The 2010s will go down as probably one of the most memorable decades for the New York Rangers and its fans, filled with various peaks and valleys, memorable moments and forgettable ones. It also featured plenty of names throw on the blue sweater, but only a handful can be picked for an All-Decade Team.
As The Athletic‘s Rick Carpiniello states, the Rangers of the 2010s were “mostly a blue-collar lot, other than the elite goaltender…who will waltz into the Hockey Hall of Fame when he retires” (from ‘The 2010s: Introducing the New York Rangers’ all-decade team’, The Athletic – 11/27/19).
After starting off the decade still struggling to make it out of the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Rangers stormed through plenty of competition in the 2011-12 season to reach the Eastern Conference Final. Then, in 2013-14, they won the Prince of Wales Trophy and reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years before winning the Presidents’ Trophy and another Eastern Conference Final appearance the next season.
Since this time, the Rangers’ Stanley Cup window seems to have come to a close, but the hope is the current, fresher, newer faces on the team like Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko and Jacob Trouba will help lead a new era of success for years to come.
Speaking of, here are the players who earned much success and love in New York during the 2010s that they should be considered the All-Decade team.
G: Henrik Lundqvist
Let’s get the most obvious choice out of the way — the man who has not only started the most games of the 2010s in goal for the Rangers, but the man who started the most games for the team in the decade period. He’s also the man who is currently sixth all-time in games played for the club.
Up until the 2017-18 season, Lundqvist never had a full season where he finished with less than 30 wins (he had 24 during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season). Over the last 10 seasons, he has made 17,485 saves, and between 2009-10 and 2015-16, he consistently had a .920 save percentage (SV%) or higher and a goals-against average (GAA) no higher than 2.48.
Lundqvist already had won fans’ hearts over during the second half of the 2000s, but he didn’t slow down. Whether it was his signature butterfly stance, his eye-opening saves or his postseason clutchness (especially in Game 7s), he has always been an integral part of the franchise. While he may not get a Stanley Cup as his career winds down, it may not be insane to say he has been a true face of New York sports.
LW: Chris Kreider
Even the newer Rangers fans got to see the growth of Chris Kreider from rookie to team leader on the ice during the 2010s. He made his NHL debut during the Rangers’ 2011-12 postseason run, scoring five goals and two assists in 18 games played. He then split the next season between the American Hockey League and NHL, but it wasn’t long into 2013-14 where he was considered a full-fledged Blueshirt.
Over the past six seasons, Kreider put up 268 total points. His best season came in 2016-17, when he had 28 goals and 25 assists for a total of 53 points, the 12th most points scored by a Ranger in one season during this six-season span. He was second on the team in goals in 2014-15 (21) and led in 2016-17 (28).
Last season, Kreider was the second-best scorer on Broadway as well, as he finished second in goals (28) and points (52), both behind Mika Zibanejad. As of Dec. 13, he is third on the team in goals with seven, behind Artemi Panarin and Filip Chytil.
It’s unknown, possibly even doubtful, that Kreider’s New York tenure survives the 2019-20 Trade Deadline. But even if the middle of this season marks the end of the road, his rise has been a pleasure for New York to watch.
C: Derek Stepan
Admittedly, the center position may be the toughest choice to pick one player from. Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard both brought good production during their times in New York. Brad Richards had a few clutch seasons, most notably 2011-12. Zibanejad is a face of both present and future. But ultimately, Stepan takes this spot.
The Rangers selected Stepan 51st overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, and after two seasons at Wisconsin, he debuted at the start of 2010-11. And he made an impact quickly, becoming the first rookie in Rangers history to score a hat trick in his first NHL game. He finished the season with 44 points, good for fourth on the team.
Stepan continued to enjoy success during his stay in New York, consistently finishing in the top four in points each season. Most notably, he led the team in assists (26) and points (44) in 2012-13, a season where he also finished tied for first in the league in short-handed points with four. He led the Blueshirts in assists again the next season with 40, helping him finish with 57 points, second on the team. He finished top-three in assists over his last three seasons with the team.
Ultimately, Stepan totaled 360 points between the 2009-10 and 2018-19 seasons — the most of all players on the team in that time. He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in June 2017, but he was, no doubt, someone to rely on to get points.
RW: Mats Zuccarello
Mats Zuccarello’s time in New York is no more thanks to the Rangers’ rebuild, as he was moved at the 2019 Trade Deadline. But that doesn’t take away how integral he was to the team’s offensive efforts throughout the 2010s.
After playing several seasons for his native Norway, Zuccarello originally signed with the Rangers before the 2010-11 season, splitting his first two between the AHL and NHL and playing in the Kontinental Hockey League during the 2012-13 NHL lockout.
