Messier's 'announcement' a surprising blunder

Updated: February 12, 2007, 3:59 PM ET
ESPN.com

AROUND THE RINK

So, Mark Messier wakes up one day, eats a bag of popular brand-name chips, downs a couple of cold medication pills and thinks, "Hey, you know what? I should be the general manager of the New York Rangers!"

Mark Messier

Good thing for Gary Bettman that Messier didn't instead decide he wanted to be NHL commissioner. Hey, wait a minute ...

Seriously, though, there's something rather odd about Messier's sudden matter-of-fact revelation and the rather curious, shoulder-shrugging, "OK, we'll see" response from current Rangers GM Glen Sather.

Now, no one wants to hurt Messier's feelings. He's a future Hall of Famer who ranks among the best forwards to play the game. He is one of the best leaders of all time in any sport. If you offend him, there is the possibility he will tear your head off and drop chip crumbs down the opening just for fun.

But there is something more than a little off-putting about the whole thing.

As great a player as Messier was, he has absolutely no experience to recommend him as a general manager. Not now. Maybe not ever. If he looked around the NHL, he would see he's not alone in his desire to turn a Hall of Fame career into something meaningful in the post-retirement hockey world.

Steve Yzerman is paying his dues in the upper offices of the Detroit Red Wings. He's already been tabbed to run Canada's entry at the World Championships this summer in Moscow. But at no point did Yzerman call up The Detroit Free Press and say, "You know, I think I'd like Ken Holland's job when he's done with it."

In Los Angeles, Luc Robitaille is paying his dues with the Kings, attending board of governors meetings and the like. He has not tried to jump the queue and announce his intentions to run the Kings or any other major business operation.

Yzerman and Robitaille wouldn't do it because they understand their place in their new worlds and respect the people ahead of them, people like Holland and Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill and Kings GM Dean Lombardi and assistant Ron Hextall.

If there's something Messier should know and respect, it's paying dues. And he hasn't. Not even close.

Even if there was something lost in the translation between Edmonton, where the story broke, and New York, the notion that Messier expects to be handed the job at some point does a disservice to those who have actually worked hard to get to that point (like Rangers assistant GM Don Maloney).

It also does a disservice to Messier, who should know better.

TOLL OF THE TOCCHET CASE
Tocchet So, it's been a year since Rick Tocchet was implicated in the now-famous Operation Slap Shot betting scandal. "Implicated" is the operative word because, a year later, Tocchet still has not been formally charged but rather just put on notice.

New Jersey authorities plan, at some point, to charge him with a series of crimes in connection with the alleged betting ring. Some experts have recently said it's not unusual for authorities to take this long to bring charges in a case like this, but we can't help but feel some empathy for Tocchet, who is in professional limbo and barred from the NHL until the matter is cleared up.

New Jersey officials have been curiously tight-lipped about the proceedings, especially after all the convenient leaks that took place immediately after the probe hit the headlines.

The longer the wait for any formal action against Tocchet, the more this looks like an issue of rush to judgment and the greater the odor of law enforcement and state officials looking to make a name for themselves without having the goods.

In the end, the real story may be the issue of justice for Tocchet.

--S.B.

MESSIER'S MOVE
Barry Melrose believes Mark Messier made a big mistake by announcing his GM wishes.
SLAP SHOTS
WOE IS PHILLY!
Penguins We're trying to find some solace for Flyers fans, we really are. In fact, we're kind of bummed out that we won't be seeing -- and hearing -- some of the league's most vocal fans this postseason. But it just seems to be getting worse, even with some revived play from Simon Gagne. Philadelphia's franchise-worst, home-losing streak reached 13 games after Thursday's 5-4 shootout loss to Pittsburgh. The Flyers haven't won at home since beating former coach Ken Hitchcock in his debut with Columbus on Nov. 24. They also have just three home wins in 25 games. At least the cheese steaks still rule!
-- Joy Russo
PUCKS FLASHBACK
Red Wings Detroit was shut out for the first time in 176 games after losing 1-0 at St. Louis on Thursday night. The last time the Red Wings were shut out: Jan. 7, 2004 in a 3-0 loss to Boston. Calgary holds the NHL record for consecutive games without being shutout -- 264 from Nov. 12, 1981 to Jan. 9, 1985. Last thing we remember about 2004: that was the last time the B's made the playoffs. Last thing we remember about 1985: "We Are The World" is released. Great work for a great cause ... not the finest moment for Dan Aykroyd (Watch it on YouTube, people).
-- Joy Russo
FORWARD THINKING
Games on our radar the next few days:

Jaromir Jagr • Friday, Lightning at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET: While Messier-Sather-Gate rolls on, the Rangers are getting dangerously close to becoming a non-factor in the playoff race. The Blueshirts have lost four straight, including two losses to Toronto and Tampa Bay, two teams ahead of New York in the East standings. If the Lightning win this game, the Rangers will be nine points out of the eighth and final spot currently held by the Bolts.

Jarome Iginla • Saturday, Flames at Sabres, 7 p.m. ET: Calgary visits Buffalo for the first time since Nov. 23, 2001 and it hasn't won there since March 15, 1996. We're sure the Flames will feel right at home with all the snow and frigid temps. On the ice, this should be an interesting matchup considering the Flames are coming off a hard-fought loss to the Blue Jackets. Before this week's two late losses to Chicago and Columbus, Calgary had a 20-0-0 record when ahead after 40 minutes.

Sidney Crosby • Saturday, Penguins at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET: Last week, Sidney Crosby had a rough weekend in Montreal, playing through "Faker!" chants from the Canadiens faithful. How will the folks in Toronto react? We're a "high stick" away from finding out. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs keep fighting for a playoff spot in the East and were riding a four-game winning streak before losing to the Preds on Thursday.
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