Scapegoated Rangers of the 21st Century

New York can be a fickle place to play. If a player strikes the right chord, he’ll have the fans forever on his side. But if one comes off the wrong way, look out.

Sometimes, there are just players who no matter what they do, they will never, ever earn the respect – nay – civility that they deserve from the fans.

With the emergence of an inexplicable, (borderline) visceral dislike of Tanner Glass having surfaced this season amongst all too many Ranger fans, it feels only fitting to look back at certain Rangers over the last 15 years who have been in similar shoes to the ones Glass currently finds himself in, which, like it or not, are those of a scapegoat.

The fact of the matter is this; the Rangers would probably be in the same exact situation they are in today, whether or not Glass had been in the lineup. They won games with him on the ice, and they’ve won games with him scratched. And guess what, they’ve also lost in those instances too.

To attribute a team’s woes or success to a single fourth line left-winger in a team game such as hockey is just naïve, plain and simple.

So, without further ado, here are five other scapegoated Rangers of the 21st century.

#5) Brad Richards

As far as scapegoated Rangers go, we’ll put Brad Richards at number five. While his tenure in New York was brief and somewhat tumultuous, he still had his fair share of highlights – tying game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semi-finals against Washington with 6.6 seconds to go, and scoring the game winner in game seven against the Penguins in the second round of the 2014 playoffs.

However, it was the turbulence over that time which overshadowed Richards, and eventually turned the fans against him. Following his debut season on Broadway, the play of Richards rapidly started to decline. He was noticeably slower, and his point production started to slip.

Rock bottom for the centerman came when then-coach of the Rangers John Tortorella had him as a healthy scratch for game five of the 2013 Eastern Conference Semi-finals against the Bruins. Richards’ play had deteriorated so much that Torts saw it in the team’s best interest to have Richards watch from the press box.

While the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner rebounded in a small way in 2013-14, it wasn’t enough to win over the Rangers. The damage had been done, and it was almost unanimously agreed upon among those following the team that it was time to buyout Richards.

#4) Michael Del Zotto

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, I do not believe Michael Del Zotto was given a fair shot in New York. That does not mean I think they should have kept him and not traded for Klein; that trade was brilliant and has worked out swimmingly for the Rangers, but I do think in five years, MDZ’s struggles will be long behind him, and he’ll find success somewhere as an established NHL defenseman.

That said, by the time his tenure ended in New York, Rangers fans were not just happy to see him go, they were thrilled.

Del Zotto had a very strong freshman campaign in which he posted nine goals and 37 points. He seemed to be well on his way to a long and prosperous stay on Broadway, and after a bit of a sophomore slump in 2010-11, Del Zotto rebounded in a big way with a stand-out third season when he netted 10 goals, and finished the year with 41 points. He even scored the game winning goal in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals against Washington in that season’s playoffs. Things were going well for Del Zotto, and yet he still struggled to win the hearts of the fans.

Following the lockout shortened season in 2013, and early season struggles in 2013-14, the fans somehow had fully turned on him.

It was baffling to me that a guy who had two successful seasons (by most standards) under his belt, and was still just 23-years-old was turned on so quickly, but he was, and sure enough was traded not long thereafter.

Why he fell victim to so much blame and criticism I’ll never understand. Heck, he was the last Ranger defenseman to score 40-plus points before McDonagh did it last season.

Just thinking about it makes me shake my head…

#3) Michal Roszival

Ahh, yes. Michal Roszival. Once a top-four defender for the Rangers who was consistently booed at the Garden, now a Stanley Cup champion still playing in Chicago.

Roszival was a pretty good blue liner for New York. Was he flashy? No. But he did his job, and even scored one of the most exciting playoff overtime goals Ranger fans had seen in the early years following the ’04-’05 lockout against Buffalo.

Still, fans never quite warmed up to him, and when he started to struggle in 2011 with continuous injuries after signing a long-term deal, the hounding from the Garden faithful worsened.

Finally, Roszival was traded to the Coyote’s in exchange for Wojtek Wolski. Roszival finished his time with the Rangers having scored 42 goals in almost four-and-a-half seasons in New York.

Ranger fans may not have wanted him on Broadway any longer, but as far as I’m concerned, good on Roszy for getting back on track. He’s certainly made a nice career for himself.

Honorable Mention:

Scott Gomez will get the honors here.

There’s no doubt that the amount of money that was shelled out to bring Scott Gomez to New York was just plain silly. He never performed to the level he was expected to, and in turn he was most certainly a scapegoat for the team’s lack of true success during the Gomez/Drury era. However, there is one very important reason I’ve decided to not give him one of the five spots on this list, and that is because he is what wound bringing Ryan McDonagh to the New York Rangers.

And for that my friends, Gomez should be thanked, not blamed.

#2) Tom Poti

Tom Poti got the short end of the stick in New York. After the Rangers traded away Mike York in exchange for an up and coming Tom Poti, the expectations were sky-high, and comparisons to Brian Leetch were quickly made. That in and of itself was just not fair.

Beyond that, the supporting cast (pre-2004 lockout) was pretty bad, and following his first full season on Broadway when he posted 11 goals and 48 points, his production dropped off and followed the trend of the rest of the team.

Combine that declining offensive production from an offensively minded defenseman, with the lingering frustration amongst fans at the fact that a homegrown Mike York was traded away to Edmonton, and you had some very disgruntled fans who directed their emotions at Poti.

By the time he left the Rangers in 2006, he was heavily disliked among Ranger fans, something that many fans remember well.

#1) Marek Malik

Seriously, how could we talk scapegoated Rangers without having Marek Malik atop the list. This man was absolutely hated at the Garden, and I never could make sense of it.

Now I’ll admit, Malik was not the greatest skater to this planet had ever seen, but he also didn’t skate like his feet were made of lead, as the Garden crowd would have had you thinking.

The funny thing was, Malik was only a Ranger for two-and-a-half seasons, and by the time he left, he had amassed 49 points, and was a plus-67 rating.

And yet he was booed every time he touched the puck; made total sense…

His one saving grace, though? “The Shootout.” At least he had this, for which he will always be remembered:

It’s funny how some mediocre players can be beloved by fans, and some others who are pretty decent can seemingly do all the right things, and still get treated like cow manure. It’s sad, really.

In past years in New York it was some of the guys above. This year, Tanner Glass has been the “lucky” one to take the heat and be the scapegoat at the expense of the fans.

I just hope he eventually gets his “Malik moment” in the sun.