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Henrik Lundqvist helped back stop the Rangers to one of their best seasons ever

New York Rangers: All-Time Historical Performance Overview
Posted by Toby Ivey ≡ 7:34:20 AM - April 11, 2012

Submitted by: ThirtyFive

The 2011-12 New York Rangers regular season was the franchise’s 85th. It would have been the 86th, had the NHL not lost a full season due to a lockout which cancelled all the games of the 2004-05 season. So, despite the fact that the Rangers celebrated their 85th anniversary since the franchise’s establishment in 1926 last season, this is a good time to take a look back at all those years, and see where the franchise came from, where it stands now, and how it got here.But this isn’t a historical overview, not in the traditional sense. This is not about how the team was formed, who were the players and coaches, and things like that. Sport is about a lot of things, but one of the most important aspects of sport is statistics. Numbers are very significant to any sport. With that in mind I decided to take a look back at the 85 New York Rangers seasons from a statistical point of view, trying to weigh how the team performed over periods of time. It may surprise some that this past season was almost the best the Rangers have ever had.

Please note I use winning percentages as actual percentages, not sports winning percentages. That’s just my own pet peeve I hope we can overcome. It’s more precise that way, anyway.

The 2011-12 New York Rangers regular season was the franchise’s 85th. It would have been the 86th, had the NHL not lost a full season due to a lockout which cancelled all the games of the 2004-05 season. So, despite the fact that the Rangers celebrated their 85th anniversary since the franchise’s establishment in 1926 last season, this is a good time to take a look back at all those years, and see where the franchise came from, where it stands now, and how it got here.

But this isn’t a historical overview, not in the traditional sense. This is not about how the team was formed, who were the players and coaches, and things like that. Sport is about a lot of things, but one of the most important aspects of sport is statistics. Numbers are very significant to any sport. With that in mind I decided to take a look back at the 85 New York Rangers seasons from a statistical point of view, trying to weigh how the team performed over periods of time. It may surprise some that this past season was almost the best the Rangers have ever had. 

Please note I use winning percentages as actual percentages, not sports winning percentages. That’s just my own pet peeve I hope we can overcome. It’s more precise that way, anyway.

There are lots of ways to look at the statistics of all the New York Rangers season. For starters, you can simply look at the greatest number of points in a season and be done with it, but that’s not really helpful. The number of games the Rangers have played in an NHL regular season has varied from 44 to 84, so a simple points total doesn’t tell us much from a statistical viewpoint. It seems obvious that the 112 points earned by the Rangers in their Stanley Cup-winning 1993-94 season would be their best, but that would be wrong. Statistically, in both the 1971-72 and the 1972-73 seasons, the Rangers earned 69.87 percent of all available points, picking up 109 points of available 156 in 78 games. When the Rangers earned 112 points in 1993-94, they played 84 games, and with 168 available points, their percentage was 66.67 percent. That is a sizeable difference of 3.2 percent.

Nor, surprisingly, was the seven-season stretch of failing to make the playoffs from 1997-98 to 2003-04, so painful for many fans and still rather fresh in their memories, the worst the Rangers have ever had. That dubious honor certainly goes to another seven-season stretch from 1942-43 to 1948-49 when the Rangers—although they made the 1948 playoffs—earned an average of just 34.38 percent of all available points. If this period is expanded to 13 seasons, from 1942-43 to 1954-55, the average of points earned is still just 38.13 percent. This was without a doubt the worst time to be a fan of the Rangers. In those 13 seasons the team made the playoffs only twice (1948 and 1950, bookended by five seasons of no playoffs), but did manage to make a surprising run at the Stanley Cup, losing in Game Seven of the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, during almost the entire Original Six era, from 1942-43 to 1965-66, the Rangers managed to earn only an average of 40.21 percent of all available points. By contrast, during that much-maligned seven-season stretch in the late 1990s and early 2000s the Rangers earned an average of 45.03 percent of all available points. Not much better, but better. Thus, overall, the Original Six era, so lauded and revered, was the worst time for the New York Rangers franchise. 

