Longtime Bonehead Bull Dog Line (BDL) took it upon himself to write some rankings of players that he’s watched in his time as a Rangers fan. This was originally written during the all-star break, so I apologize for the delay in publication. Great job, BDL!
The recent top 100 players in the NHL list got me thinking about the Rangers, and their top players list. I thought I might compose my own list, based on players that I have seen play, and by their positions. So to start, here are the top 10 goalies I have seen play as Rangers. This covers from the early/mid-seventies to the present.
Honorable Mention: Doug Soetart
As a Ranger Soetart was mostly a back up, but gets on this list for one season, the ’80-’81 season. On a team that finished with 62 points, Soeatart won 16 games. He was not the playoff goaltender (Steve Baker), but without him holding the fort on an injury and retirement ravaged team, they would not have made the playoffs.
10. Steve Weeks
Weeks won 42 games in his career as a Ranger; always a very reliable back up.
9. Glen Hanlon
Hanlon was a 500 goalie in his time with the Rangers; playing to a 56-56 record. He is on the list because of one playoff series, a series the Rangers lost. The 1984 first round match up against the Islander dynasty. Hanlon was brilliant in this series, which included a game two shutout. The Rangers lost the series on the famous OT goal by Ken Morrow in the deciding 5th game. One of the things I remember about the end of the series was Billy Smith, who did not shake hands at the end of a series, but skated down to Hanlon and shook his hand when it was over. That’s how good Hanlon was in that series.
[Editor’s note: BDL originally forgot Talbot and asked that I add an entry for him at 8, so the following thoughts are mine.]
[Second note: What I originally wrote here was not published, for some reason.]
8. Cam Talbot
Talbot was found money. An undrafted free agent from a then-unheralded collegiate hockey program, Talbot spent his first few pro seasons in the AHL, steadily improving each year. He finally got the call to the show in 13-14 after Martin Biron was Hertled into retirement and immediately made an impact. His play over the early part of the season while Lundqvist was struggling created the first hints of a goaltending/cap management controversy that still lingers today. His best moment was the following season, when he filled in for a long stretch of the second half of the season while Lundqvist was out with a vascular injury from taking a puck to the neck. Signed to a backup’s cap hit despite playing strongly in a starting role, Talbot became a valuable trade asset. However, his trade was poorly managed, resulting in the Rangers obtaining a middling return (essentially, Kovacs and Zborovskiy). If we are truly witnessing Lundqvist’s decline, then moving Talbot instead of Lundqvist will be a long and hard lesson in cap management.
7. Ed Mio
Mio did not play as much for the Rangers as I originally thought, posting a 29-24 record. But it was two consecutive playoff seasons that put him at 7. Backstopping Herb Brooks smurfs, Mio beat the Flyers in two straight playoff seasons. Going 6-1 against them. However, he could not get them over the Islanders hump, losing to them in those same seasons.
6. Gilles Villemure
Villemure was a favorite of mine. He won 98 games as a Ranger, and had a very good GAA of 2.62. Gilles won some memorable playoff games, including game 5 of the ’72 finals, forcing a game 6; the Bobby Orr game. In the first handful of games I attended, I did not get to see him play, E3s guy played in every one. The first goalie I saw other than Giacomin, was Dunc Wilson. He’s not on the list.
5. John Davidson
JD was just above 500 as a Ranger, winning 93 games. He wore 3 different numbers as a Ranger. 35, 00, and 30. He also wore some very memorable masks. The red, white and blue and his Lone Ranger mask. Of course JD is most remembered for that magical playoff run of ’79. JD was just amazing during that run. He carried them past the heavily favored Islanders in one the greatest series in Ranger history.
4. John Vanbiesbrouck
Beezer won 200 games as a Ranger. He played his first game as an 18 year old; a 2-to-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Beezer won the Vezina in ’86. Now if you go and look at his GAA for that season, ignore it. He was fantastic that season. He carried them into the Conference Final, where they ran into a rookie by the name of Patrick Roy. Traded away after the ’93 season because of the expansion draft, Beezer missed out on a cup by one season.
3. Eddie Giacomin
“Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!” 266 career victories for Giacomin, and the Vezina in ’71. The Rangers, and Giacomin, just could not get over the hump during that era. Losing in the final in ’72, and to the Flyers in the semis in ’74. Eddie was a great handler of the puck, nearly scoring on more than one occasion. Giacomin was famously waived, and claimed by Detroit in ’75, and his first game for the Wings was at the Garden the next night. Watching the game on cable channel 6, which carried the Ranger home games (when the Knicks or Rangers were not on, this channel was a black and white clock), I cried my eyes out during the “National Anthem”, and to this day I still get chills when thinking about it.
2. Henrik Lundqvist
The career leader in pretty much every goaltending category, Hank currently has 395 victories [Editor’s note: now 400], as well as another 55 in the playoffs. He was the Vezina winner in 2012. Pulled the franchise out of the dark the day he arrived. The only thing keeping him from being at the top of the list is the Cup. If he were to win one, not only would he be at the top of this list, he would be at the top of the all time Ranger players list.
1. Mike Richter
The first time I saw Richter play in person was a New Year’s Day matinee against the Russians. They called him up to play the game, and if it wasn’t for him a 5-to-1 game would have been 20-to-1. He was just brilliant. 301 victories, and Stanley Cup champion, Mike Richter is the best goaltender I have seen play for the Rangers.