Tencer's Blog: Moose Calls
Oilers legend Mark Messier weighs in on Oilers' rebuild with Dan Tencer
|Mark Messier knows a thing or two about greatness. The Oilers legend was part of all 5 of the orange and blue's Stanley Cup victories in '84, '85, '87, '88 & '90.
Last year Wayne Gretzky was the headliner - this year it's Mark Messier. The dinner is on September 21st at the Expo Centre. It's a fundraiser for the Kinsmen Club and local charities.
No doubt he'll be reminiscing about the past - but he may also have a few comments about today's Oilers and the patience that's needed with a young team.
"I think they've done exactly what they set out to do," Messier told 630 CHED yesterday. "When you set out to rebuild a team, at times it can be painful."
When the expansion Oilers entered the league in 1979-80, the process yielded a Stanley Cup in just five short years. And, though they won their first playoff series in 1981, Messier says it's important to remember that it wasn't a straight line to success.
"As we experienced ourselves back then, it is a process and you have to be patient," he explains.
"It takes some experience to be a professional and then to be a winning professional and then to be a champion. It takes going through the tough times and the disappointments and the failures in order to gain that, and you can't rush it."
Enduring the hardships of back-to-back last place finishes, and another bottom five finish potentially on the horizon, the Oilers have taken what positive they can and seized a number of important pieces for the future. Now working with the management team of the New York Rangers, Messier is keenly aware of the budding stars that the Oilers roster boasts.
"I think the Oilers have been very lucky to get the players that they have," said Messier. "They've got some special players there, and we've seen flashes of what they can do over the last year or two, but doing it consistently is a different story."
With talent like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Jeff Petry and the rest, comparisons are rampant to past Oilers teams and past Oilers players as fans hope for a return to the top of the heap in the NHL. As Messier is concerned, the player most often compared to him is left winger Taylor Hall, a well-built, dynamic talent with tremendous scoring ability and determination.
"I don't think it's a good idea to compare current players to past players," chuckles Messier. "Every player needs to build their own identity and their own style of play, and that's what these players are doing now."
"He's a tremendous hockey player. He brings all the intangibles that you need from a superstar. He players hard every night, he plays in the hard areas of the rink. He has great vision for a goal scorer, he's got a lot of passion, and he's a leader. He forces players around him to play just as hard and that's a great attribute for a superstar player."
"I just think we need to let these players come into their own and judge them for what they do on their own."
On the 8 point night for Sam Gagner on February 2nd: "I didn't really think it could be done. The defense and the goalies are so good these days, but you never say never. Sam had a night he'll never forget, it just seemed like every time he stepped on the ice it went in the net. He's had his struggles and he stuck with it, and it was an incredible night in this era."
On how players handle the trade deadline: "You can't help it when you see your name being mentioned. Your support system becomes the team, and the team is there to support you through the good and the bad during a season. When the trade deadline comes up, the team is there to support the player. It's a tough time of year for professionals, a lot of them are married and have kids in school, and you're breaking up homes. But, it's the nature of the game and everybody accepts it. It's not a pleasant part of the game, but it's a big part of it."
On the concussion epidemic around the league: "It is concerning, not only at the NHL level but at the grassroots level as well. I've been involved with the Messier Project for 3 years now trying to educate people about the inherent risks of playing hockey and trying to improve the development of helmets to make them safer, which I think we've done with the M11. Equipment aside, we really need to get back to instilling the survival instincts that are missing right now. I watch the games now and see players putting themselves in vulnerable positions, hoping that everybody else is going make the right decisions. That's not a good idea, because with the speed of the game, things happen so quickly. The players need to protect themselves better. But, the players who are taking advantage of vulnerable players need to be punished more severely."
On how things are going with the New York Rangers: "We've played well this year and gotten incredible goaltending. Our players that have come up through the organization are benefiting from the experiences that we talked about earlier that the Oilers are going through now. They're starting to really understand what it means to be a pro and the complexities of the game and what it entails to be a winner. They've also gotten excellent coaching from Tortorella, who holds their feet to the fire and keeps them accountable at all times. They play an excellent team game, they block shots and they play in the hard areas of the ice. They're winning by committee."
You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 6 to 9 on 630 CHED. Follow Dan on Twitter | @dantencer