Tag Archives: NY Rangers

THE NEXT BANNER THAT SHOULD BE HUNG AT MSG AND THE GREATEST RANGER EVER

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

      

It was wonderful to see the Rangers finally retire the numbers of 1950’s and 60’s greats Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell (Kallas Remarks, 2/23/09).  While others have opened the debate as to what other (if any) numbers from that era should be retired (Jean Ratelle’s #19, Vic Hadfield’s #11 and/or Brad Park’s #2, to name a few), isn’t it about time that the real greatest Rangers of all-time be recognized in the rafters at the Garden?

      

The New York Rangers of the late 1920’s through the mid-1930’s was a great team that won two Stanley Cups.  In other words, a run never equaled by any Ranger team from the mid-1930’s until today.  While it would be foolish to hope that the numbers of individual greats from that era hang in the rafters, why not hang one banner with five names (not numbers) of the Ranger greats who made the Hall of Fame and won MULTIPLE Stanley Cups as RANGERS?  In the history of the New York Rangers, nobody has done what this group did up to and including 2009.

      

FIVE HALL OF FAMERS (AS RANGERS) WITH TWO STANLEY CUPS (AS RANGERS)

       

Let’s look at this group of Ranger giants in alphabetical order:

    

1) FRANK BOUCHER — One of the smoothest centers ever, Boucher centered the famous “Bread Line” (between the Cook brothers), the dominant line through the Rangers’ Stanley Cup runs.  Boucher was a slick passer who led the NHL in assists three times and was second four times.  He also finished in the top six in scoring in six different seasons.  Frank Boucher won the Lady Byng Trophy (best “gentlemanly” player) so many times (seven times in the eight seasons between 1927-28 and 1934-35) that the NHL gave him the original trophy.  While known as a playmaker, Boucher dominated the scoring in the 1927-28 playoffs (the year of the first Ranger Cup) with seven goals and three assists (no other Ranger had more than two goals or five points total).  He made the Hall of Fame in 1958.

       

2) BILL COOK — Arguably the most talented of this talented group and considered one of the greatest right-wingers ever, Bill Cook was the dominant scorer for these superior Ranger teams.  Cook led the NHL in goals three times and finished in the top four in scoring five times, including winning two scoring titles in 1926-27 and 1932-33 (the year of the second Ranger Cup).  Cook was a first-team NHL All-Star three times and a second-team All-Star once (his linemate Boucher equaled him in both categories).  In addition, Bill Cook was the first Ranger captain, scored the first goal in the history of the New York Rangers and scored the first ever Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in NHL history against the Maple Leafs in 1933.  He made the Hall of Fame in 1952.

     

3) BUN COOK — The left wing on the famous “Bread Line”, Fred “Bun” Cook was a key component to the Rangers’ success during the late 1920s through the mid-1930s.  Bun Cook has been credited with “introducing and perfecting the drop pass,” according to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s website.  Cook finished in the top ten in goals scored four times and in points scored three times.  A very popular Ranger, Bun Cook was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995.

       

4) CHING JOHNSON — The rugged defenseman was considered one of the hardest bodycheckers ever in the NHL.  According to the Hockey Hall of Fame website, “he perfected the technique of nullifying the opposition by clutching and grabbing them as discreetly as possible – a pragmatic defensive strategy for the wily but slow-footed rearguard.”  He was a first-team NHL All-Star twice and a second-team NHL All-Star twice.  Johnson also could score for a defenseman: in the time of 44- and 48-game seasons, Johnson’s 10 goals in 1927-28 and eight goals in 1932-33 (the Rangers two Cup-winning seasons) were very high numbers for a defenseman back then.  Johnson finished second for the Hart Trophy (MVP) in 1931-32 and he scored the winning goal against Detroit in the first game of the semi-finals for the Cup in 1932-33.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1958.

