Mark Messier was feuding with Roger Neilson over style of play.Eventually Roger was fired and his replacement Ron Smith was a dud.
Mike Richter was battling the demons of giving up a 60 foot goal to Ron Francis in game 4 of the Patrick Division finals to Pittsburgh.Richter was also battling a groin injury.
John Vanbiesbrouck's brother Frank committed suicide in Michigan which obviously hurt VBK a tremendous amount.
Brian Leetch suffered nerve damage in his shoulder in a game in St.Louis in November/December 2002 and didn't return until March.When Brian did return,he suffered a broken leg slipping on black ice a few weeks later.We had a bad snow event earlier that week.
Messier was also injured.He had torn cartilage in his rib cage.
James Patrick was injured.
The Kris King and Tie Domi for Ed Olczyk trade didn't work out.King and Domi were very popular players.Neilson was against that trade.
The Doug Weight for Esa Tikkanen deal was a dud.Tikkanen was terrible when he joined the Rangers.
That Pittsburgh loss was a bitter defeat.Leading 2-1 in the series and up 4-2 in game 4 with 10 minutes left.They never recovered until 1993-94
They fell apart in the last 20 or so games. I think they finished winning only 3 games down the stretch. I blame it on major snowstorm in late February. The Rangers had gotten hot, including, beating a very good Black Hawks team in their building. But, a major snowstorm hit the east coast, and the Rangers had a game scheduled against the Capitals postponed. They never seemed to regain that momentum, and they basically fell apart. You also had the "Leetch black ice" incident, and the (at the time) awful "Weight-for-Tikkanen" trade, (whereby Tikkanen ended up something like -20 for the season.) It was so bad that Messier was geting booed by the end of the year.
That is why keenan was brought in, to get those guys in order.
Mike Keenan had two offers on the table as HC-the Rangers and Flyers
Al Morganti was a hockey analyst on ESPN at that time.He reported Keenan was returning to the Flyers.The next morning(Friday),Frank Brown of the Daily News had Keenan going to the Rangers.Keenan was introduced as Rangers HC the next day.He was coaching the Canadian team in the World Championships and was scheduled to leave a few days later.