Messier talks faceoff rules, offside challenges, and the Oilers' Cup chances

Josh Gold-Smith
Denis Brodeur / National Hockey League / Getty

TORONTO - The NHL's third all-time leading point producer isn't too worried about the preseason crackdown on faceoff violations.

"It's just an adjustment period for the players. We got a little loose in the way we wanted the game officiated, and that happens," Mark Messier told theScore Wednesday at the launch of Bauer's "NeuroShield" collar.

"Every year, come September, (there's) a reminder for the players of what's tolerable and what's not, and the players will adjust," he said. "Once the season starts, I don't see it being an issue."

In the preseason, NHL officials have ramped up enforcement of slashing infractions as well as existing faceoff rules that previously went largely uncalled, drawing criticism from players as well as from fans and the media.

Offside challenges have been another source of officiating controversy, and while the league will reportedly attempt to curb the number of reviews with a minor penalty for lost challenges, Messier doesn't blame head coaches for using them to their advantage last season.

"Coaches are smart guys, and (if) they realize an opportunity to benefit the team, they'll use it," he said. "(Previously), there was no penalty for being wrong, and so they used it as a (way) to benefit the team, to rest a player or to get a timeout or whatever. Those are all things that are up for the general managers and the league, and all that. Whatever they decide upon, everybody will play by the rules."

Messier also weighed in on several other topics, including the NHL's lack of participation in the upcoming Olympic Games, the Stanley Cup hopes of the two franchises he's primarily associated with, and whether he sees any current player who reminds him of himself:

Alex Ovechkin has now accepted the NHL's position on the Olympics, and the league clearly isn't changing its mind on forgoing Pyeongchang, but do you think this is a missed opportunity?

"It's not (about) whether I like it or agree (about) whether they should or shouldn't go. It's a tough situation for the owners and it's a tough situation for the players. Ultimately, the players work for the owners, and (the) decision was not to go. The players have to live by it, it's just as simple as that. Who's right or who's wrong is really indifferent at this particular time. The decision has been made and everybody's going to have to live with it."

Are the Edmonton Oilers ready to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender or do they need a bit more time to grow as a team?

"Well, I think you can say (that) anybody that makes the playoffs can potentially be a Cup contender, and I think any time you've got a player like (Connor) McDavid leading the way, you have to be thinking that special things are on the horizon, but of course, they still have to prove it.

"They had a great year last year, and I think they might have been a little disappointed that they didn't go further because I think they probably could (have), so it'll be an interesting year for them this year. They're going to have to earn it. The teams around the league will be ready for them, and they won't surprise anybody this year. The better team you become, the tougher it could get, so it'll be interesting to see how it unfolds for the Oilers."

Can the New York Rangers get back to their Cup Final and conference final form of a few years ago, or are they going to continue to have difficulty getting back there?

"They're a playoff team for sure, (but) there's a lot of competition. A lot has to go right for any team to win the Stanley Cup. You've gotta be lucky, you've gotta be good, you've gotta stay healthy. They've proven that they've had the goaltending there, (but) they're in a bit of a transition period right now, so time will only tell there, but I think everybody would agree that they're a playoff team."

There are a lot of great players in the NHL these days, and you're one of the greatest of all time, but do you see any current players who remind you of yourself?

"(I) never compare players ever. Never liked to compare players. I don't think it's fair to any player to compare (them) to any player in the past or the future. I think every player has to make it on their own merits and their own individual characteristics.

"There will never be another Wayne Gretzky. There will never be another Mario Lemieux. There will never be another Gordie Howe. There will never be (another) Sidney Crosby. There will never be (another) Jonathan Toews. These guys are who they are, and the reason they are who they are is because they've been able to put their own (stamp) on it without comparisons (to) anybody else. I don't think it's fair to compare young kids. I think it puts undue pressure on them and I think it's important for them to make a name on their own for their own individual style and skill."