There certainly was no guarantee Mark Messier would stick around after not being named Rangers head coach, and now, the Captain officially has left the organization.
Messier, who interviewed to succeed John Tortorella but didn’t get the job, released a statement through the Rangers Thursday afternoon announcing his resignation as special assistant to general manager Glen Sather, a position he has occupied since Aug. 2009.
“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,” Messier’s statement read. “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 (in the Bronx).
“Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth,” Messier continued. “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.”
Although Messier insists he is not leaving because Sather hired Alain Vigneault over him, the Captain put himself in a precarious position when his desire to coach the Rangers leaked outside the organization, specifically in a Daily News report. The external pressure from an internal executive created the immediate question of how Messier possibly could proceed in the organization if Sather didn’t hire him to coach.
Then Messier was slighted on June 14, stepping out into the spotlight and telling the Daily News that he’d interviewed with Sather for the position, only hours later finding out that Vigneault was on his way to New York for a second interview.
Once Vigneault was hired, if Messier had decided to stay, it would have created the unfavorable predicament of Vigneault coaching with his main challenger just over his shoulder in the team’s front office.
Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
Mark Messier interviews for the head coaching job that ends up going to Alain Vigneault (above).
Messier waited some time to make a decision on how to proceed once he was passed over, but his silence was deafening.
In a statement, Sather said: “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.”
On June 14, Messier seemed level-headed about the possibility Sather could hire someone else.
“I have a lot of respect for Glen, obviously with the amount of years we’ve been together,” Messier said. “I know … he would never jeopardize making the right decision because of friendship or past experiences we’ve had together. He will do what he feels in his heart is his right decision, and for no other reason other than that he thinks it’s the best fit for whoever he hires. So everybody can have complete confidence in that.”
Then again, there is a good chance Messier simply didn’t see himself not getting the job.
THE KING AND HIS MEN
The Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist’s camp reportedly planned to begin negotiations on Thursday night in New York regarding a long-term contract extension for the franchise goalie … The Rangers made no announcement about whether they intend to use their second and final compliance buyout on the contract of veteran center Brad Richards. The buyout window opened on Wednesday at 11 p.m. and closes at the end of July 4.