The fourth and final installment of the players that drove us to tears and gave us night terrors all done by the numbers.
It was a little disappointing to have to do numbers 31-99 all in one installment but most players don't wear higher numbers so this list is going to be a little peculiar compared to the first three installments. Before we jump into the list I want to encourage you guys to help me out with this one as much as you can because this list is filled with names that I am second-guessing myself about and I have a suspicion that I have missed some disappointing Rangers that shouldn't escape our scorn and scrutiny. I am hoping this list is a catalyst for plenty of discussion, especially when names like Lindros and Brendl are on it.
One final note: I am sure I speak for everyone in our community when I express my concern for everyone affected by Sandy and its aftermath. I sincerely hope that those of you that were impacted are on the slow but steady road to rebuilding and recovery and soon have a little more comfort and a little less chaos in your lives. Without further delay lets jump into the players who were disappointments as Rangers, sometimes through no fault of their own.
31 - Dan Blackburn (Goaltender, 2001-2005)
With the 10th overall pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft the New York Rangers selected Dan Blackburn and in 2005, at the age of 21, Dan Blackburn was forced to retire from the NHL due to permanent nerve damage in his shoulder. Blackburn was supposed to be the next great Ranger goaltender after Mike Richter but he found himself handling almost half of the Rangers goaltending work due to Richter suffering serious injuries in back-to-back years (including the concussion that would end Richter's career). Before the Rangers acquired Mike Dunham from the Nashville Predators, the team was leaning on a 19-year-old Blackburn who played 19 consecutive games during the 2002-2003 season. Prior to the 2003-2004 season Blackburn sustained a nerve injury to his left shoulder just before training camp that would eventually end his career. Blackburn attempted to reinvent himself and his game and come back into the league with two blockers but he simply couldn't play up to the level that he was used to and he was forced to retire prematurely or walk away from an insurance payout of approximately 6 million dollars. Blackburn announced his retirement and enrolled at Arizona State University, his hockey career over before it even really got started. Just like putting Bure on this list, it pains me to put Blackburn on this list because it is through no fault of his own that he was a disappointment. Injuries can happen to anyone at anytime, no matter where you were drafted, how old you are, what you were signed for, or what you cost the team in a trade. Dan Blackburn's situation is a disappointment because of what could have been. The silver lining of the Blackburn injury is that it gave Henrik Lundqvist a chance to emerge as a superstar and Hank's play has been instrumental in the post-lockout rebirth of the New York Rangers.
32 - Sergio Momesso (Left Wing, 1996)
Sergio Momesso became a Ranger on February 29th, 1996 when the Rangers dealt Wayne Presley to Toronto for the player that many Ranger fans lost their voices cursing at during the 1994 NHL Playoffs. Momesso's time with the Rangers was absolutely forgettable, almost always a healthy scratch, Momesso scored 4 goals and 4 assists in 28 games with the Rangers. Momesso was brought to the Rangers to add some size to the lineup, something that Neil thought the team needed for the playoffs, even though he was playing miserable hockey in Toronto. In 11 playoff games in 1996 Momesso scored 3 goals and 1 assist and he was traded to the Blues after just playing 9 games the next season for Brian Noonan when Smith realized the club had a glut of left wingers. In Toronto, New York, and St. Louis Momesso looked nothing like the player he had been in Vancouver. He makes my list because, even as a Ranger, whenever I heard his name all I could think of was the Canucks intimidating pest from the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals and how he never came close to being that player for the Rangers.
37 - Mikael Samuelsson (Right Wing, 2001-2003)
It is not easy to be connected to a Rangers legend like Adam Graves, especially when you were the guy the team got when they dealt away Gravey, and that is more or less why Mikael Samuelsson is on this list. The Rangers dealt away Adam Graves to the San Jose Sharks on June 24, 2001 and got Mikael Samuelsson and Christian Gosselin in return. Mikael Samuelsson had just come off of a season where he scored 78 points in 66 games in the AHL and was supposed to be one of the young players that helped turn things around for the Rangers. In two seasons with New York Samuelsson scored 14 goals and 24 assists in 125 games before being traded to the Penguins in part of the package that brought Alex Kovalev and some other garbage to Broadway. Samuelsson has gone on to have a respectable NHL career, scoring 30 goals with the Canucks in 2009-2010 and winning the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008. Samuelsson makes the list because he never found his game as a Ranger despite being given the opportunity to make an impact at the NHL level after being dominant in the AHL.
Dishonorable Mention: Dan Lacroix
38 - Jarkko Immonen (Center, 2004-present?)
