Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky both are interested as taking over for John Tortorella as the next coach of the Rangers, The Post has confirmed. After Tortorella was fired on Wednesday, a slew of possible candidates arose from both inside and outside the organization. Messier was the one name being mentioned that didn’t have a day of professional head coaching experience, while Gretzky hasn’t coached since he was behind the Coyotes’ bench in 2009.
As originally reported by Canadian outlet SportsNet, Messier wants this to be his first head-coaching job in either the NHL or AHL. The sole coaching experience for the 52-year-old is with Team Canada during the 2010 Deutschland Cup and the 2010 Spengler Cup. He was also the general manager for Canada during the 2010 World Championships in Germany.
Gretzky was the head coach for the Phoenix Coyotes for four seasons, going 143-161-24.
Alas, it appears Gretzky’s interest is overstated or he’s a total pessimist about the gig. Darren Dreger of TSN reported on Saturday (s/t NYR Blog) that Gretzky said he shouldn’t be on the candidates list and that it’s "very unlikely" he would coach the Rangers.
Here’s the thing: Gretzky would actually make sense for the Rangers. A lot of sense, and a hell of a lot more sense than Messier, who has less NHL head coaching experience than Rogie Vachon.
When he resigned as head coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, I listed seven reasons he was a failure during four playoff-less seasons. Some things he can’t fix – immortal players do often make mortal coaches.
But the Rangers won’t be the ‘built on the cheap’ collection of castoff that his Coyotes teams were, and Gretzky won’t have to learn on the job as he did in his previous gig.
Plus, he could simply focus on coaching if he wanted to with the Rangers, rather than the several hats he wore with the Coyotes and his oversight of the Gretzky brand, which offered its own distractions. And lord knows there won’t be the same sort of salary haggling with the Dolans.
All of this is to say that if you believe there's a good coach lurking somewhere inside The Great One, the Rangers situation is light years away from where he cut his teeth.
Of course, with Alain Vigneault and Dallas Eakins and Lindy Ruff and potentially Dave Tippett available, Gretzky isn’t going to be anywhere near the top of the list. But if he’s interested, should he be on that list?