So which time period was the best? If we take another arbitrary seven-season stretch, that would be the seven seasons from 1967-68 to 1973-74. The Rangers earned an average of 63.80 percent of all available points (picking up 109 points in back to back seasons) and made the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals. Another would be the five-season stretch from 1937-38 to 1941-42 when the Rangers earned an average of 60.83 percent of all available points and won the 1940 Stanley Cup. But while the Rangers seemingly were posting great numbers in the early 1990s and winning the 1994 Stanley Cup, there really is no specific stretch to pick to match the numbers described above, because the team was so inconsistent. During the six-season stretch from 1991-92 to 1996-97, the Rangers alternated good seasons and mediocre. In 1991-92, 1993-94, and 1995-96 the Rangers earned an average of 63.61 percent of all available points, whereas in 1992-93, 1994-95, and 1996-97 the Rangers only earned an average of 49.47 percent of all available points. Thus, in all, from 1991-92 to 1996-97 the Rangers earned a total average of 56.54 percent of all available points, closely matching the average of points earned (56.34 percent) in the entire pre-Original Six era, from 1926-27 to 1941-42. And, perhaps surprisingly, these last seven seasons from 2005-06 to 2011-12 are very close to being the best the Rangers have ever played.

So, if I haven’t confused you enough with this introduction, let’s do this thing chronologically in order to get a better grasp on these numbers. This is a chart of all 85 New York Rangers seasons by percentage of points earned out of all available, otherwise known as winning percentage:

The Early Years: From 1926-27 to 1941-42

As I have already mentioned, the pre-Original Six era was one of the best periods for the New York Rangers. It certainly was the most successful in terms of Stanley Cup Finals appearances and wins. In fact, in those 16 seasons the Rangers made the Finals six times and twice in back to back seasons (1928, 1929, 1932, 1933, 1937, 1940), winning the Stanley Cup three times in 1928, 1933, and 1940. That’s an appearance percentage of 37.50 percent with a win percentage of 50.00 percent. As well, in these 16 seasons, the Rangers failed to make the playoffs only once, missing the 1936 postseason in their 10th season. Yet they made the 1937 Finals the next season.

Overall, the Rangers earned an average of 56.34 percent of all available points in this time period. During the first half of these 16 seasons, the Rangers had a 55.52 percent average winning percentage, while during the second half that percentage went up to 57.16 percent.

The Original Six Era: From 1942-43 to 1965-66
Although the Original Six era ended at the conclusion of the 1966-67 season, for our purposes we’re ending it a season early. This is because, when looking at that chart of the Rangers performance throughout the years, you can notice quite clearly the hills and valleys of the team playing well or poorly, and, more importantly, when the improvement or worsening began. The last season of the Original Six era, thus, goes to our next period, because, statistically speaking, that is when we can see the team starting to improve. While the team’s first 16 seasons were very good, the beginning of the Original Six era with the 1942-43 season signaled the worst stretch for the New York Rangers.

During the following 24 seasons, the Rangers managed to only earn an average of 40.21 percent of all available points. The first third of these 24 seasons was the worst at just an average of 36.07 percent points earned. The Rangers started these first eight seasons by missing the playoffs five seasons in a row from 1942-43 to 1946-47. In fact, during the first two seasons, 1942-43 and 1943-44, the Rangers earned a combined percentage of 47.00 percent of possible points earned (30.00 percent the first season, 17.00 percent the next). They made the playoffs twice in the last three seasons of this stretch. Ironically, amid all this grim reality of the worst stretch in franchise history, the Rangers surprisingly managed to make it to the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals, losing in double overtime in Game Seven.

The second third of this time period, the next eight seasons from 1950-51 to 1957-56, were somewhat better, with the Rangers earning an average of 45.27 percent of all available points, but they started it off the same, failing to make the playoffs five seasons in a row from 1950-51 to 1954-55, making it to the post-season the next three seasons.

