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Monday, November 29, 2021

Mark Messier not a fan of Rangers’ captain decision

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Mark Messier would like to see a captain. One, that is. Not six.

Speaking on The Post’s “Up in the Blue Seats” podcast, the Rangers legend said that he believes a hockey team needs a captain.

“I don’t know the last time a team won a Cup without a captain,” said Messier, while noting he was hesitant to criticize the organization without inner knowledge of what went into the decision.

The Rangers, after new coach Gerard Gallant said during training camp that they planned to name a captain, instead named six alternates ahead of the season: Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Strome and Barclay Goodrow. As for the last team to win a Stanley Cup without one, that would be the 1972 Bruins, who had Phil Esposito, Johnny Buyck, Ed Westfall and Ted Green as alternates.

“I was fortunate enough when I was a captain to have amazing leaders around me, both in Edmonton and in New York,” Messier said. “Not only in assistant captains, but players that didn’t have a letter on their jersey who were amazing leaders in their own right, and did an incredible amount of work behind the scenes and got credit for it, by keeping the team galvanized, motivated, in line, singing the same message up and down throughout the team’s leadership from the training staff to the doctors to the management to the coaching staff, it has to be one unified message.

Mark Messier thinks the Rangers should have a captain.
Mark Messier thinks the Rangers should have a captain.
Paul J. Bereswill

“But the big link between all of that is the one leader of the team that everybody can look to in trying times, or under adversity or when things are going great.”

Messier was careful to note that the Rangers may have someone they think could emerge who isn’t yet ready, in which case it would be a bad idea to rush them into the position. He didn’t want to cast aspersions from a position in which he doesn’t know what’s happening internally.

After saying in a May interview with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio that he was “ready to help” the Rangers — a comment widely interpreted as lobbying for a job after president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton were dismissed — Messier clarified that he didn’t mean to come off that way at the time. 

He did say, though, that he was asked about taking the Rangers’ coaching position after John Tortorella was let go in 2013. His condition, which wasn’t met, was that everybody within inner management wanted him in the role.

“It became apparent that they went a different direction, which was fine because I was the one who said you guys should maybe make sure that you’re all in agreement that you want me to coach the team,” Messier said. “… I wasn’t happy with the way it did go down and the way it was relayed to me, that they went a different direction, but things like that happen. I have no ill feelings towards the Rangers whatsoever.”

Mark Messier watching a Rangers practice in 2013.
Mark Messier watching a Rangers practice in 2013.
Anthony J. Causi

If Messier was in charge, though, you can bet there would be someone with a “C” on their jersey.

“Every team does need a singular leader with great leadership underneath them,” Messier said.

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