Technically the Rangers still control Immonen's rights so he is still a Ranger... kinda. Jarkko is currently playing in the KHL for Ak Bars Kazan and has had a very good career in Europe. On March 3, 2004 Immonen became a Ranger, along with Maxim Kondratiev, a 2004 first rounder (which became Lauri Korpikoski), and a 2005 second rounder (Michael Sauer) in exchange for Brian Leetch and a conditional draft pick. Immonen was outstanding in the AHL after coming over to the Rangers organization, scoring 70 points in 74 games and scoring 2 goals in the 6 games he played for the big club during the 2005-2006 season. The next season Immonen played 14 games with the Rangers, scoring 1 goal and 5 assists to go along with the 46 points he scored in 54 games in Hartford that year. At the end of the 2006-2007 season the Rangers didn't re-sign Immonen and he left to play in the Finnish league and then eventually the KHL. The biggest criticism of Immonen was that he was simply too slow for the NHL despite his great talent and vision. It is hard to see Immonen and his situation as anything but a disappointment when he showed so much promise in the AHL and overseas and how he was supposed to be the key piece that came over in the Brian Leetch trade, a trade that still stings for a lot of Ranger fans to do this day. That the Rangers couldn't find a way to develop and utilize Immonen and get him to become a big part of the post-lockout turnaround for the club was an organizational failure. Immonen remains one of the biggest "what ifs" and mysteries of recent Rangers history and for that he makes my list.
44 - Billy Tibbetts (Right Wing, 2002-2003)
Tibbetts was a player that was given too many second chances and Glen Sather was one of the people that gave Tibbetts a second chance. Tibbetts' off-the-ice troubles are beyond troubling and I won't bother to go into them. He makes my list because I was disappointed that the Rangers gave him a chance to pull on their historic sweater despite his conduct off the ice. Tibbetts played 11 games as a Ranger, registering 0 points and 12 PIM and wasn't brought back for a second year. Four years after his time with the Rangers Tibbetts led police in two high-speed chases in 2007. Tibbetts might be a controversial name to put on this list, and he makes the list for very different reasons than the other guys who are on here, but I still consider the fact that he was a Ranger a disappointment.
53 - Derek Morris (Defense, 2009)
On deadline day in 2009 Derek Morris was traded to the Rangers from the Coyotes in exchange for Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, and Dmitri Kalinin. Derek Morris is a prototypical example of a "rental" player that simply didn't make enough of a difference to justify the Rangers making the deal to bring him to New York. Morris scored 8 assists (4 of them on the PP) in 18 games with the Rangers to close out the regular season and had an underwhelming 2 assists in 7 games in the playoffs. Although all the players that went over to the Coyotes all ended up playing in the KHL by last season, the trade that brought Morris over to the Rangers didn't make the team stronger and at the time it seemed like the Rangers gave up a lot for what turned out to be very little. Morris was given bottom-pairing ice time during the playoffs and simply wasn't the solution to the Rangers powerplay woes.
55 - Pavel Brendl (Right Wing, drafted 1999)
Pavel Brendl was the 4th overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, behind Patrik Stefan and the Sedin Twins, and he never played a single game as a New York Ranger. The Rangers gave up a hell of a lot to move up in the draft and land Brendl, just how much did they give up you ask? On June 26th 1999 the Rangers traded Dan Cloutier, Niklas Sundstrom, 2000 first round pick (Nikita Alexeev), and 2000 third-round pick for the 4th round pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. To put that in perspective the Rangers traded three first-round picks (Cloutier and Sundstrum were first rounders) and a third round pick for Pavel Brendl... quite the investment. The Rangers were right to be excited about Brendl. He scored 245 points, 132 of them goals, in 129 games in the WHL. Brendl rewarded the Rangers by showing up to camp the next season out of shape and unwilling to develop into a complete player. Unimpressed with his attitude and lack of production in camp the team returned Brendl to hisWHL team, the Calgary Hitmen, where he worked on becoming a complete player and not just an offensive dynamo. He would never get the chance to prove himself as a Ranger. Brendl, along with Kim Johnsson, Jan Hlavac, and a 2003 third-round pick, was traded to the Flyers for Eric Lindros on August 20th, 2001. Brendl played just 78 games over 5 seasons in the NHL after the trade and eventually left to play hockey in Europe, he currently plays in the Swiss National League. Although many people will point to Patrik Stefan as the biggest bust of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Brendl is a name that should always be part of that discussion and is certainly in the discussion for the most disappointing draft pick the Rangers have made in the last 20 years or so.
81 - Enver Lisin (Right Wing, 2009-2010)
Enver Lisin played just 57 games with the Rangers and scored 6 goals and 8 assists in that time. Lisin became a Ranger on July 13th, 2009 when he was traded to New York in exchange for Lauri Korpikoski. Korpikoski has gone on to find mild success in Phoenix as a role player while Lisin was a scratch in 15 of the last 18 games he was on the Rangers roster. Lisin, a speedy skater with offensive upside, was the kind of player that the club needed more of. However, coach Tortorella was not comfortable with Lisin's two-way game and never found a way to bring out the best in Lisin. After the Rangers didn't offer him a qualifying offer, Lisin become a free agent and left to play in the KHL for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Lisin makes my list because the Rangers failed to get the most out of him and it cost the team a former first-round pick that has gone on to find success in the league as a third line player.
