Rangers Set to Honor Ratelle As They Build For Future

The Rangers will honor Jean Ratelle by raising Number 19 to the iconic ceiling of Madison Square Garden this evening when they host the Detroit Red Wings.

Isn’t it ironic that the event will take place on a day where the Rangers and Boston have made a trade?

[Watch Jean Ratelle’s Jersey Retirement Ceremony Tonight at 6 PM on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free]

In November of 1975, Ratelle, Brad Park and Joe Zanussi were dealt to Beantown for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. While the depth of headline names moving in today’s deal that sent Rick Nash to the Bruins doesn’t match those who swapped residences back then, it’s a pretty significant deal from a Ranger perspective, orchestrated by Ranger General Manager Jeff Gorton.

The Blueshirt management-driven agenda was to get younger and upgrade the skill by moving assets for prospects and picks. The franchise needed to address the lack of depth, on both the blueline and down the middle. These are crucial areas of the ice when you are hoping to build a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. On these two fronts, defense and center, one should consider Gorton’s work so far, to be very well done.

As of today, the Blueshirts have six picks in the first three rounds of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, two of which will come in the first round. Moving forward, the 2017 first round selections, Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil will begin the remake in the very important center ice position. Ryan Spooner, acquired in the Nash deal, is a skilled 26-year-old whose NHL-tested game will provide some immediate help down the middle. He should be expected to be in the lineup next week, if not tonight, when the Rangers head to Western Canada.

In the deals involving Nash, Micheal Grabner and Nick Holden, a young defenseman was acquired in each. While there is not likely a blue chipper in Rob O’Gara, Ryan Lindgren or Yegor Rikov, all three have good size and mobility. Attributes well suited to today’s NHL. Gorton and his staff have done exactly what they said they were going to do and for that they are to be commended. Time will tell how it all plays out but this is an encouraging start.

It will be a night for sentiment, as Ratelle will be joined by many of his Ranger mates from his era for this long-awaited, much-deserved number-raising ceremony. Vic Hadfield, Rod Gilbert, Brad Park, Eddie Giacomin, and the guy who put this talented group together, Emile Francis, will be among the many expected to be present and participate.

They came close in 1972, losing to Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals. Many believe had Jean been healthy, having suffered a broken ankle in March of ‘72, the Ranger quest for a championship may have ended well before 1994. Ratelle, whose humble demeanor belied an intensely competitive on-ice game, was the professional beacon for this talented, fun-loving group.

[Fischler: Jean Ratelle, Le Magnifique]

I had the honor of playing both with and against Jean Ratelle and will attest to the accolades that will be bestowed upon him this evening. Congrats to a truly great Ranger, Jean Ratelle.

[Watch Jean Ratelle’s Jersey Retirement Ceremony Tonight at 6 PM on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free]