The New York Rangers next “Core Four”?

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Former New York Rangers Mike Richter, Mark Messier, Adam Graves and Brian Leetch meet with the media (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Over a quarter century ago the New York Rangers relied on “The Core Four of ’94” to end a torturous Stanley Cup championship drought. The Blueshirts are hoping a new quartet can do the same and help bring hockey’s Holy Grail back to Broadway.

The 8×10 photo hangs downstairs in my man cave, serving as a pleasant reminder of “The Guarantee”, “The Save” and feats by the greatest power forward and best defenseman in New York Rangers’ history.

“The Core Four of ’94” (as most of you know) was Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Adam Graves and Brian Leetch. Without their contributions in the 1994 playoffs, the Rangers would not have halted their Stanley Cup championship drought at 54 years.

The Rangers Core Four Of 94 https://t.co/TVli2XmS75 pic.twitter.com/On0wJKo2HZ

The memories will indeed “last a lifetime” for many, especially those fortunate enough to have witnessed that postseason. But over time, even the very best of memories like that night of June 14, 1994, can begin to blur.

The Rangers are hopeful the quartet of Mika Zibanejad, Igor Shesterkin, Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox can create fresh championship memories.

Of course it’s premature to cast any of them as franchise saviors, much less “The Next Core Four”, but the track records of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton bode well for the Rangers’ chances of winning it all sooner than later.

Led by the “veteran” Zibanejad, “The Next Core Four” has a fairly strong supporting cast including Chris Kreider, Jacob TroubaTony DeAngelo, Ryan Lindgren, Jesper Fast (for now, at least) and Artemi Panarin.

“The Bread Man” was among the NHL’s leaders in assists (63, tied for 2nd) and in points (95, tied for 3rd) before the league paused play on March. 12. At the time, the Rangers were in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a respectable 37-28-5 record and 79 points. Better still, they sat just two points out of a playoff spot with 12 matches to play.

 

new york rangers

Artemi Panarin #10 and Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Few expected the Rangers to be as good this season, even with Panarin having signed as a free agent last July. Many claimed the Blueshirts were too inexperienced given their average age of 26.2 (the lowest in the NHL tied with Columbus) to challenge for a postseason spot, adding that a record in the vicinity of .500 would be an achievement.

So much for the experts.

Thanks to the next  “Core Four” the Rangers are legitimate playoff contenders now.

With a little luck, continued development and some shrewd roster tinkering, it’s not unrealistic to believe that within the next five years the Blueshirts not only will make the Finals, but win their fifth Stanley Cup in their storied history.

We’ll take a closer look at the next “Core Four”, but we would be remiss not to revisit “The Core Four of ’94”.

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