Just days after the NHL announced their
annual awards, we too have decided to release the results of our first
annual vote to select the best and the worst of the past Rangers
season. Technical difficulties have prevented us from being able to
make an award for the "Best Comeback", but we have tallied the
votes and are pleased to announce the following awards for the 2001-02
leaves the ice after suffering his season-ending injury
Most Valuable Player - Mike Richter
Before the season started there were probably more questions surrounding
goaltending than any other position on the Rangers roster. Richter
was coming off his second straight serious knee injury and his backup was
an untested 18 year old rookie who'd never played a professional game in
his career. But with an outstanding November, Richter helped lead
the Rangers to first place in the Eastern Conference and regained the
confidence of many Rangers fans.
Richter also helped lead the USA Olympic
team to the silver medal and had his best season since 1998-99 and would
probably have surpassed that if not for a late season injury that forced
him to miss the last nine games.
lead the Rangers in Goals, Points, +/- and Power Play Goals
Best Forward - Eric Lindros
This time last year Lindros had just finished sitting out the entire
season after sustaining his sixth concussion and was locked in a bitter
dispute with Flyers GM, Bob Clarke.
But then came the trade that shook the
world of almost every Ranger fan...the hated Lindros was coming to New
York at the expense of three young players and a draft pick.
Sather's rebuilding rhetoric had finally been exposed as nothing more than
that as the Rangers shifted gears to a win-now mentality.
To his credit though, Lindros didn't let
the controversy get to him and in the process won many of the diehard
Ranger fans over to his cause. A season in which he played 72 games,
made it through his seventh concussion and lead the team in goals and
scoring have made most fans forget about the possibility of a career
ending injury and focus more on his day to day play. Lindros may not
have gotten the Rangers into the playoffs, but he did get the Rangers in
season trade saw fan favorite, Mike York depart the Big Apple.
Best Defensive Forward - Mike York
Things always seemed to be stacked against Mike York in his tenure on
Broadway. His size in particular worked against him, but in the
2001-02 season York proved once again how wrong the critics were.
His first All-star appearance and then selection to the USA Olympic team
were highlights of a year in which he had his best offensive output of his
But it was his work at the other end of the
ice earned him the Outside The Garden award for best defensive
forward. York was the two way player on the "FLY" line
that helped lead the Rangers to the top of the standings back in
November. He was often the first forward back and teamed up with
first Fleury and then Lindros to kill off penalties.
For all his perceived lack of size, Mike
York made up for his physical restrictions by being a smart hockey player
and used his brain rather than his strength to help keep the puck out of
Leetch once again lead the Rangers defensemen
Best Defenseman - Brian Leetch
Many will argue that no one deserved this award in which the Rangers
were ranked 29th in goals against and dead last in the penalty kill
But if you have to choose someone, there's
probably no better choice than Brian Leetch. The perennial all-star
didn't perhaps have his best season, but did lead the team in assists and
was fourth overall in points for the Rangers. His +/- rating of +14
was also the best he had since the 1996-97 season and was largely a
reflection of the success he had with his playing partner Vladimir
Leetch will be an unrestricted free agent
after the upcoming season and the Rangers could do worse than retain his
services for the rest of his NHL career.
year old goalie turned a lot of heads in his first pro season
Best Rookie - Dan Blackburn
No surprise here, the Rangers #1 draft pick in 2001 was easily the best
rookie on a team that for the most part lacked first timers.
That's not to take anything away from
Blackburn, who was superb in goal for the Rangers and provided credibility
at the back-up goalie position for the first time in the past few seasons.
Most telling perhaps was his play in the
last nine games of the season when he went 5-4-0 with Richter sidelined
with an injury. To cap it off, Blackburn turned in probably his best
performance in the final game of the year keeping the Philadelphia Flyers
to a 2-1 victory, while facing 45 shots.
agitated the opposition and excited the Rangers fans
Best Effort - Mike York and Matthew
Effort is always something that Rangers fans appreciate, especially
when times are bad and the team isn't winning. So there should be no
surprise that two fan favorites will share the first award given out for
Best Effort shown by a Ranger in the 2001-02 season.
