It's hard to believe it was 14-years-old today when Mark Messier left New York for Vancouver on July 27, 1997. As Rick Carpiniello at Rangers Report points out, the organization is still recovering from Messier's departure and inability to secure another top-line center until maybe Brad Richards.
"Now, you can argue that if they’d booted Messier and been successful in their offer sheet to Joe Sakic, history might have been different. The truth, though, is that Sakic didn’t materialize, and with Messier—who was still their best forward by a lot—gone to Vancouver, here came the disaster that is getting better, finally, just now.
"I mean, these Rangers are headed in the right direction now, but it’s been 14 years of a grand total of seven playoff series: Two of those first-round wins, three of them first-round losses, two of them second-round losses. A total of 15 playoff games won in 14 years."
Carp points out the Rangers were clearly on the decline, and opted to sign players like Wayne Gretzky and Pat LaFontaine three years after the 1994 Stanley Cup, rather than looking to start over with younger players. That trend continued until the lock-out before Glen Sather and company got their acts together and began building a strong team through the draft an adding pieces the team needed through free agency, rather than stockpiling over-the-hill has-beens to lucrative contracts.
On a personal note, I can remember being at a friend's house when I heard the news my favorite player had left the team. It was two weeks before my ninth birthday, and I remember breaking down to tears. Messier was everything to me. He influenced the way I skated, the way I shot and the way I played the game. In my eyes, he's always been, and always will be, the greatest player to ever play the game.