Friday, January 27, 2012

Continue Down Memory Lane

For some reason my recollection of the early years is far more concise than the seasons in the 70's and 80's. The loss of Andy Bathgate was devastating to me. Why get rid of the top gun for a load of garbage? In my mind, anything short of  Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, would have been garbage for Bathgate. Go get the role players that would have helped Andy and the team. Instead Andy immediately helped Toronto to a Stanley Cup championship in 1964. He had 5 goals and 4 assists in Toronto's 14 game Cup run that year. Andy won the Hart Trophy in 1958-59 and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.

The 1970's, The Almost Years.

Emile Francis was in full control and there was optimism in the air for Ranger fans. Francis was fiery and a shrewd tactician. The team was loaded with the GAG line, goal-a-game, led by Ratelle, Gilbert and Hatfield. They had strong goaltending in Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure. They had a Hall Of Famer D-man in Brad Park. Both the Bruins and the Flyers were too tough for this team and there was the shameful incident of the Flyers' Dave Schultz beating up the Rangers' Dale Rolfe without a single Ranger jumping in. Amazing how that trait has prevailed since the 40's. Midway through the decade, Francis started to change the team. He traded Villemure to Chicago for Doug Jarrett. They lost their heart when Eddie Giacomin was claimed off waivers by Detroit. It set up the spectacle of Giacomin returning to New York, with the fans chanting "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie" and rooting for the Red Wings to beat the Rangers. They did. With the heart gone the Rangers then traded their soul when they sent Brad Park along with Jean Ratelle to Boston for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. Along with new coach Fred Shero and acquired goalie John Davidson the Rangers made it to the Cup finals in 1979 only to lose to Montreal, 4 games to 1. The 70's were also the turbulent years.

The 1980's, The Spectator Years.

The Rangers were spectators in the 80's as the Islanders with four straight Cups and Edmonton with four out of five Cups vied for supremacy. The Rangers vied to stay relevant. They went through six coaches in eight years. The Rangers were doing nothing while two teams, the Isles and Oilers, controlled the decade. One 1986-87 highlight was coach Phil Esposito, yes I said coach, decked out in a tuxedo for a New Year's Eve game. Yes, the Rangers were spectators in the 1980's, but dressed to the nines.

The 1990's, The Messiah Arrives and the Drought Ends.

Roger Neilson took over the reins and with the addition, first of Bernie Nicholls and then of the great Messiah, Mark Messier, who was obtained in a trade for Nichols, the Rangers soared and actual won the President's Cup. Messier didn't like the team's performance in the playoffs and he demanded that GM Neil Smith replace coach Neilson. Smith did with the abrasive, obnoxious Mike Keenan who had been ridden out of every city he had coached in. He finally won a Cup, actually Mark Messier won it and Keenan promptly left for greener pastures, which never developed. Keenan was and is an opportunist. Mark Messier was and is a leader. In my opinion Mark Messier is the greatest team captain in the history of all sports. So the drought was over and the Rangers moved on.

The 2000's, Back To The Past.

The Rangers sank back to the past with the arrival of the Stealth GM who ensured the failure of the team with a succession of bad trades and free agent signings. Lindros, Bure, Fluerry, Robitalle, Nedved, Kaminsky, Gomez, Redden, and ad nausem... If once they were great then the Rangers wanted them. There were four playoff appearances in the 2000's with two first round wins. We progressed from a clueless coach to a disagreeable coach with very little progress.
The Present.

Right now we are riding high. However, the tough part is still ahead. We currently look like the 70's teams. Talented, gritty, but just not tough enough. Tough is what you need to make a playoff run. The good news is that there is still time to get the role players needed to make that run. That's what is needed to make a strong run. Let's see if the Stealth and disagreeable are up to it.

So I (we) will move on. The beauty of this blog is that friendships are still developing. Since I've been blogging I have touched, and been touched, by the likes of Section 335, Scotty Hockey, the Dark Ranger, the Hockey Rodent, My Blue Heaven, Garden Ice, Hockey Talk, and Inside Hockey. Also, I must thank Down By The Seaside, Wes, jb, the many anonymous commenters, and the thousands of others who have stopped by and partook of the pundit. Again my sincere thanks.

But, it won't end soon. There is another 1,000 posts still to be published. There are a thousand more faceoffs, shots on goal, hits, saves, losses, wins, and testy news conferences to "enjoy." And we, here at the Pundit and the other Rangers blogs will keep all the participants honest, something the blame stream media won't do, or refuses to follow up on.

So thanks for the memories people, sorry Bob. It's a fun thing to do and it is more fun to exchange barbs with each other. The Rangers are not my life, but they have been a big part of it. Exasperating at times, but always entertaining and interesting. Keep those cards and letters coming and Let's Go Rangers!

Down Memory Lane (Part 1)



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4 comments:

  • monroe bernold said...
     

    MY FIRST RANGER GAME WAS IN 1952. BATHGATE WAS AND STILL IS MY HERO AND ULTIMATE RANGER..STILL THINK OF HE BATHGATE=POPEIN-PRENTICE LINE. THE RANGERS HAVE BROKEN MY HEART COUNTLESS TIMES--BU THE MEMORIES ARE STILL TREMENDOUS--THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR COLUMN AND THE TRIP THROUGH MEMORY LANE.
    MONROE BERNOLD
    MBERNOLD@HOTMAIL.COM

  • mike said...
     

    monroe bernold-Thanks for your comments. As we get older we seem to appreciate the past more. If we don't learn from he past we will never understand the present.

  • Daniel said...
     

    Great stories. I truly appreciate your take on Ranger history as well as current tribulations.

  • mike said...
     

    Daniels-The Ranger franchise was founded with tribulations. It will always be a characteristic of the New York Rangers.

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