        

5) LESTER PATRICK — “The Silver Fox” was a great player in his own right and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947.  Patrick was the coach of both Ranger Cup winners (1927-8 and 1932-3) and also made the playoffs as Ranger head coach in 12 of his 13 seasons.  He also had only one losing season in those 13 years.  But Patrick did something that should have his name up in the rafters that even his basketball Hall of Fame counterpart Red Holzman (coach of the Knicks whose 613 (for his number of Knick wins) hangs in the rafters) never did:  Coach Patrick played a major role, at the age of 44, in winning a Stanley Cup game on the ice.  Down 1-0 in games in the 1927-28 Cup Finals, Rangers goalie Lorne Chabot was hit in the eye in the second period of Game 2 and could not continue.  With no back-up goalies in those days, Lester Patrick, after being denied permission to use another goalie in the stands, donned the equipment himself.  Patrick gave up one goal (with 18 saves) in 46 minutes as the Rangers won in overtime to tie up the series.  They went on to win their first Cup.

 

While, given the reality of sports in America today, it would be hard to argue for multiple jerseys from the 1920’s and 30’s to be hung up in the rafters in 2009.  BUT HOW GREAT WOULD IT BE TO HAVE THESE FIVE NAMES ON ONE BANNER HANGING IN THE GARDEN FOREVER?  These five, all of whom did more for Ranger tradition than anyone else, including all the numbers already in the rafters, should be recognized.  Certainly they have relatives around (be they grandchildren or great-grandchildren).  Certainly the Patrick family still has people involved in hockey.  It really wouldn’t be that hard.  AND IT WOULD BE THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

    

Was it all just too long ago?

    

FRANK BOUCHER – THE GREATEST RANGER EVER

         

 The main reason that Boucher is the greatest Ranger ever is that he’s been intimately involved with three of the four Stanley Cups that the Rangers have won in their existence.  Much of his greatness as a player is discussed above.  It should also be mentioned that, in the famous Lester Patrick game in the 1928 playoffs discussed above, the Rangers won 2-1 in overtime.  Guess who scored the game-winning overtime goal?  Frank Boucher.  When the Rangers got their second win (in the best-of-five series), who scored the only goal of the game?  Frank Boucher.  In addition, when the Rangers beat the Montreal Maroons 2-1 in the clinching game to win the Stanley Cup in 1928, guess who scored both Ranger goals?  Frank Boucher.  To recap, Frank Boucher scored four of the five goals that the Rangers scored in the 1927-28 Stanley Cup Finals.  Has anyone ever had a more dominant Stanley Cup Final?

       

Few know that Boucher was the coach of the Rangers when they won their third Stanley Cup in 1939-40.  While he was coach, and when the Rangers’ roster was decimated during World War II, Boucher suited up for 15 games in 1943-44 and scored an amazing 14 points at the age of 42.  Always known as an innovator, Boucher was the first coach to “pull the goalie” late in the game for an extra skater.  And he was still around in 1949-50, as general manager, when the Rangers made an amazing run but lost the Cup in Game 7 of the Finals in double-overtime (on the Pete Babando goal which gave the Cups to the Wings). 

     

LET’S NOT FORGET THESE GUYS!!

    

While Frank Boucher and the other greats discussed above have not been totally forgotten, if something is not done soon, some day they will all be forgotten.  They should have at least one banner in the rafters forever. 

     

Next season would be a wonderful time to do it.

                            

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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RANGERS (FINALLY) RETIRE ANDY BATHGATE’S #9 AND Harry Howell’s #3

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

      

It was a long time coming at the Garden.  The Rangers had decided to retire Adam Graves’ #9 last year and announced, at the time, that they would “honor” (but not retire) the #9 of Ranger legend (and Hall of Famer) Andy Bathgate and the #3 of Hall of Famer Harry Howell.  Anyone who knows about the two #9s knows that Adam Graves, as a hockey player, was nowhere near the player that Andy Bathgate was in the pre-expansion era.  There must have been a behind-the-scenes backlash because eventually it was decided to retire (rather than just “honor”) both Bathgate’s and Howell’s numbers.

    

When the Rangers announced that the retirement night would be for Graves, I asked a former Garden higher-up who had been there for over 20 years how they could possibly retire Graves’ number and not retire it for Bathgate.  He essentially laughed at my naivete and simply said “a few million dollars.”  But clearly others stepped up to tell the right people that this would be a travesty.  Hence, the wonderful retirement ceremony that took place this past Sunday night at the Garden.

    

Nothing against Adam Graves, arguably the greatest community guy in the history of New York sports, a huge statement.  Whether that should count towards getting your number up in the rafters is an entirely different matter.

