Mark Messier: NHL's All-Time Great Leaders, Part IV

Matt Eichel@@mattyalloutSenior Writer IJune 1, 2008

Leaders lead no matter where they play and who's on the team. They lead by their example of hard work, dedication, and motivation.

Looking back at the memorable 1994 playoffs, we look at the career of one of the greatest leaders to step on the ice—Mark Messier.

Mark Messier (Edmonton Oilers 1979-91, New York Rangers 1991-97 & 2000-04, Vancouver Canucks 1997-2000)

Edmonton native Mark Messier has been dubbed once of the greatest leaders of all-time, yet his professional hockey career took some rough bumps before he would make it big.

Messier played 54 games on the Tier II Alberta Junior Hockey St. Albert Saints team and scored 74 points, including 194 penalty minutes in 1977-78.  

His feisty play caught the eyes of many professional scouts.

After playing the first 17 games of the 1978-79 season with the Saints, Messier was signed to a five game tryout with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers, failing to register a point.

After being released from the Racers, another WHA franchise, the Cincinnati Stingers, signed Messier. There, he would play with lead league leading scorer and future NHL coach Robie Ftorek, Barry Melrose, and future NHL referee Paul Stewart.  

Yet, Messier would only tally one goal and ten assists in 47 games.

Frustrated with his performance in the WHA, Messier entered the 1979 NHL Entry Draft and was selected in the 3rd Round, 48th overall by his hometown Edmonton Oilers.  

Messier was not known as a pure goal scorer, yet his numbers improved after his entrance into the NHL.

At left wing, Messier netted 12 goals and 21 assists in 75 games in his rookie season.  After his first few seasons with the young and upstart Oilers, Messier broke the 100 point plateau in 1982-83 and notched 50 goals by his third season in 1981-82. 

Alongside good friend and teammate Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers marched to the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals against three time champion New York Islanders.  

After that run, the Oilers saw how much it took to win the Cup through seeing the Islanders bandaging up their wounds.

In 1984, it was the Oilers turn as they upset the Islanders to take their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.  

Edmonton became the first team amalgamated from the WHA and the third post-expansion team to capture the Stanley Cup.  

It was all thanks to Messier's leadership during the 1984 playoffs, as he clinched the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP with eight goals and 18 assists in 19 games.  

He also switched to playing centre during the Cup run.

As the years went by, the Oilers dominated the league and scored goals left, right, and center.

Led by the offensive abilities of Messier, Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe, and the goaltending of Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr, other teams were terrorized by the Oiler juggernaut.

Messier's career started to bloom as he participated in the 1982, 83, 84, 86, 88, and 89 All-Star Games.  

He also notched an impressive 111 points during the 1987-88 season followed by an impressive 34 points in 19 playoff games to capture another Oiler Cup.

Messier kept on producing and being a leader in the dressing room.  

After Cup wins in 1985, 87, and 88, the Oilers dynasty seemed to be crumbling. Gretzky was dealt to Edmonton and Messier stepped up to the plate as the new captain of the Oilers.

And Messier stepped up into the role, notching a career high 129 points during the 1989-90 season, to capture the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Trophy.

He led the Oilers on an improbable run to the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, where they took out the Boston Bruins to win a fifth franchise Cup He scored an impressive 31 points in 22 games.

However, the moment wouldn't last in Edmonton as the Oiler juggernaut was dismantled due to money problems. Messier was finally dealt on the eve of the 1991-92 season to the New York Rangers.  

In New York, Messier became the immediate leader of the once-proud New York franchise. Due to the cleaning house going on in Edmonton, the Rangers took advantage, bringing in Messier's old teammates including Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe, Glenn Anderson, and Adam Graves.

In only his first season in New York, Messier captured yet another Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Trophy for his leadership with the Rangers.  He scored 107 points in his first New York season and earned the "C".

After missing the playoffs in the 1992-93 season, the first time in Messier's career, the Rangers rebounded to finish first overall.

Led by Messier, the Rangers, along with Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Alex Kovalev, and Adam Graves, put together an improbable run through the playoffs.

Down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, Messier guaranteed a win in Game Six. He delivered, not only winning the game, but scoring a hat trick.  

The Rangers would go on to beat the Devils in seven games and then put the Vancouver Canucks away in seven games to capture New York's first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

It would be a defining moment in his career, becoming one of the greatest leaders of all-time.

Messier would come close to another Stanley Cup in the 1996-97 season. Alongside former Oiler teammate Wayne Gretzky, the Rangers would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Yet the reunion of Gretzky and Messier would be short-lived as the Vancouver Canucks signed Messier to a high priced contract.

Messier was still producing, scoring a 99-point season at the age of 35 during the 1995-96 season.

It was a high-profile move for Messier as he joined the Vancouver Canucks for the 1997-98 season. Once again, Messier would become the captain of the Canucks, given to him by Trevor Linden.

Yet Linden would get traded to the New York Islanders, where his numbers declined, after Messier's arrival. He would only get above 20 goals once and have a high of 60 points in the '97-'98 season.

Messier became unpopular with Cancuks' fans due to his lack of production and the fact he demanded the No. 11 which had been retired in honor of Wayne Maki.

After the 1999-2000 season, Messier returned to the Rangers.

At his re-arrival to New York, Brian Leetch gave over the captaincy to Messier once again.  

Scoring 67 points in 2000-'01, Messier scored more points than any of his years in Vancouver, and at the age of 40.  

At the end of the 2003-04 season, Messier announced his retirement. During that season, Messier passed Gordie Howe to become second on the all-time scoring list behind friend and former teammate Wayne Gretzky.

Messier may have been unpopular in Vancouver, but his career is laden with his great work ethic and his unfailing ability to lead a team to glory. He captained two different franchises to a Stanley Cup championship, both within five years of each other.

Finishing his career second all-time in points, Messier truly is one of the greatest leaders of all-time.

Mark Messier Season Stats (1756 GP, 694 Goals, 1193 Assists, 1887 Points)

Mark Messier Playoff Stats (236 GP, 109 Goals, 186 Assists, 295 Points)

2nd All-Time Games Played (1756)

2nd All-Time Points (1887; 1.07 PPG)

7th All-Time Goals (694)

3rd All-Time Assists (1193)

2nd All-Time Playoff Points (295)

2nd All-Time Playoff Goals (109)

2nd All-Time Playoff Assists (186)

Awards & Accomplishments:

Stanley Cup - 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1994

Conn Smythe Trophy - 1984

Hart Memorial Trophy - 1990, 1992

Lester B. Pearson - 1990, 1992

NHL First-Team All-Star Left Wing - 1982, 1983

NHL First-Team All-Star Centre - 1990, 1992

NHL Second-Team All-Star Left Wing - 1984

NHL All-Star Game - 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004

Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame - November 12, 2007

Ranked #12 on The Hockey News' list of 100 Greatest Players

Monthly Award - Mark Messier Leadership Award

Last Active Player from the 1970s




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