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).
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.
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.
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.