When I was 12 years old, I remember the NY Rangers trading for Mark Messier in the hopes that a team could be built around him to contend for the Stanley Cup. The team had some decent talent back then in the likes of Bernie Nicholls, Mike Gartner, and a young defenseman named Brian Leetch.
As soon as Mark hit the Rangers, he took control of that team. Neil Smith might have been the GM and Roger Neilson and Mike Keenan might have coached the teams, but the truth was that Messier ran that team in the early 1990s. He commanded respect in the locker room and he led by example on the ice, racking up 107 points in his first season in NY. Later on in 1994, Messier showed how his leadership tied the whole team together.
If you have ever seen Messier's eyes when he was taking a face-off, you know what determination he had on the ice.
The Rangers organization has already put him in a position to ascend to the GM spot, and now is the time to make that change and let him use that same determination he had in 1994 to build the franchise back to a Stanley Cup contender. Glen Sather has had a decade to get that done, and 10 years with limited results is long enough.
Messier will have a good core of players to build on. Marian Gaborik has clearly led the offense this year, but the Rangers also need second and third line players who can score. It might be time to part ways with players like Chris Drury, who has been unable to score for the past few seasons with any consistency.
Messier will also need to rebuild the Rangers defense. With the exceptions of Marc Staal and occasional flashes from Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy, the defense has been largely ineffective this year.
Messier's job will not be easy, but he has seen how the NY sports pressure cooker works. He cares about the team at a personal level and when asked has said the 1994 Stanley Cup was the favorite of the six that he won.
The fans have spoken; listen closely while watching a game and the chants of "FIRE SATHER!" are very clear. Sather's time is done, and it is time to usher in a new era in the Rangers front office.