The New York Rangers celebrated their history Friday night at the Garden, but what it really shows is the failure of the last 25 years.
It’s been 25 years since Mark Messier made the guarantee. Twenty-five years since Stephane Matteau scored one of the most famous goals in New York Rangers history. Twenty-five years since Sam Rosen uttered the most famous words of his career, “this one will last a lifetime.”
Twenty-five years since Ranger fans knew what it was like to be Stanley Cup champions.
Members of the Rangers’ 1994 championship team came together for a big celebration Friday night at the Garden and you can’t help but think of how close the Rangers have come to lifting their first Cup since that 1994 team.
Throughout the 25 years since the Rangers lifted their first Cup in 54 years, the Rangers have seen playoff action 14 times including four appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, and one Stanley Cup Final appearance. But the one thing that has eluded them in those 25 years since has been lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Now during all 14 of those playoff seasons, it’s not a lack of investment from the front office. They’ve been active during free-agency signing stars like Brad Richards, Michael Nylander, Wayne Gretzky, and Marian Gaborik. On the trade market, they’ve acquired stars like Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Keith Yandle, and Jaromir Jagr.
It didn’t stop there, though. While the superstar talent was there, New York was able to surround that talent with homegrown players in Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, and Henrik Lundqvist. All eight have played integral roles in the Rangers most recent runs and were embraced by the fan base. All eight have given their all to Rangers and to this city
Aside from being some of the NHL’s biggest stars and producing on the big stage that playing in New York is, all of these players have one thing in common, not bringing the Cup back to New York.
There was perhaps no greater run over the last 25 years than the run the Rangers made in 2014 in their eventual loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers achieved the inevitable and moved onto their first Eastern Conference Final since 2012. They would move onto their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994 but it would end the same way every season in the last 25 years has … failure.
Even though that season ended in failure, it did not look like that theme would continue over the next five years. New York would go onto win their first President’s Trophy since that 1994 Cup winning season and move onto the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row. But an injury to Zuccarello and a nonexistent effort in Game 7 against Tampa, that season, too, would end in failure.
The seasons that followed resulted in a first-round exit, second-round exit, and missing the playoffs for the second time in 13 years.
Now as we sit here today, the Rangers are embarking on a different era. An era where they are shying away from the idea of winning in the now with the hope of winning in the not so distant future. They sit there on the verge of missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they missed the playoffs in a seven-year span from 1998 through 2004.
Today, we sit here waiting for some key players to be moved with the hopes of those assets contributing to the next great Rangers team. The hope is that in 25 years from now when we celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the 1994 team this Rangers rebuilding process will have brought them their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history.
It is extremely important for organizations to remember their past, but the hard thing is that despite one bright spot in the last 25 years, the Rangers past has been full of nothing but failure.