The NHL's rise stopped around the time the New York Rangers bought the Cup in 1994. Hired assassins helped capture the Rangers first Stanely Cup in 54 years and the league rode a wave of popularity right into a work stoppage.
Over the course of the last ten years since Mark Messier lifted the Stanley Cup over his head, the Rangers have bought, traded for with prospects and bought again where and when they could. Their goal was to have the top paid players in the league and it was going to make them the best team in the league. Did they have a building plan? Not really. Did they have a central core of principles and ideals for competition on ice? Uh... no. Did they have money? Hell, yeah! And that's all it takes, right?!
The Rangers have been and continue to be the NHL's joke. Remember how the team brought in Wayne Gretzky to end his career as if he was their savior? Remember Messier being brought back as an homage to the team's competative past and that Cup win? Remember Glen Sather being brought in to take the team in a new direction after penny-pinching success in Edmonton and then remember Bobby Holik, Eric Lindros, Bure, Jagr, and Fleury signed or traded for?
From the influence of the New York media to the influence of Ranger fan disdain - they've helped shape the wayward teams direction, and always point the team back towards big names and big bucks instead of having it mirror it's tri-state area brethren, the New Jersey Devils, and start building for the long haul instead of going for the quick-fix.
And now the league has a chance to further contribute to the Rangers misdeeds and mistakes by handing them the #1 draft pick in this year's NHL Entry draft (whenever it is, wherever it is) and Sidney Crosby -- the Next One himself -- in an attempt to jump start North America's #1 Media Market and their interest in hockey.
And that in itself is the mistake.
I'm certainly not doubting Crosby's rock-star like potential as a multimedia star. That is doubting just what the Rangers are going to do after they secure Crosby's rights (and what the city can do to people -- young people with money and fame). That's doubting that they'll retool with smarts instead of dollars and surround Crosby with talent instead of egos, that's doubting they'll plan long term instead of for the immediate.
And if that #1 draft pick does go to the Rangers and Crosby isn't the savior -- what else will the Rangers request in order to bolster their roster and franchise? What else will the NHL award them?
It comes down to a prayer by the league that the Rangers help drag them out of the mess that the team helped but the league in, in the first place... After all, while the Rangers threw money away trying to secure players, they helped run up league salaries across the board and helped screw league finances Meanwhile, franchises that are on a similar tier of competativeness and no-where near the same tier of financial competativeness (the Blue Jackets, the Penguins, the Blackhawks and the doomed Coyotes) are overlooked as places where league-savior (lofty nickname to give a kid out of juniors) can work his magic. Could Crosby's presence in Pittsburgh (with Mario) or Chicago (the famed Second City and formerly glorious franchise) be just as effective as sticking him in New York? Rangers fans feel they are enttled to Crosby's presence simply by who and where they are (witness the ramblings at Hockeybird) and much more by league need than team need.
Would Sidney Crosby benefit in another media market? LA with the Kings or the Ducks? The Canadian franchises? Even Colorado, Dallas and Detroit who have had it good the least few years? Dare I even mention Miami or Atlanta (ugh)? Too up and coming young franchises in new markets that haven't fully taken hold yet?
It's a foregone conclusion that Crosby has got to land with the Rangers, and instead of rewarding the Rangers for their ineptitude that's helped pull the league down, they should be forcing the team to get back on the sane track before rewarding them with handouts.