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06-12-2013, 02:36 PM
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The 75-76 Rangers were old and in decline. Keeping Ratelle and Park would have perhaps made us somewhat better (but not that much over Espo and Vadnais) but not staved off the inevitable.

We only improved when the next generation (Mike McEwen, Dave Farrish, Lucien Deblois, both Maloneys, Greschner, Davidson, Pat Hickey, Don Murdoch, et al) developed. Some of these guys were drafted or acquired by Francis, some by John Ferguson).

Francis recognized the team's decline: he was never one to cling to older players and was always committed to youth. In the early years of his ascendancy, our second line was a veteran line of Phil Goyette/Donnie Marshall/Bob Nevin. Within a few years he had replaced them with a totally homegrown young line of Walt Tkaczuk/Bill Fairbairn/Steve Vickers.

And it wasn't Francis who made the disasterous trade of Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge. I strongly believe that even if we had kept Park and Ratelle we would have continued to decline until this next group became the core of the team (along with later acquired Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson).

Espo's time as GM has no bearing on the on-ice performance of the late 1970s Rangers.

The 75-76 Rangers had an old core. We just didn't have enough top end youth to plug in at that point. The draft then wasn't what it was now. The 73 draft produced Middleton and Hickey (who went to the WHA for a few years). The 74 draft produced Dave Maloney, Ron Greschner, and Eddie Johnstone. 75 wasn't so good with Wayne Dillon (who also went to the WHA before coming here) and Doug Soetaert.

By 75-76 our D had gone backward from its peak circa 72: Seiling was gone, Nielson was gone, Dale Rolfe was gone. Francis tried to shore up our D with stop gaps such as Gilles Marotte, Doug Jarrett, and Nick Beverly (ugh). Maybe you can fault Francis for not doing more circa 74 when the team started to slide from its elite status. But not for the Ranger/Bruin trade. That didn't hurt that much. When the trade was made we were 5-8-1.

Even if you fault Francis for the decline of the team, a slide that would cost him his job, it does not take away from all the great things he did for this franchise from the time he took over circa 64-65. Being a Ranger fan before he righted the ship was like being a Met fan now: sheer torture.

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