Dishonorable Mention: Marcel Hossa
86 - Wojtek Wolski (Left Wing, 2011-2012)
On January 10, 2011 the Rangers dealt veteran blueliner Michal Rozsival to the ‘Yotes for Wojtek Wolski. Wolski found himself on his third team in two seasons and despite the high hopes that he might gel nicely with some of the skilled players on the team, including Richards and Gaborik, Wolski often found himself playing on the third line or out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. After suffering a groin injury and listening to Torts complaining about how much time he spent in the bath Wolski briefly played in Connecticut for conditioning. However, it became clear that there was no room for Wolski or his style of play on Torts' team and the Rangers dealt Wolski on February 25, 2012 to the Florida Panthers for Michael Verance and a third round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. After playing 22 games with the Panthers and scoring 9 points Wolski was left out of the lineup during the Panthers playoff push by Florida coach Kevin Dineen. This past offseason Wolski signed a one-year deal worth $600k with the Washington Capitals, making it his fifth team in a little over two years. Despite his obvious skill and creativity with the puck Wolski was a headache as a Ranger and never approached the 50 points he had during his rookie year with the Avalanche.
88 - Eric Lindros (Center, 2000-2004)
On August 20, 2001 the Rangers sent a conditional first round pick (conditions not met), Jan Hlavac, Kim Johnsson, Pavel Brendl, and a 2003 3rd round pick (Stefan Ruzicka) to the Flyers in exchange for Eric Lindros. Lindros, who played in New York for three years, had a meteoric fall after an exceptional first year on Broadway. In his first year with the Rangers Lindros missed 10 games but led the team with 37 goals and 73 points. Hopes were high that the Rangers might have actually made a big trade that was going to work out for the team, but like so many Ranger fans who watched Lindros play during those years I held my breath whenever he was hit or up against the boards. The next season Lindros missed just one game but saw his production drop dramatically, scoring just 53 points and bringing the Rangers no closer to making the playoffs. In his third year, which would prove to be his last as a Ranger, Lindros suffered what would be the 8th concussion of his career and played just 39 games in which he scored 32 points. After the lockout Lindros signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs and played just 33 games because of a serious wrist injury. Lindros makes my list because it was disappointing for the team to take such a big gamble on an injury-plagued star and give up as many assets as they did. Johnsson went on to have three straight 10 goal seasons on the Flyers blueline but the rest of the players that went to Philly could be considered garbage. As good as Lindros was in his first year with the Rangers, he still wasn't anything like the player he was in Philadelphia and like so many Rangers fans feared, he eventually suffered a major injury and the Rangers were left with a huge hole in their lineup for over half of a season. More than being disappointed in Lindros himself, I think I am disappointed in the organization for the Hail-Mary attempt at turning the team around that Lindros represented. Instead of committing to a youth movement, the club tried to desperately fix the situation by bringing in a star player who refused to play the year before because of a contract dispute with the Flyers. Lindros hardly cost the Rangers an arm and a leg but at the time it was a gigantic trade with way too many risks involved that eventually did nothing to turn the team's losing ways around.
91 - Evgeny Grachev (Center, 2008-2011)
With the 75th overall pick the Rangers selected big Russian forward Evgeny Grachev in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Rangers fans don't often get as excited about third-rounders the way they were excited about Grachev but all we heard early on is that we may have had the steal of the draft and that Grachev had top-six talent. Rangers pro scout Kevin Maxwell was one of many experts who was getting our hopes up:
"There's no question in my mind he's going to be a top-six NHL forward down the road... I think he's going to be in that 25 to 30 goal range and possibly 60 points."
However, after dominating in the OHL, Grachev scored just 28 points in 80 games for the Hartford Wolfpack in his first year in the AHL and followed that with 38 points in 73 games the year after. Grachev was called up to play in 8 games with the Rangers during the 2010-2011 season but was held scoreless. There was a lot of talk about big players (Grachev is 6'4") taking more time to develop than their diminutive peers but it was beginning to look like Grachev might not have had the top-six talent the Rangers were hoping that he might have. The Rangers traded Grachev on draft day to the Blues in exchange for the 72nd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft which the Rangers used to select Steven Fogarty. It is probably a bit unfair to put Grachev on this list when there are plenty of other players who were more frustrating and bigger busts, but he makes the list because it was so recent and because his development absolutely stalled when he left the OHL. Grachev went on to score 4 points in 26 games for the Blues last season and it looks like he has a good chance of making their lineup one day (he's still just 22).
And there you have it guys and gals. Think I missed somebody? Is there someone you think should have been mentioned even if their time in New York was brief? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments, thanks!