Outside The Garden will be a year old next
week and it will also be a year since we released the line-up for the
first Ex-Rangers All Stars. Last year as the debut article for the
site, I put together a roster of former Rangers who had played in the
This year made it a more
democratic approach and gave you, the readers of Outside The Garden the
opportunity to select the line-up and as you will see the results weren't
totally predictable. So without further ado, here is the 2001-02
Ex-Rangers All Stars.
None of the three top liners had a
particularly impressive season in 2001-02, but that's if you're comparing
them to their own past endeavors. Anchoring the first line is fan
favorite Adam Graves who got off to a slow start with his new club before
finding some touch later in the season and helping his Sharks to clinch
the Pacific division title. Graves gained his selection with his
work both on and off the ice and is a key man on the power play with his
play in and around the net.
The first line pivot also found himself on
a new team for the 2001-02 season. After spending a little over 8
seasons with Edmonton, Doug Weight cashed in on his UFA status and left
for St Louis. A strong start was cut short when he suffered a leg
injury that limited him to just 61 games and 15 goals. Weight's 49
points were a far cry from the career best 90 he racked up the previous
season, but when it comes to playmaking centers, there's few better than
Rounding out the line is perennial all-star
and fellow silver medalist on the US Olympic team, Tony Amonte.
Amonte too had a down year by his standards, missing the 30 goal plateau
for the first time since the lockout season of 94-95. The speedy
right winger augments the line nicely and will look to return to form in
this is first year after Unrestricted Free Agency.
"Lucky" Luc made the most of his luck this season past after signing
on with the Detroit Red Wings and finally fulfilling his dream to touch
the Stanley Cup. The sharp shooting left wing reached the 30 goal
platform for the fourth straight season and for the twelfth straight time
in his career, but his overall production suffered on a club that puts the
team before the player.
A new addition to the Ex-Ranger ranks
centers the second line, and deservedly so. Mike York had his best
season of his short career, collecting 20 goals and 61 points with New
York and Edmonton. Another fan favorite, many Rangers faithful were
disappointed to see one of the best utility forwards in the league move
on. York looks to be in the line-up for some time...good news for
The key to the second line though is their
right winger in Alexei Kovalev. The highest scorer on this team,
Kovalev managed 76 points in just 67 games, including a team high 32
goals. Kovalev has blossomed since leaving the Rangers and is
arguably the most productive former Ranger in the league today.
Expect to see him on the point of the first power play unit as well as
killing penalties...this guy is for real.
Back in August of 2001, Blueshirts fans were stunned to hear that the
Rangers were trading away a core component of the "Czechmates" to the
arch-rival Philadelphia Flyers. As it turned out the move impacted
all three of the former line-mates who each turned in disappointing
seasons. A December trade saw Hlavac move once again, this time to
Vancouver and perhaps here he'll be able to regain some of his 2000-01
Centering the third line is yet another
former Ranger who turned in a disappointing performance. Held back
by injuries the Calgary pivot managed just 14 goals and 33 points in his
worst season since leaving the Rangers. Too long a weak point in the
Rangers past, it's hardly surprising that Savard won the third line
The same can't be said for Niklas Sundstrom
this year's third line Right Winger. Sundstrom continued his solid
play at both ends of the ice and was part of an effective third line for
the San Jose Sharks along with Ricci and Thornton and will provide a boost
to the Ex-Rangers defense and penalty killing.
Many Ranger fans had believed for some time that Manny Malhotra's
future lay outside of the Rangers organization. In March of 2002,
that belief became fact when Malhotra was traded to the Dallas Stars with
Barrett Heisten in exchange for Roman Lyashenko and Martin Rucinsky.
The young forward adds size to this relatively small line-up, but perhaps
earned his spot more on his promise than his accomplishments.
Malhotra did have his best offensive output since his rookie season, but
his 14 points is certainly more suited to the 4th line than the type of
role his former GM had in mind.
Centering the 4th line is soon to be
retiree Ray Ferraro. "Chicken Parm" had a less than impressive
season on a very young Atlanta Thrashers team, but was given a last
opportunity at glory when he was traded to St Louis at the deadline.
In what is expected to be his last season as a professional hockey player,
Ferraro totalled 14 goals and 37 points, but was amongst the worst in the
league in +/-.
Rounding out the forwards is yet another
fan favorite and the third Shark on the team, Todd Harvey. The
feisty right winger has had to tone his game down in order to prolong his
longevity, but he still manages to tap in the odd goal and get the odd
penalty minute. Harvey is the agitator on the team and will be the
guy the Ex-Rangers send out to get the blood flowing.
First Defensive Pairing
Perhaps the term "defensemen" is an
inappropriate term to describe the first pairing of this year's Ex-Rangers
all-stars. Zubov once had 89 points with the Rangers on the blueline
and is still noted more for his offensive play than any defense he
provides. A key man on the point for the power play, "Zubie" has a
good shot and is adept at keeping the puck in the zone...pairing him with
Johnsson will keep fans on the edge of their seats at both ends of the
Johnsson on the other hand finally broke
free from the shadow of Brian Leetch and joined a team just waiting for a
player with his skills. On a Rangers team that already had too many
puck carrying defensemen, Johnsson found himself missing out on
opportunities to improve his game. With Philadelphia Johnsson
reached double figures in goals for the first time (11) and added a career
best 30 assists.
Second Defensive Pairing
More than a few Blueshirt fans wanted the
Rangers to keep Mathieu Schneider, and looking at his performance since
you can understand why. Since leaving the Rangers, Schneider has
totaled 23 goals and 58 points in 128 games. His 4 power play goals
in an injury shortened season equaled the entire output of the Rangers
defense with the man advantage.
Joining him on the blueline his team mate
Mattias Norstrom who provides the muscle to Schneider's creativity.
Former GM Neil Smith admitted recently that trading Norstrom was perhaps
his worst trade and you'll find plenty of Rangers faithful who;ll agree.
Norstrom is a steady defenseman who will be tasked with protecting the
front of the net.
Third Defensive Pairing
Alexander Karpovtsev (CHI)
Rounding out the defense for the 2001-02
season is a pair of players who turned in pretty strong seasons.
Aaron Miller gained selection to the US Olympic team, while Karpovtsev
helped lead the Blackhawks back to the playoffs after a four year hiatus.
Miller is one of a growing breed of two way defensemen who can play both
ends of the ice and aren't afraid to use the body. His partner is
more of a stay at home type who uses angles and his body to steer the
opponents away from his net.
Both players will be called upon to back up
a forward group who have offense on their mind first and protecting their
own end of the ice a distant second.
Perhaps it was the absence of competition that
gave Cloutier the #1 spot, but it looks as if he has finally got a chance at
being the top goalie on an NHL club. While Cloutier didn't finish the
season well, he has shown marked improvement.
Vanbiesbrouck came out of retirement to aid
the New Jersey Devils in their time of need, but quickly returned after
the season ended at the hands of Carolina. The Beezer still showed
however that he can play the game and was almost unbeatable in his first
game back. Somewhat of a surprising selection as the number one
goalie, Vanbiesbrouck was a pick from the heart and perhaps a tribute to
one of the Rangers best ever goalies.
Eric Cairns (NYI), Todd Marchant (EDM) and
Ulf Dahlen (WAS)
Rounding out the roster this year are
defenseman Eric Cairns who provides the muscles when needed, Todd Marchant
one of the league's premier defensive forwards and Ulf Dahlen who turned
the clock back a few years playing with Jagr on the power play