Upon joining the NHL club full time in 2013-14, Zuccarello began to produce in ways that consistently helped his team either thrive or shed some positivity during disappointing times. Over his five full seasons in New York, Zuccarello finished four leading the team in points and three leading the team in assists. In addition, his first four seasons saw him finish with a positive figure in the plus/minus category — three times in a double-digit positive. “Zucc” finished with 352 points in New York, second behind Stepan of all Rangers between 2009-10 and 2018-19.
There’s a reason fans consistently cried out “Zuuuuuccc!” during his Blueshirts tenure and recently gave him a standing ovation upon the Minnesota Wild’s visit to MSG — a night detailed by the Minnesota Star Tribune and simply described by Zuccarello as “emotional” (from ‘Rangers, fans salute the Wild’s Mats Zuccarello in emotional return to Madison Square Garden’, Minnesota Star Tribune – 11/25/19).
His production and efforts helped keep the team in battles and motivated them to always bring their “A” game.
D: Dan Girardi
During a game at Madison Square Garden in late October, the Rangers and opposing Tampa Bay Lightning took time out to honor a memorable player that played for both teams before announcing retirement earlier this year — Dan Girardi.
While he went undrafted, Girardi didn’t give up on his NHL dreams and eventually signed with the New York Rangers before the 2005-06 season, making his NHL debut in late January 2007.
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Girardi was a consistent presence on the ice, finishing first or second in time on ice (TOI) and time on ice per game (TOI/GP) each time between 2009-10 and 2014-15. He was never known to be a scoring defenseman all the time, but he was known for his physicality. He finished each season in that same time frame top-three in hits, plus he led the team in blocked shots for each season during this span, as well as his final New York season in 2015-16. In fact, Girardi currently sits second all-time in NHL career blocked shots and 18th all-time for hits.
Girardi’s play over his last couple of seasons dwindled and his contract was bought out. While this was a disappointing ending to his time on Broadway, Girardi’s physical play will forever be linked to the Rangers teams of the 2010s.
D: Ryan McDonagh
During the 2010s, Ryan McDonagh was named team MVP twice for his leadership and performance on and off the ice. It was his hard play that led him to be named the 27th captain in New York Rangers history right before the start of 2014-15.
McDonagh was originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, but he ended up playing three seasons at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his rights were traded to the Rangers in 2009. McDonagh split 2010-11 between the AHL and NHL before playing all 82 games with the Rangers the next season.
McDonagh did everything to prevent goals against his team, as, just like his defensive teammate in Girardi, he was top-three in blocked shots for each of his full seasons in New York. In 2013-14, he finished fourth on the team in assists (29) and fifth in points (43). In addition, he was first in assists and second in points among all of the 2013-14 postseason-participating defensemen. He also finished fifth in assists in 2015-16 and third in 2016-17.
McDonagh was ultimately traded to Tampa Bay after the Rangers announced intentions to rebuild during Feb. 2018, but his performances and ability to step up made most to consider him worthy of wearing the “C” when he did.
C Derick Brassard: Brassard was dealt to the Rangers at the 2013 Trade Deadline. During his three full seasons in New York, he had at least 45 points in each, which includes finishing second in points in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
LW Rick Nash: Rick Nash’s debut season with the Rangers (2012-13) saw him finish second on the team in points, but it paled in comparison to his 2014-15, where he led the team in goals (42) and points (69).
RW Marian Gaborik: Signing with the Rangers prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, Marian Gaborik led the team in points for two of his three full seasons in New York — even if he didn’t fit in with then-head coach John Tortorella’s style.
D Marc Staal: Per ESPN, Marc Staal has played more games as a Ranger than anyone else this decade. He finished 2009-10 second in hits (178). Last season marked his first since 2012-13 where he finished lower than fourth on the team in blocked shots.
The Rangers came close to winning a Stanley Cup more than once this decade, but ultimately never did. And maybe that pain, as described by Lundqvist to the New York Post before the team’s recent outing in Los Angeles, won’t go away (from ‘Kings game conjures painful Stanley Cup memories for Henrik Lundqvist’, New York Post – 12/11/19).
But the Broadway Blueshirts had plenty of stars and highlights to celebrate from the 2010s as the decade comes to an end. Here’s to hoping just as much, if not more, can come from the current and future crop of New York stars.
My name is Tom Albano and I cover the New York Rangers. I covered the team back in the 2015-16 season for a blog called Black and Blueshirts before the site network closed down. In addition, I’m a combat sports (i.e. MMA, boxing, etc) contributor for FIGHT SPORTS and host a weekly sports talk podcast called The Unspoken Podcast.