Sometimes in sports it's a good idea to take a gamble. Sometimes you simply look at the hand you're dealt and make the decision to go all in on a risk. Sometimes it's a home run, sometimes it's a grand slam and sometimes the guy across the table has four aces and smirks at you as he shuffles the winnings into his bag.
Sometimes huge gambles are worth the risk. For the New York Rangers, a risk right now might not make sense.
I want to make one point very clear right off the bat: Mark Messier knows more about hockey and this organization than pretty much anyone on the planet. Working closely with Glen Sather the past few years have guaranteed that the Rangers' brass is grooming Messier to eventually make a move somewhere. But is right now that time?
The Rangers are contenders for the Stanley Cup. Are they true contenders? I say yes. And even if you don't think so you have to admit they're a heck of a lot closer than most teams in the NHL. They have the best goaltender in the world, one of the league's most dangerous players and a plethora of young (and mostly home grown) talent at their core.
The Rangers are expected to contend again next year. They are not rebuilding. This is an organization that just fired a coach that brought the Rangers to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago and the second round this year. Losing is not an option. Just making the playoffs is not OK. A Stanley Cup is the goal. If you can't get the team there then get out. Ask Tortorella.
My point? The Rangers can't botch this coaching vacancy. They need to hit a home run. Messier might be a fantastic coach -- don't let the Wayne Gretzky experiment in Phoenix sully your view on star players coaching, Messier is a different personality altogether and those Coyotes teams were horrible -- he might not. And there lies the risk.
If the risk doesn't pay off, Sather has let another series of seasons pass with the best goaltender in the NHL churning through his prime. Lundqvist's prime might last another five years. It might last less. It could last more. Is it worth the risk?
Alain Vigneault would be the top candidate on my list of the available coaches. The biggest reasons? A more offense style and the ability to jump right into a team poised to make a deep playoff run. Vigneault guided the Vancouver Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. His Canucks finished first in their division the past five years in a row (including taking the President's Trophy in two of those seasons). He's coached in Montreal as well. The guy has been under the spotlight before. He's never melted.
Dallas Eakins also provides an interesting option. The Toronto Marlies' head coach guided a depleted team to finish second in the West in the AHL and win their division. He's been touted as an eventual can't-miss head coach. He too is a risk, but much less of a risk than Messier.
There will come a time, eventually, when a coaching risk makes sense. Is now that time? Is it worth the Rangers taking a shot at Messier (or Wayne Gretzky for that matter) when there are safer options on the board? Messier might be a home run, he might be the best guy on the board, but he is a risk.
Will Sather go all in? It's his turn to bet. We can only watch.