The last third of the Original Six era (sans one last season) saw the Rangers dip again under the 40-percent mark, earning an average of 39.29 percent of all available points in eight seasons from 1958-59 to 1965-66, making the playoffs just once in 1962.

Interestingly enough, this period is one that is the most successful for the New York Rangers franchise, at least as far as the regular-season statistics. Although this stretch of 18 seasons saw the Rangers only make the Stanley Cup Finals twice, in 1972 and 1979, this was also the period when the Rangers started to string together their most consecutive times of making the playoffs (10, from 1977-78 to 1986-87). During these 18 seasons, the Rangers failed to make the playoffs only twice, in back to back seasons in 1975-76 and 1976-77, and this was the period that the Rangers posted their best winning percentage, also in back to back seasons in 1970-71 and 1971-72, when the team earned an average of 69.87 percent of all available points, picking up 109 points in 78 games.

During the first half of this time period, for nine season from 1966-67 to 1974-75, the Rangers earned an average of 61.45 percent of all available points, never missing the playoffs, and making the 1972 Finals after posting those two record point-earning seasons. The second half with the nine seasons from 1975-76 to 1983-84 was suddenly worse, with the Rangers earning an average of 50.56 percent of all available points, a huge drop-off of 10.89 percent. This stretch began with the Rangers missing two consecutive playoffs in 1976 and 1977, but the Rangers made the playoffs the next seven seasons, going to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Eighties and Nineties: From 1984-85 to 1996-97
This next stretch of 13 seasons is perhaps the most uneven. The Rangers missed the playoffs only twice during these 13 seasons, in 1988 and 1993, and won the 1994 Stanley Cup, of course, while earning the most points (but not percentage-wise) that season with 112. But the Rangers only managed to earn an average of 52.54 percent of all available points during these 13 seasons, earning an average of 49.11 percent in the first seven seasons from 1984-85 to 1990-91, and then improving to 56.54 percent in the next six from 1991-92 to 1996-97, largely due to two seasons (1991-92 and 1993-94, when the Rangers earned an average of 66.15 percent of all available points). If those two unusual seasons are taken out of consideration, the percentage during this second half of this period drops to 51.74 percent and 50.06 percent for this entire 13-season era.

Pre-Lockout Woes: From 1997-98 to 2003-04
The Rangers missed the playoffs every season during this entire time period for a record seven consecutive seasons, earning just an average of 45.03 percent of all available points. But, as we have seen, this was not the worst period in Rangers history, as that dubious honor certainly belongs to the 1940s. Still, these seven seasons were quite bad, and there’s not much more that can be said about them, at least as far as the statistics.

Post-Lockout: From 2005-06 to 2011-12
And so we come to our recent history, and this final stretch of seven seasons is one of the best for the New York Rangers franchise. Although they missed the 2010 playoffs, the Rangers earned an average of 58.80 percent of all available points during this span. In fact, this past season, 2011-12, was the fifth best the Rangers have ever had, as far as winning percentage, closely matching the Stanley Cup-winning 1993-94 season (missing that mark by just 0.21 percent ) and needing just an additional 3.41 percent to match the best two seasons overall in 1970-71 and 1971-72.

Here are the top 10 seasons for the New York Rangers by percentage of points earned:
1970-71: 69.87 percent
1971-72: 69.87 percent (Finals)
1939-40: 66.67 percent (Cup)
1993-94: 66.67 percent (Cup)
2011-12: 66.46 percent
1991-92: 65.63 percent
1972-73: 65.38 percent
1926-27: 63.64 percent



Profile of the Author:
Originally from New Zealand, Toby took up following the Rangers upon moving to New York City in 1996. After leaving New York in 1999, he continued to track the progress of the team closely and ultimately started OutsideTheGarden.com as a way to stay in contact with the team and the fans. Now living in Florida, he continues to operate the website and contributes articles and content on a regular basis.

 Additional stories from Toby Ivey:


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June 21st, 2013

How many of the Rangers 34 Head Coaches have been born in Quebec?

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FRED HUNT
(1944-1945)
  Born: Jan 17 - 1918  
  Position: Right Wing  
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