Mike York has exemplified what it means to
work hard since breaking into the NHL. He has accepted whatever task
was assigned to him and done so without question. Unfortunately for
the Ranger faithful his reward was to be traded to Edmonton, a trade that
many still regret.
Matt Barnaby's story is a little
different. Coming over in a mid-season trade for the much maligned
Zdeno Ciger, Barnaby took his opportunity to revive his career by being a
contributor. After a slow start, Matt seemed to rebound to his best
form, capping it all off with a strong performance against Boston late in
the season when he had two goals. His willingness to go the extra
yard with the fans has already won many over to his cause.
Sandman stepped up when the rest of the Rangers seemed to be
Most Improved - Sandy McCarthy
Coming off his best season offensively, it seems unlikely that Sandy
McCarthy could get better in his second year with the Rangers. But
after a slow start that's exactly what he did.
McCarthy turned up when the Rangers needed
him most and was one of the leading contributors in the second half of the
season as the rest of the Rangers line-up lost their momentum. Late
goals in consecutive games against Pittsburgh and Montreal helped salvage
3 of the 4 points on offer and kept the Rangers playoff hopes alive.
Often criticized for his unwillingness to
drop the glove, McCarthy nevertheless has become a broader contributor and
was elected team MVP by the Rangers writers.
helped lead the Rangers back into the game.
Biggest Win - 6-2 at New York Islanders
The Rangers were facing a big test early in the season, going up
against the upstart Islanders in their own building. Things didn't
start well for the Blueshirts as they found themselves down a goal barely
two minutes into the game.
The Rangers didn't need to wait long
however for the game to turn to their favor. Theo Fleury picked up
the puck off of a Mike Richter save and carried it the length of the ice
before beating Osgood to tie the game. 38 seconds later and Leetch
picked off an errant Kvasha pass in his own zone and put the Rangers ahead
for good with a shot from deep in the slot. McCarthy capped off the
first period flurry with a hard working goal just 27 seconds later and the
Rangers had marched to an improbable 3-1 lead after the first.
Goals by Dvorak, Messier and Lindros capped
off a memorable night for the Rangers and their fans and helped the
Rangers go on to a six game winning streak and a month of November record
of 9-3-1-1 and first place in the Eastern Conference.
immediately made himself at home with the Rangers
Best Trade - Filip Novak, Igor Ulanov
and Picks for Pavel Bure
There were still a few doubters about whether Bure would fit with the
Rangers, but 12 goals goals and 8 assists in the final 12 games of the
season had the Rangers faithful smiling and looking forward to next year.
In what looks like a steal for the Rangers,
New York acquired the league's best sniper for an unwanted defenseman, an
unproven prospect and a couple of picks in a weak draft.
Bure could well break the Rangers scoring
record next season if he manages to stay healthy and continues to play
with Eric Lindros.
And that wraps up the first installment of
the Outside The Garden Awards. Be sure to watch for the final piece
as we look at who was most disappointing in the eyes of you the fans.
Least Valuable Player - Petr Nedved
Nedved has always had a love-hate relationship with the New York Rangers,
but after the Rangers failed to remain competitive in the second half of
the season many fans turned on #93.
After five straight seasons of 50 points or
more, Nedved's production slipped below that mark despite playing in all
but four games. A streak of 35 games where he only managed three
goals was the catalyst for the Rangers faithful and the sound of boos
every time he touched the puck made playing at MSG difficult for the
With his Rangers future in doubt, Nedved
will have to wonder whether he'll be back with New York next season.
The Blueshirts for their part will no doubt be tempted to look at
impending free agent, Bobby Holik to perhaps assume Nedved's duties on the
pressure off him as a number one center, Nedved failed to capitalize
Worst Forward - Petr Nedved
Not surprisingly, Petr Nedved was voted the worst forward for this
past season. His well known wrist shot was sadly lacking in 2001-02
and the call of "Nedved misses the net with the wrister" was
repeated on many a Rangers forum.
Nedved became the scapegoat for a Rangers
team who missed the post-season for a fifth straight season, but
contributed with lack of scoring and seeming lack of emotion.
