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Messier says he's ready to return to the game

Tuesday, 02.03.2009 / 4:00 PM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"There's so many facets to the game. It's all very interesting to me. I know what it takes for a team to win. I know how many people are responsible for a team's success. Somewhere along the line I'll be one of those guys trying to chip in."
-- Mark Messier

The greatest captain in the modern era of the NHL, Mark Messier has been somewhat removed from the game since he played his final game in the spring of 2004.

He's dabbled in broadcasting with Versus and NBC, and also has lent his name to a number of NHL awards, most having to do with leadership.

But after five years away, Messier feels the time might finally be here to take a more active role with an NHL team, and that most likely would be the Rangers.

"There's so many facets to the game," said Messier. "It's all very interesting to me. I know what it takes for a team to win. I know how many people are responsible for a team's success. Somewhere along the line I'll be one of those guys trying to chip in."

What role would Messier be best at?

"I think Mark can do whatever he wants in the game for two reasons," said former teammate Mike Richter. "He's got more experience and knowledge than almost anybody I've met. He is a great people person. He knows what makes people tick. You can't be a coach or general manger without having a real fair sense of knowing how to get the most out of each of your players. He does know that."

Messier could follow his friend and former teammate Wayne Gretzky and coach, or he could take the route first paved by contemporaries like Kevin Lowe, Steve Yzerman and Luc Robitaille and work more toward the building of a team.

"A couple of years ago we talked and he wasn't that keen on being a scout, but I think he's refined that," Rangers President Glen Sather recently told the Edmonton Journal. "I'm sure this summer Mark and I will have another conversation about it. He's got a good eye for talent. And the scouting, it's not just the NHL, it's going to places like (OHL) Sudbury and Hartford (their AHL farm club) and going to meetings and filing reports."

Sather said he believes an executive role would best suit Messier, but he has to be all-in for it to work.

"I'm sure Mark could do it, but he has to decide that's what he wants to do," said Sather. "I tell guys all the time that hockey isn't a job, it's a way of life."

Richter also believes Messier would be qualified to build a championship team, much like the ones he played on while winning six Stanley Cups as a player.

"I think he'd be a great Xs and Os guy and all that, but I think the real thing is when you're drafting, when you're putting a team together, that's something that's always interested him," said Richter. "It's something he talked about every day when we were playing, all these puzzle pieces -- this guy has a certain role, this guy has a certain role. You need a bit of a formula, and you need to have that so this disparate group of talent actually forges together. I think he's a master of that."

Sather, who coached Messier in Edmonton and New York, said he would advise Messier to stick to the executive suite rather than the bench.

"Coaching is not easy," said Sather. It's stressful as hell, hard work."
 
Another former teammate, though, feels Messier would do well as a coach.

"I've always told him I thought he'd be an excellent coach," said Brian Leetch. "His ability to prepare, to speak and to motivate is the best I've ever seen. I know he'd run into frustrations as a coach but I think he'd be an excellent coach."

Whether it's coaching or constructing a team, there's one thing that seems almost certain.

"Wherever he chooses to focus," said Richter, "he'll have a ton of success."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.


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