       

ANDY BATHGATE – SUPERSTAR

       

People forget what a superstar, as a Ranger, Andy Bathgate was in his heyday.  Even Stan Fischler, the night Adam Graves had his number retired, told the MSG audience that Andy Bathgate was Adam Graves before Adam Graves.  Utter nonsense, of course, as Graves was a one-time second team NHL All-Star who never cracked the top 10 in scoring.  Bathgate, on the other hand, was a first-team NHL All-Star twice, beating out a guy named Gordie Howe.  And he was a second-team NHL All-Star twice, finishing second to, you guessed it, Mr. Hockey.

    

Here’s an even more impressive and fascinating stat that you probably won’t read anywhere else.  From 1955-56 through 1962-63, Andy Bathgate, as a Ranger, finished in the top 5 in scoring every season, a stunning accomplishment.  That eight-year stretch of scoring brilliance was surpassed only by Wayne Gretzky (13 years) and Stan Mikita (nine years).  Phil Esposito also did it eight years in a row.

    

Andy Bathgate won the Hart Trophy (MVP) in 1958-59.  He tied Bobby Hull for the scoring championship in 1961-62 (Hull was given the Art Ross trophy because he scored more goals).  He eventually won his Stanley Cup with Toronto.  He was the main and often the only real offensive threat for the Rangers in the above-mentioned eight-year span, where he averaged over 78 points a season (a staggering number in the 70-game, pre-expansion NHL) and led the Rangers in scoring by an average of 21 points per season over any other teammate (most stats here are from Hockey-Reference.com).

    

One can easily argue that he was the greatest player, AS A RANGER, in the history of the Rangers (we might have to go back to the ‘20s and ‘30s for that debate, but that’s for another time).

     

THE GREAT HARRY HOWELL

     

 Harry Howell was an all-time great defensive defenseman.  Aside from playing more games as a Ranger than anyone else in the history of the Rangers, Harry Howell won the Norris Trophy for best defenseman in 1966-67.  This is particularly notable because Howell is the only defenseman not named Bobby Orr to win the Norris Trophy when Orr was healthy (Orr won the Calder (Rookie of the Year) in 66-67 and then would win the next eight Norris trophies).

    

Howell was as steady as they come and played on the Rangers power play (with Rod Gilbert in the 1960s often playing the other point, leaving it up to Howell to essentially defend alone against short-handed rushes).  And what old-timers will remember is that Howell was the greatest at “accidentally” turning the wrong way in the neutral zone when an opponent shot a puck out of their defensive zone which led to hundreds of icing calls against the Rangers’ opposition over the years.

    

Howell played in every game in ten Ranger seasons.  He was a first-team All-Star in 1966-67 and played in seven All-Star Games.

     

MANY THOUGHT IT WAS LONG OVERDUE

     

It’s hard to know what went on behind the scenes over the last 20 years or so but it’s interesting to see the present-day reaction.  When told on Adam Graves Night that their numbers would be retired, Howell said “It’s been a long time coming.”  Bathgate praised Graves more as a great community guy than as a player.  It was clear that both were happy with kind of an edge about how long it took to finally happen. 

    

On their night, however, others didn’t pull any punches.  Eddie Giacomin, blunt as always, simply said “I thought this should have happened 20 years ago.”  Vic Hadfield agreed that it was long overdue.  Rod Gilbert said that he “had been praying for this day for many years.”      

     

DOES THIS OPEN A PANDORA’S BOX?

     

Of course it does.  Excellent hockey writer Larry Brooks of the New York Post has already stated that he thinks the numbers of Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Ron Greschner should be retired.  Great debates abound but next week you can read an article here about why Frank Boucher (who?) is easily the greatest Ranger ever and what the next banner raised at the Garden really should have on it to right a number of wrongs.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

RANGERS HIT A LOW POINT; DEVILS ON THE RISE

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 The Rangers hit a new low on Friday night as they were pummeled by the Devils, 8-5. The Rangers are still a “first-place” team, but that’s a misnomer (see below). The problems for them are far bigger than their position in the standings. This is a team that, defensively and on the power play, has lost its way.

CAN THE RANGERS DECLINE THE PENALTY?

