Rangers captain Mark Messier spoke with WFAN's Christopher Russo this afternoon and touched on such items as last week's coaching change, the injuries that have plagued the team this season and the club's road ahead.
Q: How is your arm feeling? MM: "I felt pretty good with the three days off and I've practiced the last couple of days. I'm ready to go tomorrow."
Q: Did you notice a different spirit in the last few practices with Glen Sather? MM: "I think it's going to take some time, but the coach really is the leader of any hockey team. He's the one that makes the decisions and sets the tone and atmosphere. I think it will take the guys a little bit to get used to Glen and his style. Hopefully his winning and competitiveness will rub off."
Q: You've known Glen many years now. Does he seem to have the passion to coach again? MM: "Glen's always hated to lose and has never been a good loser. He's always done well in his coaching career and has always gotten the most out of everyone who has played for him. There were some guys who couldn't really play in the league and came to Edmonton and made themselves nice careers. I think if you ask any of them, they'll give Glen a lot of credit for that. I think he's proven that he's a good coach and I think he's pretty excited, although I don't think he expected himself to be in this position. But I think he's pretty excited to take on this challenge."
Q: Talk about the recent coaching change. Who is responsible for what has taken place? MM: "I think everyone has to take some responsibility. You're a team and as the old saying goes, 'You win and you lose as a team.' I don't think there is anyone in the organization who doesn't feel responsible for the situation that the team is in right now. I think we all feel that we're a better team than our record shows. And I guess you can chalk some of that up to injuries. But the bottom line is that we weren't winning and right now we're not in the playoffs."
Q: What do you think was the final straw that led to the coaching change last week? MM: "The most frustrating part of our season so far is that we've proven that when we are playing and playing well, we can beat anybody and play as good as anybody. Obviously, at one time we had nine regulars out of the lineup and we've had a lot of guys come in and fill some gaping holes and you can never discount that. But you can't use that as an excuse. We are where we are. It's up to us to do something about it."
Q: Have you noticed more of a sense of urgency with the team? MM: "We have a tough schedule ahead for the rest of this month - I think we have nine games on the road and three at home. We play a lot of divisional games and a lot of conference games. For us to make the playoffs, we don't have a lot of room for error, so it's going to take a tremendous effort. You'd have to have your head buried in the sand to not know where we stand right now. I think everyone is pretty aware of it. If we do make the playoffs, I don't think there are many teams who would want to play us, and I can say that honestly."
Q: Talk about the intensity of being a leader? MM: "I think being a winner is something that you really have to be committed to doing. It's a lot more than coming to the rink on game nights and leaving after and forgetting about it. I think being a winner has a lot to do with who you are. It has to become a part of your thought process."