If you have read this site regularly since the end of last season then I'm sure you've heard me rant and rave about how I think current GM Glen Sather should be ousted. I say this because in the end I believe that with the tremendous parity of the NHL these days a team is only as good as their management is for the most part. Obviously a lot can go on that a GM cannot control, but in the end I think good management can still make the fans feel more secure. For example, take a look at the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs; who both inserted new GM's over the summer and now have positive situations that the fans are enjoying (Exhibits A and B for the Leafs)
Messier, as we all know, has made his interest in the Rangers GM position known back in 2007. He currently is a "special assistant" to Glen Sather where he is reportedly monitoring Ranger prospects in the system and attending many NHL games all while (hopefully not from Sather) learning the ropes to being a GM. Most recently, though, he was named to be Canada's GM for the 2010 World Championships which will run from May 7th through the 23rd in Germany. I (and Scott Morrison) think Messier is a great choice for the position and hopefully he will construct a solid team that will medal for the Canucks.
Lost in all of this though is the fact that this is a huge opportunity for Messier to prove that he has the wits and ability to be a GM in the NHL. Although he will not be chasing after free agents, trying to conduct trades, or building through the draft; Messier will have to put together a solid management team that will have to identify talent from a limited available pool due to the timing of the tournament. By time the NHL season reaches May, about ten or so teams will be out of contention for the playoffs. Add on about four to six more teams who fall out of contention or make early playoff exits, plus any players who do not wish to participate; and there you have Messier's available player pool. Finally, as Scott Morrison pointed out in his blog post, there will be a little added pressure on Messier to produce a medal this coming May:
"Now, Canada hasn't fared well in the world championships that have followed an Olympics, failing to win medals in 1998, 2002 and 2006, but maybe Messier is the guy to snap the streak"
One of my usual criticisms of Sather is that he has lost touch with the game and all the new rules that promote parity within the NHL. His frequent over-spending in Free Agency has not only put the Rangers in a tight financial spot salary-cap wise, but also has made a complete rebuild of the club a possibility down the road. Every summer since the lockout it seems as though Sather tried to accomplish a mini re-build to try to cover up from the previous summers' mistakes. What all of this has in common to me is Sather's inability to identify talent a build a team that can work together well. The only thing Sather has done well in his recent tenure has been his ability to obtain solid prospects with the Rangers draft position. But, as we also know from other drafts across major sports, drafting well is an organizational effort that starts with good scouting; something Sather has little to do with.
Messier also could set himself up for future jobs with Hockey Canada if he succeeds. The previous three Olympic GM's for Canada have been Steve Yzerman (current), Wayne Gretzky, and Bobby Clarke. Yzerman has been rumored to be chasing after the Blackhawks GM position, while Gretzky is still trying his hand at coaching and Bobby Clarke is currently the Senior Vice President of the Flyers. It should be noted that Clarke had good success with the Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, and the Florida Panthers; reaching the cup finals three times with the Flyers (on two separate occasions), and once with his two year stint with the North Stars.
In the end, Messier has a huge opportunity here to show that he is ready to take over for Glen Sather. None of us know at the moment if Messier will be any better than Sather, but all of us Ranger fans are longing for a change at this point. Sather and any of his personal staff have been riding on their reputations for the past year and a half or so, and if a change isn't made within a year the on-ice play may get even worse. Many eyes will be on Messier to begin with as many hope and expect him to do well; but if Canada fails to obtain Gold in Vancouver a little pressure might be added to the equation come May to top it all off. Go get ‘em Mess, this is your first good chance and all of us Blueshirt die-hards will be pulling for Canada this spring.