Nothing’s been so maddening this year as the Rangers’ power play. A stunning 0-9 against the Devils, the worse news was that the Rangers gave up two short-handed goals, a very difficult feat. Of course, the Rangers gave up two short-handed goals early in November to lose 2-1 to the Islanders. So this isn’t new. It’s just scary.

    
To give you some context, the Rangers have allowed TEN short-handed goals already this year. According to hockeyreference.com, the league average per team, to date, is THREE. To scare a Ranger fan some more, the league average for the entire 2007-2008 NHL season was EIGHT. This is an epidemic.

    
The Rangers are now in the lower third of the NHL on the power play. While captain and leader Chris Drury was disappointed in the power play and the performance, he said, after the game on MSG, that he and his teammates weren’t “embarrassed.” Well, maybe that’s semantics, but the Rangers play against the Devils certainly was embarrassing.

    
Going minus 2 (stunning) on nine power plays against the Devils, maybe the Rangers can decline the penalty or commit one right after the other team does during the game. Just kidding. I think.

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, BRENDAN SHANAHAN?

Could Brendan Shanahan have been the answer? Well, he certainly wanted to stay and money didn’t seem to be a big issue to him. But the Rangers left him hanging and simply wouldn’t make an offer to a guy who, last year, was an excellent two-way player, was one of the leading Ranger goal scorers (they could use one of those, no?) and was a leader in the clubhouse. While Drury seemed meek, almost apologetic, in his post-game interview, it’s hard to believe that Shanahan would stand for this type of performance.

    
Maybe Mats Sundin is the answer? Apparently he’ll be at the Garden on Saturday for the Carolina game. A huge goal scorer who has the support of fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist, it seems like any quality scorer could help the Rangers now.

WHAT ABOUT THE DEFENSE?

The huge defensive changes that were made (Fedor Tyutin and Marek Malik out, Wayne Redden and Dimitri Kalinin in) haven’t really worked out to date. Kalinin has the worst plus/minus in the NHL for a defensemen and Redden often just seems to wander out of place. At this point, you’d think that the Rangers would give Corey Potter an extended try to, if nothing else, shake up the defensemen who have been with the big club all season.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOALIE?

Well, against the Devils, King Henrik looked like he was standing in front of the hit-the-net-win-the prize shooting gallery. After owning the Devils and the Great Brodeur (13-1-1 in the last 15 games between the teams), he gave up almost as many goals in one game (8) as he gave up to the Devils last year in eight games (9, the shootout doesn’t count in the last regular season game or it would be 10 but you get the point). Another stunning stat.

    
For you old-timers, it might have brought back memories of the late, great Gump Worsley, who faced these kinds of barrages often as a Ranger goalie in the early 1960s before he came to his senses, went to the Montreal Canadiens and became a multiple Stanley Cup winner and a Hall of Famer.

WHO’S REALLY IN FIRST PLACE?

The NHL games-in-hand thing is bizarre, especially this season. The Devils are in fourth place in the NHL Atlantic with 34 points. The Rangers are in first with 40 points. But the Devils have played SIX less games than the Rangers. That’s absurd. In addition, the Flyers, with 36 points, are four points behind the Rangers with FOUR games in hands. Even the Penguins, also with 36 points, have three games in hand.

     
In the land of NHL point inflation, when teams today can combine for three points in a game rather than two (see Kallas Remarks, 12/7/08), you can easily make the case that the Rangers are a third or even fourth place team in their own division. In fact, the Rangers have played more games than EVERY team in the NHL. That’s not a good thing.

HOW DO THE DEVILS DO THIS?

Well, the Devils are the Devils are the Devils. But nobody thought they could do this without the Great Brodeur. But they’ve actually been better (if that’s possible) since he went down with an injury. Believe it or not, back-up goalie Scott Clemmensen has won nine of the last 10 games for the Devils. That’s stunning stuff.

    
And although he wasn’t great tonight (the Rangers teased their fans by coming back from four goals down to tie the game at 5), he hung in there as the Devils pulled away by scoring three more. A strange hockey game, to say the least.

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THE RANGERS?

With the acquisitions last year of Drury and Scott Gomez, the Rangers, in the eyes of many (including this writer), became instant Stanley Cup contenders. But they fell short last year and, even though they are a “first-place” team this year, they’ve shown some big holes in their game that will hurt tremendously come playoff time. The season is young, but the warning bells are ringing. We’ll see.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.