In his defense, Nedved did not have a
reliable left wing for much of the season and was perhaps also affected by
Dvorak's own sub-par season. Whatever the excuses, Nedved will need
to step up next season if he hopes to win the fans back.
didn't take long for the Rangers faithful to let their opinions
Worst Defenseman - Igor Ulanov
Rangers fans were expecting Ulanov to come in and finally provide some
help in clearing an often crowded goal crease, but it became apparent very
early that he wasn't going to be much help.
Lazy passes through center ice which lead
to turnovers, missed checks, inconsistent hitting and an early season
suspension began to turn the fans against him. When the Rangers
defense and penalty kill struggled, Ulanov became the poster child for
everything that was wrong.
Reported comments about coming to New York
for the money and relaxation only further fanned the already raging flames
of discontent. Ulanov was eventually relegated to the AHL before
being moved in the Bure trade late in the season.
points was all Nedved could muster
Most Disappointing Performance - Petr
It's hard to think of new things to say about Nedved's disappointing
season. Nedved has always been a lightning rod for many Rangers
fans. Despite a 6'3" frame, Nedved has tended to avoid physical
play and his game suffers when his linemates don't create space.
This was no less evident last season when
#93 was often forced to take shots from the perimeter. His penchant
for carrying the puck across the blueline was easily defended by other
teams and turnovers were created.
Relegation to the second power play unit
and second line ice time only further detracted from his ability to score
and thus his contribution to the team was greatly reduced. Can Petr
adapt to playing second fiddle to the newly constructed Ranger first
line? You could say so far...not so good.
in to strengthen the Rangers defense, he did anything but
Worst Acquisition - Igor Ulanov
It cost the Rangers nothing but money to acquire Igor Ulanov, but it did
perhaps prevent the ice time going to someone more deserving. Many
nights found Kloucek sitting on the bench or in the sky box, while Ulanov
continued to play to the frustration of many fans.
There was perhaps no aspect of Ulanov's
game that went unchallenged by Ranger fans. His discipline, decision
making and overall hockey ability were constantly called into question
during his short tenure as a Ranger.
As the only NHLer in the Pavel Bure deal,
some would argue that Ulanov finally did show some value to the New York
Rangers...but at what cost?
favorite Mike York was sent to Edmonton at the trade deadline
Worst Trade - Mike York and Pick for Rem
Murray and Tom Poti
It takes an iron stomach to trade a fan favorite and unfortunately for
many fans, Rangers GM Glen Sather has a digestive system constructed
entirely of stainless steel.
As one of a handful of original Rangers in
a line-up of rentals and mercenaries, York was a beacon for Ranger fans
who longed for some home-grown talent.
Rangers fans will continue to look at this
trade as wrong in the short term, and only time will tell whether trading
a heart and soul player like Mike York was really worth it to get the
Rangers back to credibility in the long term.
failed to step up when the Rangers needed him most
Least Effort Shown - Petr Nedved
Once again perhaps Nedved was seen as a scapegoat for the many failures of
the team. As perhaps the biggest offensive failure on a team that
was often unable to score when it really needed to, Nedved was seen as
unable to step up to the challenge and provide that desperately needed
second scoring line.
Given every opportunity after Messier was
sidelined with injury, Nedved appeared tentative and unable to get the job
done. It's difficult to tell whether a lack of effort was the cause
of his poor season, but there were enough of you the readers of Outside
The Garden who felt it was so.
left with a fractured skull in what may be his last game on Broadway
Worst Loss - 2-5 v Atlanta Thrashers 3/22/2002
The Playoffs were on the line and the Rangers were coming off an
encouraging road win against the Ottawa Senators. It looked to be a
regulation win against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, but from
the start New York looked listless and tired.
The Rangers were stunned early in the game
when Richter was felled by a Chris Tamer slap shot from outside the blue
line. Richter left the ice with what was later to be diagnosed as a
fracture of the skull in what could well be his last game as a Blueshirt.
From their things just went from bad to
worse. The Thrashers goalie put on a goaltending clinic that belied
the fact that it was only his second NHL game, while the group of young
Atlanta forwards took hold of the game at the other end of the ice.
For the Rangers only a brief respite early in the third period spurred by
Lindros and Bure proved that there was any life in the team...
A final score of 5-2 against was perhaps
the nail in the Rangers playoff hopes, a fact that was confirmed some six
or so games later.