Last Word on Hockey brings you our team of the decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and the best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the New York Rangers decade line-up.
New York Rangers Decade Team
The Broadway Blueshirts made the playoffs for seven straight seasons during the decade. Three of those trips extended to the Eastern Conference final, including a Prince of Wales Trophy in 2013-14. New York did fall to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, but the Rangers were always in the mix.
The last three seasons have seen the club tear down a contender in order to streamline into a young unit. General manager Jeff Gorton has built a strong farm system and made some shrewd moves to get the team on the edge of the post-season. The outbreak of COVID-19 may have halted a push by the team, but there’s hope going forward in the 2020s.
Centre: Derek Stepan
Derek Stepan was the main pivot for many of those long post-season runs. He played 515 games and scored 128 goals and 360 points for the club. The Hastings, Minn. native scored a hat trick on his debut with the team.
He also cemented himself into team lore after scoring a Game 7 winner against the rival Washington Capitals in overtime of the 2015 post-season. It was one of the 19 playoff goals that Stepan scored for the Rangers. He played in 97 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the club before he was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes prior to the 2017 NHL Draft.
Right Wing: Mats Zuccarello
Mats Zuccarello really took off when Alain Vigneault took over after John Tortorella‘s firing after being ousted by the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 playoffs. Zuccarello had been a healthy scratch, depth player and was even playing stints in AHL Hartford before the new boss put his faith in the Norwegian.
The short in stature but large in heart forward rewarded that faith with 113 goals and 239 assists in the decade. He played a huge hand with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot in their run to the Cup Final. That line turned a 3-1 deficit into a tremendous comeback over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference semifinals. He was a beloved Ranger that was dealt to the Dallas Stars at last season’s deadline.
Left-Wing: Rick Nash
It was a hard choice between Rick Nash and Chris Kreider for the left-wing spot. Nash came in like a lot of free-agent signings with a lot of hype. There had always been a lingering fear that he’d be another big-name free agent that would be a miss for the club. However, he mostly lived up to the press.
Nash scored 145 goals in 375 games in six seasons on Broadway. He didn’t put up giant offensive numbers as he did with the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, he became a great all-around player that worked on other parts of his game. He also struggled at times in the post-season with only 14 goals in 73 games, but he just edges Kreider for the spot.
Dan Girardi played eight seasons with the club and scored 28 goals in 550 games. He was a blood-and-guts type of player that wouldn’t hesitate to block a shot. Girardi was a shutdown type of defender and played the second-most post-season games for the club.
He and Ryan McDonagh formed a great duo that was one of the best blueline pairs in the league. He also formed a solid pairing with Marc Staal before he joined up with McDonagh. Girardi ended up like most Rangers do and went to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Saint Paul, Minn. native also played eight seasons and also went to Tampa Bay at the end of his tenure. McDonagh was part of a brilliant trade with the Montreal Canadiens that got rid of Scott Gomez and netted Marian Gaborik via free agency.
The defender was vital at starting offence from the back end as he scored 51 goals and 238 points in 550 games. He added 10 post-season goals and was an immediate contributor after only a brief time in the minors.
Henrik Lundqvist was probably one of the easiest choices of any team in this series. He played all 10 years and won 294 games in the 2010s. The Swede had a 2.48 goals-against-average, .919 save percentage and 42 shutouts. Lundqvist was notorious for helping the Rangers steal games they sometimes had no business winning.
He was a master of Game 7s and elimination games and played in the most post-season games for the club (128). Lundqvist may be starting to get phased out of the lineup with the emergence of Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. It’s a shame that “The King” may never get his crown, but he is the best goalie in franchise history.
Kreider and Gaborik were significant contributors in the decade on the wings. In 478 games, Kreider netted 138 goals while Gaborik scored 114 in 255 games. Brassard was a big-game player for the team in just four seasons.
On defence, Staal played the most games of any Ranger in the decade at 649. He’s also third in most post-season games in team history. Anton Stralman was rock-solid on the right side in three seasons and many regretted letting him go to the Lightning.