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INSIDE THE NHL
Last summer's most significant transaction has been bad news for the Rangers, who let Mark Messier go as a free agent, and for the Canucks, who signed him to a three-year, $20 million deal. New York (23-35-18 through Sunday) fell flat without Messier, its captain the past six seasons, and cries of "We want Mark!" have resounded at Madison Square Garden.
Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Messier, who had 21 goals and 37 assists through last weekend, has done little to justify his big contract. By the time Vancouver had gone 4-13-2, coach Tom Renney and general manager Pat Quinn were fired, and Messier ally Mike Keenan was brought in to run the Canucks. Vancouver has played poorly under Keenan (20-26-11), and when popular center Trevor Linden was traded to the Islanders on Feb. 6, wounded Canucks fans heard no regrets from Messier, who had taken Linden's long-held captaincy in training camp.
Said Messier last week, "When I got here, this was anything but a team. It was failing in the most important part of the businesswinning. Everybody knew changes needed to be made."
Recently winger Pavel Bure, Odjick's best friend and the Canucks' most talented player (47 goals through Sunday), has hinted that he wants to be traded, too. With or without Bure, Messier and Keenan will try to whip together a winner largely out of the existing talent in Vancouver next year, while the Rangers rebuild. Here's the capper: For the first time since Messier and New York's Wayne Gretzky broke in together with the Oilers in 1979-80, both will miss the playoffs.
Issue date: April 13, 1998
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