Is Mark Messier the Right Fit for the New York Rangers' Head-Coaching Job?

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Is Mark Messier the Right Fit for the New York Rangers' Head-Coaching Job?
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Mark Messier is a legend in New York City for his legendary contributions to the Rangers' Stanley Cup-winning season in 1994, but hiring the Hockey Hall of Famer as the team's next head coach would be a big mistake by the Original Six club.

The former Blueshirts captain is reportedly interested in the vacant coaching position, which was created when the team fired veteran head coach John Tortorella following New York's second-round playoff loss to the Boston Bruins in five games.

Per John Shannon of Sportsnet:

According to ESPN New York's Katie Strang, Messier is weighing his options:

There's no denying that Messier is one of the greatest players in NHL history and arguably the finest captain the game has ever seen, but being an all-time player does not automatically transition to coaching success.

One of the best examples of this is Wayne Gretzky's tenure as the head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. The "Great One" went 143-161-24 in four full seasons as the bench boss in Phoenix, and his teams never finished higher than fourth place in the Pacific Division or made a playoff appearance.

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Glen Sather

Messier has no head-coaching experience at the junior, AHL or NHL levels, and his only experience as a bench boss includes a handful of games at international tournaments, including the Spengler Cup with Team Canada in 2010.

He would benefit by coaching at the junior level (or AHL) to earn some valuable experience before taking over an NHL club, much like Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, who was recently hired to lead the Colorado Avalanche after several years as a bench boss in the QMJHL.

With a great knowledge of the game and as a person who is well respected around the league, Messier does have the qualities needed to be a successful coach. But jumping into a position with so much pressure and expectations attached to it would be the wrong way for him to earn head-coaching experience in the NHL.

Messier did a lot of teaching and motivating as a longtime captain, which are two essential skills needed in coaching.

But today's game is far different from what it was when he was playing. Guys are making more money, managing egos is more difficult, the media presence is larger (social media being one reason for that) and many of the game's on-ice rules have changed.

With no experience behind an NHL bench, it would be wrong for Sather to choose Messier as the coach to get the most out of his most important players, especially the veteran stars who did not perform at a high level in the postseason (Rick Nash, Brad Richards, etc.).

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

To be fair to Sather, he's in a tough spot with this hire. It would be difficult to turn down Messier if he really wants the job given his place in the team's history and popularity among Rangers fans. The players would respect him and the level of passion and accountability that he would bring to the job would be incredible.

However, this Rangers team needs a veteran coach with previous Stanley Cup-winning experience to help it get to the Stanley Cup Final after advancing past the first round just twice in the last five years.

The most recent time that a great NHL player took over the Rangers' head-coaching job was in the 2002-03 season, and Bryan Trottier didn't even last a full year with a 21-27-6-1 record in 54 games. The Blueshirts cannot risk a repeat of that scenario with a bold hiring.

The Rangers' head-coaching job is a glamor position because of the market, team prestige and the fact that the franchise has a championship-caliber roster. It's not one that a person accepts as his first NHL head-coaching job.

Is Mark Messier the right fit for the next Rangers head coach?

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The Blueshirts will be expected to contend for the Stanley Cup over the next few seasons because of their immense talent and the exceptional goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. That's a lot of pressure for any coach, especially a rookie like Messier, to deal with right from the start.

A better option for New York would be former Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault or current Phoenix Coyotes bench boss Dave Tippett if he does not sign a contract extension prior to the offseason.

Sather will have a lot of quality candidates with impressive head-coaching resumes to look over in his search for a new bench boss.

There's no reason to hire someone with very little experience when New York's championship window is open right now, even if one of those candidates is a Rangers legend such as Messier.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Nick was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs, and he is also a credentialed writer at the 2013 NHL playoffs in Boston.

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