After reflecting on some of the more random Rangers’ tenures prior to the Blueshirts’ run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, today’s trip down memory lane will feature players of the not-so-distant past. The more recently somebody skated on Broadway, the easier it is to remember their time here. However, that hasn’t absolved Jeff Gorton, Glen Sather and company of bringing aboard some players that’ll make you go “oh yeah, he played for the Rangers back in the day.”
November 3rd, 2014: What Even Is Defense, Anyway?
As strong as the 2014-15 team was, injuries and inconsistent play led to them losing 14 of their first 25 games before only losing 15 of their final 57. One of that former group of games came at home against Vladimir Tarasenko and the St. Louis Blues. The defenseman David Quinn has had to work with since arriving on Broadway have been sub-par at best, but the group of six Alain Vigneault was forced to ice against the Blues in this particular game was the stuff of nightmares.
Splashy free agent signing Dan Boyle had broken his hand on opening night, ironically in St. Louis against the Blues, so he was out of the picture. John Moore decided to throw a flying elbow towards Erik Haula of the Minnesota Wild two games prior, and the league handed him a five game suspension as a result, which put the team’s 3rd pair completely out of commission.
Kevin Klein had taken a shot to the skate two nights prior against the Winnipeg Jets, and Ryan McDonagh was on the wrong end of a hit from Evander Kane during the same game, Two thirds of the team’s everyday defenseman were unavailable against the Blues, which resulted in regular spare rearguard Matt Hunwick being joined by Mike Kostka on the team’s middle pairing, with call-ups Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath rounding out the defense corps. Here’s how a visual illustration of how that worked out for New York:
Tanner Glass aimlessly puck watched, Rick Nash gave a half-hearted wave, Kostka tripped over the blue line, and McIlrath got absolutely walked for a goal of the year candidate in what would be his only NHL game that season. Kevin Klein returned to the Rangers’ lineup the following game to replace McIlrath. Moore and Boyle followed quickly behind him, and Allen and Kostka were mercifully returned to Hartford.
Penalty Killing Problems Procure Veteran “Penalty Killers”
For all of Carl Hagelin’s well-document issues on the power play, he was one of the key cogs on New York’s penalty killing units since arriving in the NHL. Packaging him with multiple draft picks for what turned out to be Ryan Gropp and Emerson Etem (who’s scoreless 19 game stint would earn him a spot on the list if not for the infamous trade that brought him here) blew a hole in those units, so Jeff Gorton’s first offseason as general manager needed to result in a solution to that problem.
Gorton’s first attempt at solving that problem was luring Jarrett Stoll to Broadway. After consecutive seasons of declining play, as well as an offseason arrest for having cocaine and ecstasy on his person, teams weren’t exactly lining up to land the two-time Stanley Cup champion. Nevertheless, Gorton decided a take a flyer on Stoll in a low risk, low reward move. After 29 games in New York, a non-impact on the penalty kill, and a pitiful 1-2-3 stat line, Stoll was waived and claimed by the Minnesota Wild.
There’s been 3rd grade science fairs with more successful experiments than the “Jarret Stoll on Broadway” project, so one would think that Jeff Gorton would opt to find a different solution to the team’s penalty killing woes. That’s where you’d be wrong, and that’s where we’ll discuss one of my personal favorite signings of the decade.
Enter Daniel Paille. As a 2011 Stanley Cup Champion with the Boston Bruins, and a former member of the famed “Merlot Line” on those 2011 Bruins, Paille’s hockey career had seen better days. After Boston chose not to re-sign him after the 2014-15 campaign, Paille attended training camp with the Chicago Blackhawks the following fall. Although he didn’t make Chicago’s roster, Paille managed to latch on with their AHL affiliate in Rockford.
Paille skated in 31 games for Rockford, as he found the back of the net once and tacked on three assists before being signing a deal with the Rangers. I repeat, Paille had one (1) goal and three (3) assists in 31 AHL Games that season before New York’s pro scouts decided “yeah, this guy definitely has something left in the tank to help us in the NHL.”
After signing with New York and being assigned #12, Paille went pointless in 12 of the most nondescript games in franchise history before being demoted to Hartford in favor of Marek Hrivik. The Czech-born forward filled in for four games before Eric Staal’s arrival on Broadway, and the rest is history.
Putting the Odd in Odds and Ends
For as well as the 2014-15 season ended up, it had its fair share of questionable players on the roster in the early goings of training camp and pre-season. Ryan Malone earned a contract and bizarrely pushed for top unit power play time in October. Chris Mueller was summoned to New York for seven games after the “Marty in the Middle” experiment crashed and burned before Derek Stepan returned from a broken fibula.
Early season shenanigans weren’t exclusive to the team’s Presidents’ Trophy winning campaign either. Jayson Megna was riding buses around New England before getting called up to ride shotgun with Rick Nash for six games as the calendar turned to 2016. As Josh Jooris left Broadway for Arizona via waivers, Matt Puempel arrived from Ottawa the same way. Compared to the rest of his short term New York peers, Puempel actually had a modicum of success during his 27 game tenure in Rangerstown.
Even with Puempel’s departure in October 2017, Alain Vigneault’s final season behind the Blueshirts’ bench featured a handful of obscure tenures as the decade drew to a close. Adam Cracknell arrived in New York on a recommendation from Lindy Ruff, as the two spent the 2016-17 season together in Dallas. Ruff’s recommendation was worthy of a four game tryout, as Cracknell lasted four games before being placed on waivers, demoted to Hartford, and eventually traded for Peter Holland.
Following “The Letter” and New York’s first major sell off of their rebuild, the Rangers spent the final six weeks of Vigneault’s going through the motions, and their roster reflected that. Seeing the likes of Ryan Sproul, Rob O’Gara, and Steven Kampfer patrol the Blueshirts’ blue line was a sight to behold.
The only positive from that season came in the form of Alexandar Georgiev’s rise to prominence, and his rise coincided with the conclusion of Ondrej Pavelec’s career after nineteen starts on Broadway. Pavelec joined Matt Zaba and Alex Auld as short term Rangers’ netminders to wear #31, so hopefully Igor Shesterkin can find some more success than his predecessors did.
As the 2020’s get underway, there could be players currently on Broadway that will find themselves on this list ten years from now. When that time comes, perhaps some of those players will also find their names on the Stanley Cup as members of a championship Rangers’ team.