By Ryan Bertone
In an effort to get away from the stress that is the 2013-14 New York Rangers, I decided to assemble the best line and goalie from the plethora of legends who have taken the ice for the Blueshirts in the club's 88 year history.
Mark Messier (C)– The Captain, the Messiah, whatever you want to call him, Mark Messier is the most beloved Ranger of all time. Anyone who can backup a guarantee with a third period hat trick in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to keep their team alive deserves to be on this list. I recognize Messier as the greatest leader in NHL history. His determination, his will to win, making every teammate around him better; nobody leads like Messier. Mark proved to be the heart and soul of the Rangers Stanley Cup run in 1994 as he led the team with 12 goals during the 1994 playoffs which is a team record. He lead the Rangers to their highest point total in franchise history with 112 in 1994. In his first season with the Rangers (1991-92), Messier won his second Hart Trophy after totaling 35 goals, 72 assists and guiding the Rangers to the best record in the NHL. Although he doesn't lead the club in any scoring statistics, his impact on the organization will resonate forever in the heart's of Rangers fans. Messier was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
Vic Hadfield (LW)– Originally known as an enforcer, Vic Hadfield, the other #11, became a key play maker for the Rangers after being assigned to the GAG (Goal a Game) line with Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle. Once the line was assembled, Hadfield would score a minimum of 20 goals a season for the remainder of his Rangers career including a 50-goal performance (the first in Rangers history) in the 1971-1972 season. Hadfield captained the team to the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals, tallying 7 goals, 9 assists during that playoff run. Hadfield, who was notoriously known for throwing Bernie Parent's mask into the Madison Square Gardens crowd during a line brawl in a 1971 playoff game, played in over 839 games for the Blueshirts.
Rod Gilbert (RW)– Nicknamed "Mr. Ranger", Rod Gilbert is one of the most popular Rangers to ever put on the jersey. Gilbert has netted the most goals in team history with 406 and holds the record for most points with 1,021. In his 15 full NHL seasons with the Rangers, Gilbert broke 20 goals 12 times, 30 goals five times and also had a career-best 43 goal season in 1971-72. He was the first Ranger to have his number retired. Growing up a young hockey player, I always had to wear number 7 and it was because of Gilbert that I loved the number. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.
Ron Greschner (D)– A 1974 draft pick, who played all 982 games of his career with the Rangers, Greschner was known for being an offensive defensemen as he totaled 179 goals and 431 assists for 610 points, which puts him in the Blueshirts top 10 in both points and assists. He was Brian Leetch before Brian Leetch. His best season came in 1980-1981 where he netted 27 goals, which was rarely seen by defensemen at the time. When he retired in 1990, Greschner was the Rangers' all-time leader in points, goals and assists by a defensemen.
Brian Leetch (D)– A defenseman who played the game the right way. Known for being humble and soft spoken, Brian Leetch did all his talking on the ice. A home-grown player, Leetch was a Calder and two-time Norris Trophy winner. Leetch was also the first American to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. Oh yeah, he's also a Stanley Cup champion. His resume is truly stellar. He is second in games played (1129) and points (981) for the club. He also leads the team in assists with 741 as well as holds the Rangers record for goals (240) and points (981) by a defenseman. He is one of only five NHL defensemen to score 100 points in a season with his 102-point campaign in 1991–92. Leetch is someone who not only influenced his teammates, but thousands of defensemen after him.
Mike Richter (G)– "Save by Richter". These three words have been uttered countless times by every Rangers fan. While Henrik Lundqvist will likely break the record, no other goaltender in the history of the organization has more wins than Mike Richter (301). His best season came in 1993-1994 where he earned 42 wins and a goals against average of 2.57. His penalty shot save on Pavel Bure in Game 4 the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals is said to be the turning point of that series. A fantastic playoff goalie, Richter became only the eighth player to record four shutouts in one playoff season. Known for his unorthodox and acrobatic style, Richter routinely made circus-type saves. Richter was named MVP of the 1994 All Star Game at Madison Square Garden. Sadly knee injuries and ultimately concussions cut short an otherwise outstanding career.
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