Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mark Messier Leaves Rangers Organization

The Rangers and Mark Messier announced today that Messier has left the Rangers organization to instead work on the development of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Bronx.

This news comes six days after the Rangers officially announced the hiring of Alain Vigneault as the team's new head coach. At Vigneault's introductory press conference last Friday, Rangers General Manager Glen Sather said he had yet to speak with Messier regarding his future with the team, but said that he expected to talk to him at some point over the next week.

Messier, who has served as special assistant to the president and general manager of the Rangers since 2009, released this statement today:

“I would like to thank the New York Rangers and particularly Glen Sather for giving me the opportunity over the last four years to work with the Rangers. I am resigning my position with the Team to pursue an opportunity to expand the game of hockey in the New York area by developing the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth. I completely respect the decision that was made and for all the reasons it was made. I harbor no hard feelings toward Glen or the Rangers. This is a personal choice I am making to create a program in the New York area that will give our children more choices and opportunities in the future. I wish the Rangers nothing but the best in the future.“

Glen Sather also released his own statement, which read:

“Mark Messier will always be a part of the New York Rangers family. As a player and then as part of the management team, he brought incomparable passion and dedication to the organization. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”

The Kingsbridge National Ice Center, which is tentatively expected to be completed in September 2018, is going to be the world's largest indoor ice center and will hold nine ice rinks in the community center. Messier has been one of the center's top supporters, and the plans to build the ice center were officially announced in April by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It's a bummer to see Mess leave the organization, but I think we all knew this was coming after the Rangers passed on naming him the team's next head coach. I thought there was a small possibility that Messier could accept an assistant head coaching job with the organization to remain with the organization, although that idea always seemed far-fetched to me. Any time the Rangers were to go through a losing streak or a rough stretch you just know fans would be clamoring to give Messier the head coaching job if he was still in the organization now that it's been revealed that he does have an interest in becoming a head coach.

I'm sure Messier will resurface in the NHL before too long, even though it won't be with the Rangers. The good news here is that he's leaving the team on good terms, so I'm sure hell still be making tons of public appearances and going to functions at the Garden through the team. Still, it's a shame that both sides couldn't figure out a way to make the relationship last given the sentimental value that all Rangers fans, myself included, have towards Mess.

Anyway, good luck to Mark in the future. Hopefully, he can get that head coaching job he's now known to be targeting in the future and will be back in the NHL in some form or fashion relatively soon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rangers Could Announce Alain Vigneault As New Head Coach Today

The New York Rangers agreed to terms with Alain Vigneault to become the 34th head coach in franchise history on Saturday, and according to Larry Brooks of The New York Post the team could put out a press release to announce the hiring of Vigneault as soon as today. Brooks notes, however, that the Rangers likely will not formally introduce him to the media at a press conference until Thursday. Rangers GM Glen Sather is currently at his home in California and will not be back on the east coast until Wednesday when NHL general managers meet for their yearly meetings in Boston. With Madison Square Garden currently unusable while its undergoing construction, the Rangers will need to find another location to hold Vigneault's press conference. I would guess that they'll just do it at the team's practice facility in Greenburgh, but that remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Brooks also reports that Sather and Vigneault have already begun discussing names to add to his coaching staff. Mike Sullivan, thankfully, will not be retained and Jim Schoenfeld will only remain with the organization as assistant GM to Sather. Benoit Allaire, as we all assumed, will remain with the organization as goalie/assistant coach and Henrik Lundqvist's right-hand man. I would assume Mark Messier is a possibility, although it could be a major distraction to have Messier on the coaching staff if the team gets off to a slow start and fans overreact and start calling for Vigneault's head. Brooks mentioned over the weekend that Messier could possibly be reassigned to a coaching position with the Hartford Wolf Pack if he really wants to embark on a coaching career. Either way, he'll most likely remain with the organization next year.

One name being floated around is former Rangers defenseman and current head coach of MODO of the Swedish Elite League, Ulf Samuelsson. Samuelsson apparently reached out to the Rangers when hearing about the team's vacant head coaching position following the firing of John Tortorella, so there's definitely some level of interest there already. Whether he'd be willing to leave a head coaching job to become an assistant in the NHL remains to be seen. I think Samuelsson would be a nice addition to the coaching staff and could add an interesting element to coaching the power play.

As for the hiring of Vigneault, I have to admit that I wasn't initially thrilled when hearing a few weeks ago that he was a top candidate for the Rangers' head coaching job, but the more I read about him the more he's grown on me. I admittedly do not know a lot about Vigneault as far as a head coach beyond the handful of Vancouver Canucks games I'd see every year, mostly coming in the playoffs. The biggest knock on Vigneault has been that he wasn't able to lead the Canucks to a Stanley Cup victory despite having immense amounts of talent on the team in Roberto Luongo, the Sedin twins and Ryan Kessler, amongst other big names. He did come within one win of winning a Cup, though, which a lot of people forget about. I distinctly remember several games in which Roberto Luongo failed to show up for the Canucks, though, which led to a lot of the Canucks' failures in recent years.

The biggest positive that I've read about Alain Vigneault is that he's the opposite type of coach to John Tortorella. He coaches an up-tempo offensive system that the team desperately needs, while also relying on his role players to play to their strengths. The Rangers desperately need that type of change. This means Vigneault won't be asking Rick Nash to block shots and will instead allow him to play his game in the offensive zone where he should be. One of Torts' biggest downfalls was his stubbornness to change his system and insisting that all his players adjust to playing one specific way, and this won't be the case with Vigneault in charge.

More to come within the next few days as we get more information about Vigneault's hiring and how the rest of his coaching staff will fill out.