No question....Mark Messier is one of the most important personalities in the New York hockey landscape.
No question....a lot of players could learn a lot from Messier about playing the game and commitment.
No question.....he'd make a great coach/executive. Well....there may be a few....or more.
Let me preface my thoughts by saying that it is good to have Messier back not only in the game but also with the Rangers. My concern with bringing him in, in other than a promotional or instructional capacity, is that it could interfere with an objective examination of available candidates for some key position (coach, GM, director of player personnel). I'm also not saying that Messier cannot be developed into one of these. I just worry that it could blind the organization to a more practical, but less popular, fit. I think it would be different if he was given a role much like Adam Graves or Rod Gilbert to start. The "special assistant" moniker tells me he is destined for a key role.
I guess I'm still reeling from the pain of the Phil Esposito years when the club was handed over to a former player (with no other management experience). He was a great player (even for the Rangers....for the purpose he was brought in for.) but he learned management on the job which eventually hurt the Rangers (Bergeron firing before '89 playoffs...can't really bash the Dionne trade (3rd round pick, Carpenter, Laidlaw)...he had 31 goals in his first full year....although I thought giving up Tom Laidlaw was a mistake....at the time...). He was a far, far better executive in Tampa. He built a lot of what turned out to be a good foundation for that team (not to mention his efforts to bring a team to Tampa to begin with).
I don't think you can "manage" a team with a player's mentality. Messier has a lot to learn in what I fear will be a relatively short apprenticeship. I don't think Sather's going to hang in there much longer (as evidenced by the last several patchworks we've seen iced in an attempt to win it all). I fear that Messier will be rushed into service sooner than later.
I have mixed feeling on Sather's eventual departure (from hockey...for God sakes).....but I'll save it for another blog.