When Neil Smith stole Mark Messier from the Edmonton Oilers in 1991, it changed the face of the Rangers forever. In his first season on the Garden ice, Messier was named captain and was the hard nosed leader that the team molded itself after.
There were young guns Tony Amonte and Doug Weight, stellar defenseman in Brian Leetch, and solid goaltending with John Vanbiesbrouck and Mike Richter. The team won their division, conference, and the Presidents Trophy as the best record during the regular season his first year in New York. They had 50 wins for 105 pts. on the season. They won individual awards with Messier winning the Hart for best player in the NHL and Leetch the Norris for best Defenseman. They lost in the playoffs in the second round to a division foe 4 games to 2.
They had a world class scorer in Mike Gartner who could fly all over the ice. They had a great team player in Adam Graves. They played the first outdoor game that summer as a preseason game in Las Vegas. When the Rangers thought they had a real shot for the Stanley Cup in 1993-1994, they traded away some young players and were lead by a great leader in Messier, a team guy in Graves, an incredibly gifted defense pair of offensive dmen in Leetch and Zubov, and great goaltending by Mike Richter to win the CUP. During the season, the Rangers traded their roster players for MacTavish(faceoff specialist), Steve Larmer(clutch scorer), Glen Anderson(rode shotgun for all of Messier's Cup's), and Brian Noonan and Stefan Matteau.
Last season the Rangers brought in Brad Richards. This is NOT a comparison of Brad Richards to Mark Messier, but more of a comparison of the Rangers 20 years after the Rangers big trade that brought the Messier to New York. Richards became the Rangers first line center also and centered the Rangers top scorer that can fly all over the ice in Marian Gaborik. The Rangers started overseas due to the construction at the Garden. They played in the NHL's outdoor game in the Winter Classic. The Rangers won 51 games for 109 pts(although points were added through shootout wins), won the division, won the Conference, and just came up short for the President's trophy.
They named a new Captain in Ryan Callahan that the team molded their game around. They also lost to a division foe 4 games to 2 (but it was in the 3rd round this season). Last years team was lead by young guns Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, and playoff star Chris Kreider. They were lead by another American Dman in Ryan McDonagh. In goal they are already lead by a Hart trophy finalist and Vezina trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. Tim Erixon played in games during the season just as his father did in the 1991 season. So far in this offseason, the Rangers seem to be making the moves that the Rangers Stanley Cup team made during the season that got them the Cup then.
The Rangers have added the "role players" the Rangers needed. The role type comparisons that can be made to the 1994 team could seem like Taylor Pyatt to Brian Noonan, Arron Asham to Nick Kypreos, (resigned)Stu Bickel to Jay Wells, Jeff Halpern to Craig MacTavish, and Rick Nash to Glenn Anderson. Leetch is one of a kind but the closest likeness on this team would be Ryan McDonagh. Mike DelZotto is to Sergie Zubov as Dan Girardi is to Jeff Beaukeboom. As the backstop, both Mike Richter and Henrik Lundqvist can steal every game they play in.
The Rangers had to get rid of alot of their youth to get the Stanley Cup back in 1993-1994, but this seasons Rangers seem to be right on track towards being a serious Cup contender for years, as they have done it without giving up their youth while being lead by players just reaching their prime. The New York Organization, lead by Glen Sather, Groton, Clarke, Shoenfield, and Messier have built this right. With Adam Graves helping out this organization for years and Brian Leetch now back in the fold along with Jeff Beukeboom coaching in the AHL, it is now the time for the New York Rangers to become relevant again. LET'S GO RANGERS!!!