As part of the National Hockey League’s centennial celebration, a blue ribbon panel of hockey cognoscenti went about the task of selecting the 100 greatest players in NHL history. The league assembled a group of executives, media members and NHL alumni to assemble the list.
There’s nothing to it, really. Start with Wayne Gretzsky, and then add Gordie Howe. Move on to Bobby Orr and Rocket Richard and you’re on your way. A bit of Bobby Hull wouldn’t hurt, either.
Of the 100 selected, 25 are listed with the New York Rangers, fully one quarter of the total, a singular honor for one of the league’s Original Six teams, a team that has won just one Stanley Cup in the last 76 years.
Putting that Rangers list together is easy, too. Start with the team’s career leader in goals and points. Rod Gilbert scored 406 goals and 1,021 points and nobody is close to those numbers even though Gilbert has been retired since 1978. His 34 playoff goals also is a team record. A nine-time All-Star, he was the first Ranger to have his number retired and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Add the best goalie in Rangers history. Henrik Lundqvist was the only netminder iin NHL history to record 10 30-win seasons in his first 11 years in the league and is the winningest goalie in Rangers history, closing in on 400. That’s nearly 100 wins more than the next closest Rangers goalie, Mike Richter, who backstopped that single Stanley Cup winning team in 1994. Lundqvist is a seven-time Rangers MVP and won the Vezina Trophy in 2012.
So you start with a couple of easy choices and now, you’re on your way.
But wait. Gilbert is not on the list. Neither is Lundqvist. And neither, by the way, is Mike Richter.
Instead, the Rangers’ list includes Jari Kurri, who played 14 games in New York, and Tim Horton, who played 93. Both great players but they achieved their greatness in other venues, Kurri in Edmonton and Horton in Toronto. And Rod Gilbert, the team’s all–time leading scorer, who played his entire career, 1,065 games for the Rangers, is nowhere to be found.
The Rangers’ three goalies on the top 100 are Johnny Bower (71 games), Jacques Plante (98 games) and, amazingly, Terry Sawchuk, whose stay in New York lasted all of eight games. Henrik Lundqvist, New York’s fulltime goalie since 2005 and Mike Richter, who backstopped the Broadway Blues for 14 seasons, are no-shows.
We could go on. All–time Ranger greats like Frank Boucher, Bill and Bun Cook and Ching Johnson are also missing in action. Instead the Ranger list includes Pavel Bure (51 games), Eric Lindros (153 games) and the great Gretzky, who showed up for a cameo appearance of three seasons at the end of his brilliant career.