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Mark Messier, ESPN's new NHL analyst, analyzes the Rangers

Mark Messier will be part of ESPN's NHL

Mark Messier will be part of ESPN's NHL team as an analyst. Credit: ESPN Images/Scott Clarke

It was last May when Mark Messier memorably said this of the Rangers on "The Michael Kay Show" radio program:

"In my opinion, if you’re going to win, you got to be able to win in the street and the alley. I particularly would not have built the team that didn’t have answers in this regard."

That was after three losses to the rival Islanders and an infamous game against the Capitals in which Tom Wilson roughed up both Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin – and after a shocking front-office shakeup.

In the five months since, the Rangers have made many changes, including replacing coach David Quinn with Gerard Gallant, and have taken steps to toughen up their roster.

How does Messier, captain of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup team and a newly minted ESPN studio analyst, think that process is going?

Asked that question by Newsday on a video conference on Thursday to promote ESPN’s new NHL package, he said, "I think it's getting overplayed a little. I think that if you look at any championship team, you have to have a well-balanced team. You have to have finesse. You have to have scoring. You have to have grit. You have to have character. You have to have guys that can protect your players. You have to have a great goaltending.

"My point last year when all this happened is that the Rangers just weren't there yet. They didn't have that element to their team that is much-needed. I don't think anybody likes to see what happened with Panarin, the star player.

"I don't ever remember it happening to Wayne Gretzky. I don't remember it ever happening to Brian Leetch. I don't remember it ever happening on any of the teams I ever played on. And I think I can speak to the reason why: It is because we had players that can fill different roles.

"In order to be a Stanley Cup contender, you have to have a well-balanced team. So I [like] the fact they've gotten Ryan Reaves, who I love, who could have played on any team that I've ever played on. I love him. I love his character. I love the energy he brings to the team.

"I think that in Edmonton, everybody considered us a finesse team, but we could win in the street, or we could win in the alleys, and that's the way that I was brought up into the game and I don't think the game has changed all that much, even with the rule changes, where there is definitely an intimidation factor, even with it all.

"I would never want to be on the end of being pushed out of the game because we couldn't have an answer for any of the physical elements a team was trying to push on us, and believe me, teams tried for years to knock us out of a game in Edmonton for the obvious reasons.

"Couldn't do it, and that's why we won five Stanley Cups – one of the reasons why we won five Stanley Cups."

New York Sports