Hockey Central Insiders: Sather forced to choose Messier or Gretzky?

In this week's edition of Hockey Central Ask the Insiders, several fan questions are answered including whether Rangers GM Glen Sather's hand is being forced to hire either Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier to be the next coach of the team.

In this week’s edition of Hockey Central Ask the Insiders, several fan questions are answered including whether Rangers GM Glen Sather’s hand is being forced to hire either Mark Messier or Wayne Gretzky to be the next coach of the team.

Chris asks: Is Glen Sather kind of backed into a corner with Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky expressing their interest in the Rangers coaching job? If he hires anyone else and the new guy struggles will the fans just keep chanting “We want Messier/Gretzky?”

Nick Kypreos: Chris, the moment this story broke about Messier and Gretzky having interest in the job was also the moment the Glen Sather reached into his medicine cabinet for extra strength aspirin. The ball is now clearly in Sather’s court regarding who makes the next move. Does he take their inquiries in the head coaching gig seriously or does he shoo it away? It’s one thing to tell journeyman Dallas Eakins thanks but no thanks, but how do you do that to two icons that helped create your legacy? I’d rather slam the car trunk door on my bottom lip than have to say no to those two guys. If Glen Sather thought Ranger fans have been tough on him in the past, try getting the next coach decision wrong.

Doug MacLean: Chris, I can only imagine Sather is bothered by this decision. Both Messier and Gretzky want the job. This is a tough call for Glen. Does he want a more experienced coach or a coach with an NHL winning track record? Tough call with Mark as he has no coaching experience but has been regarded as one of the greatest leaders of all time. No doubt Sather will be second guessed no matter which way he goes.

Neil Smith: Chris, when you bring a strong personality like Mark into the front office of the organization as Glen did, you have to be very clear on how you are running the organization and who is making the decisions. If Glen feels that Mark is the right man for the job and can get the Rangers to the Stanley Cup that’s all he will be concerned with. If Sather and ownership feels that another candidate is the right man for the job, then it is Mark’s responsibility as part of the organization to support whatever choice is made. Lastly if the new coach were to struggle and the fans become discontented and start to chant, again I’m sure that Messier’s leadership abilities will guide him to being supportive of the coach and denying any further interest in the job.

Have your say: Have an opinion on the news of the day? Better yet, want to become a Fan Fuel blogger? Email us here. | Read more Fan Fuel blogs here

Mike asks: Who do you think is the favourite in a one-on-one battle between Sidney Crosby and Zdeno Chara?

Brad May: Zdeno Chara is the victor in this one on one battle. His size, strength, reach and surprising agility would lead me to believe that he’d shut Sidney Crosby down. mano-a-mano. But hockey isn’t all about one on one battles. If Sidney Crosby uses his linemates and team structure, that structure can be utilized to expose a player like Chara. Where Chara may get beat is when he is relied upon to provide offence and gets caught on the wrong side of a battle or situation, because of Boston’s offensive pressure. If a player like Crosby anticipates this? My whole argument is a moot point.

Dan asks: Do you guys see any teams willing to take a chance on Tim Thomas next season if he wants to play? I wonder if they are too concerned with his off-ice controversies.

Scott Morrison: There have been reports of late suggesting that Thomas is considering making a comeback, but perhaps in Europe rather than the NHL. The Islanders, of course, own Thomas’ NHL rights. His contract expires this summer, but the Islanders can “toll” it through next season if they want. The key to all of this of course is figuring out how effective he can be after a year off and at the age of 39. It would be a fairly easy experiment for the Islanders but more risky if a team had to deal for his rights.

Jeff Marek: In a word – yes. Thomas is only one year removed from the game, albeit at an advanced age for a goaltender, so I could definitely see a team in need of short-term help in the crease taking a shot at signing Thomas. The key there is short-term, however. Thomas is 39 years old so he isn’t someone you look at for the long term for your franchise but as a stop-gap until the goalie you’re building with is ready for a full work load in the NHL. As far as his off-ice issues, the only one is he didn’t want to go to the Obama White House after the Bruins won the Cup. Was his choice, and although he didn’t feel like answering questions about his political stance it’s still his choice. And on the scale of questionable off-ice behavior, this is relatively low on the totem pole.

Have your say: Have an opinion on the news of the day? Better yet, want to become a Fan Fuel blogger? Email us here. | Read more Fan Fuel blogs here

Rob asks: How important is the NHL combine to GMs when deciding who they will pick at the draft?

Doug MacLean: Rob, the combine is just another tool used by NHL teams to further evaluate the players. The fitness tests are undoubtedly used by every team. The teams also use this time to do extensive interviews with the prospects. Many teams also tie their final scouting meetings to this week. Nothing compares to watching the players play but it certainly is a valuable time for additional information on players.

Neil Smith: Rob, the combine is a very useful tool to the scouting department and therefore the GMs in getting more information about the different prospects. The results and interviews conducted at the combine can either reassure you, or send up some red flags that you were unaware of. All in all, the combine saves the teams a lot of money that was once spent bringing youngsters into the various cities and is a very useful evaluation tool.

Fraser asks: Are you surprised at how well Tomas Vokoun has played up to this point for Pittsburgh?

Brad May: Tomas Vokoun has been a great addition and pleasant surprise for Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Marc-Andre Fleury faltered against NY. But having a capable backup in Vokoun has saved the Penguins. This doesn’t happen by fluke. Ray Shero and the Penguins brass identified the importance of having a quality goaltender behind their number one. They are forward thinkers in Pittsburgh and deserve a lot of credit. As for Tomas Vokoun? I couldn’t be happier for a guy who is a consummate pro and has clearly demonstrated that if you stay positive, work hard, and are ready for your opportunity, great things can happen. As a former player, I love when a player/players take advantage of their situation and have success. I can honestly say I’m really happy for Tomas Vokoun.

Patrick asks: I hear rumours that Dallas Eakins makes NHL-type head coach money for the Maple Leafs. Is there anything else they can offer to keep him from going to another NHL club? Could they name him Randy Carlyle’s successor when his current deal expires?

Scott Morrison: If Eakins wants to coach in the NHL and he wants to do it now, there is nothing much the Leafs can do. Carlyle has been good for the Leafs and presumably, if he continues to have success, they won’t be terribly anxious to make a coaching change any time soon, so it would be difficult to promise Eakins the Leafs job when you really don’t know when it would become open.

Jeff Marek: No, I don’t think so. If Eakins, who is an excellent coach in the AHL and will also make a fine one at the NHL level I’m certain, was offered a head coaching position at the NHL level there is nothing the Maple Leafs could do to entice him to stay behind the bench with the Marlies. Don’t forget the American Hockey League is not just a development league for players and officials but coaches as well. Eakins is ready to make the next step in his career (some say he was ready a couple of seasons ago) and to expect him to turn down a great career move just so he can stay with the Leafs is wishful thinking.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.