The National Hockey League returned from it’s entirely pointless lockout last weekend, and as the season began, talk was swirling that the New York Rangers were frontrunners to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. This speculation was in large part thanks to last season’s deeper-than-expected playoff run and the off-season acquisition of Rick Nash, prolific scorer, Olympic gold medalist and number-one overall pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft. Nash was traded to the Rangers during the off-season after spending his career with the beleaguered Columbus Blue Jackets, where he made the playoffs once, and was dispatched in just four games.
Now with the Rangers’ season two games old, Nash already has a goal and an assist , but the Rangers are without a win. They don’t even have a charity point in the standings that teams can earn these days by losing in overtime. While it is far too early to judge the Rangers’ wisdom of giving up depth players in exchange for a big name like Nash, it’s worth pointing out that in Rangers history, the arrival of players who were selected first overall has done little to help the Rangers win Stanley Cups. Granted, they’ve only won three cups in the past 80 years, so almost EVERYTHING they’ve done since has done little to bring championships to Manhattan, but still — Nash is another number one overall pick and this strategy hasn’t worked in decades.
Here’s a look at a few of their memorable misses since signing a number one overall guy:
While “The Great One” never actually participated in an NHL entry draft, signing instead with the Indianapolis Racers of the now defunct WHA, no sensible hockey observer would doubt that had he participated in an NHL draft, he would have gone number one overall. While Gretzky enjoyed the best statistical career of any player in hockey history, his tenure with the Rangers was not successful. Gretzky joined the Blueshirts in 1996, yet made the playoffs just once before retiring from the game in 1999.
Picked first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1991 Entry draft, Lindros was projected to make an immediate impact in the NHL. After refusing to play for the Nordiques, and eventually landing with the Philadelphia Flyers he became an elite scorer and all-star, but was also battered by injuries, concussions and feuds with management. He was dealt to the Rangers before the 2001-2002 season, and wasn’t bad, but did not dominate, and injuries continued to take their toll. In the 2003-2004 season, with the 8th concussion of his career limiting him to only 39 games, he left New York as a free agent.
Perhaps most famous for returning to professional hockey after a terrible eye injury that could have ended his career, this number one overall pick from the 1995 entry draft joined the Rangers in 2002. He was released by the team after scoring only 2 goals and 23 points all season. Berard went on to have a successful career with a number of other clubs, and was awarded the Bill Masterson Trophy, which is awarded to players who remain devoted to hockey despite overwhelming adversity.
Drafted number one overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1993 entry draft, Alexander Daigle has been considered one of the biggest busts in the history of the the NHL draft. By the time the Rangers gambled on him in 1999, he had already been underwhelming on several other NHL clubs, so all it took was a cash offer to the Tampa Bay Lightning to sign the one-time “can’t miss” prospect. After scoring an unimpressive 26 points in 58 games for the Rangers, they waived him at the end of the season.
Notable largely for being the first American-born player to be drafted number one overall, Lawton, who was picked first by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 draft, was selected ahead of NHL superstars Steve Yzerman and Cam Neely. He played 30 games as a Ranger during the 1988-1989 season, scoring 7 goals and 10 assists, going on to play for eight different cities over the next four years.
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