more as his 99 point season as a Penguin suggested. With 351 points in 478 games he still made his mark on the franchise.

As discussed with Straka and Jagr, the Rangers resurgence after the lock out came with unheralded rosters given little chance to succeed. No one likely expected Michael Nylander to put together 79 and 83 point seasons as the Rangers number one center and mesh so perfectly with the individual talents of Jaromir Jagr. Nylander disappointingly bolted to the Capitals after that, a move that signalled the down turn of his career. Nylander could have had a serious impact on the Rangers future had he stayed one or two more seasons in New York.

Several Europeans have left their mark on the Rangers franchise, several including Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik can still immortalise themselves as Rangers greats regardless of nationality. At the end of the day, European players have had a great impact on the Rangers franchise. Hopefully a few more get their names on the Stanley Cup as Rangers. 

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  1. Walt says:

    Alexi Kovalev had so much upside, and never played up to it! Too bad sarge, Sergi Nemchinov couldn’t be around all the years that Kovi played for us, he would have kept him in line. This is a classic example of why earlier I was so opposed to signing Semin, these two have too much in common.

    Peter Nedved also had loads of talent, but wouldn’t get his hands dirty. He was so soft, and yes one dimensional, that he was traded off because he and Mess couldn’t get along. It drove Mark nuts the way he played, and to a certain extent, it was a shame.

    As much as I disliked Jagr in his Pens days, I have to admit that he was by far the best of the best European forward we ever had. Now that he is no longer a Ranger, I can go back to disliking him again.

    As for the best player coming over from across the pond, it’s hands down the KING! Hank has carried this team for years, and next season he will be the Conn Smyth winner!!!!!

  2. Leatherneckinlv says:

    Tomas Sandstrom ranks there with Rick Middleton as one of the worst trades in Rangers history. Another name not mentioned is Mattias Nordstrom. He ranks there with Zubov as giving up on young talent. He turned into a very solid players for the Kings. He was a tremendous shut down defenseman and very physical. I used to live in LA when he played for the kings and saw him play frequently.
    However looking at tg
    his list the King is by far the greatest of them all and for me Sandstrom and Reijo round out the top 3

    • Chris says:

      Definitely a shame they traded norstrom. Logged big minutes Fr years with LA. very dependable.

  3. Steve says:

    How can we not mention Walt Tachuck born in Germany get career

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      Walt was actually raised in Canada at a very young age. Same as Willie Huber. They were raised in Canada a la Wolski

  4. Scully says:

    Nylander didn’t “bolt” for the Capitals… the Rangers signed Drury and Gomez leaving Nylander out in the cold.

  5. Steve C says:

    Can say what you want about Kovalev Rangers do not come close to winning the cup without him.

    Game 6 “messier called game” vs devils messier got the credit but Kovalev was the best player on the ice that night.

    Deserves more then a best of the rest putting the 94 cup run and the regular seasons together.

    If Pavel Bure get mentioned as one of the best Kovalev deserves more.

    • Mark says:

      Agree, Kovalev has to go higher on this list. I mean Bure did not play much at all. And all the what if’s about Bure do not matter much because the rangers would never have had him had he not had injury problems to begin with.

  6. wwpd says:

    is publicly trash talking the franchise one of the criteria for being a “great Ranger”?

  7. Rob sahm says:

    What about jan hlavac he had some decent years

  8. Tom B says:

    What about Anders Hedberg?, Ulf Neilson?, Ulf Samuellson?, Esa Tikkanen?,

    • RANGERRAV says:

      at least someone remebered Hedberg & Nielsen which were the 1st wave of europenas to come to the nhl and took alot of abuse

  9. paul rinaldi says:

    What about the Swedes?

  10. Gi1930 says:

    How could the two best. Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, be left off the list?

    (The Potvin chant originated when his check ended Nilsson’s career.)

    • Lemarca says:

      Agreed. When Anders and Ulfie migrated from the Winnipeg Jets of the old WHA they were wonderful for the Rangers.

  11. Chris says:

    Sorry guys but I don’t think Ulf Samuelsson is deserving. His best days certainly weren’t as a ranger and he wasn’t here long anyway.