What a Mess!

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:39 PM ET

ANAHEIM -- Blasphemy!

Either 73-year-old John Muckler has gone senile or his mind has been messed by getting back to the Stanley Cup for the first time in 17 years.

Muckler compared the 2007 Ottawa Senators to the 1990 Edmonton Oilers here yesterday. And if that didn't do it, he called Daniel Alfredsson the equal of Mark Messier as a leader.

The Oilers won their fifth Stanley Cup in 1990. Muckler was the head coach.

Now he's GM of the Senators, a team that - at least for the next 10 days or so - has yet to win anything.

Messier, who was his captain in 1990, has won six Cups and is generally recognized as the greatest leader in the history of hockey, if not all of sports.

"I've coached some good leaders in this NHL and one was Mark Messier. And Daniel Alfredsson is leading this hockey club on par with Mark," was how he put it here yesterday.

CANADIAN CORNER

A few minutes later in the hall behind the interview room, Muckler was cornered by three Canadian scribes who wanted to ask him if they'd heard right.

"I was speaking as far as leadership is concerned, not as a player," he said of Alfredsson, the first European ever to captain a team in the Stanley Cup final. "Being around Mark, as far as leadership is concerned, I think (Alfredsson) has become that kind of a leader.

"He had a lot of criticism about how he wasn't a leader. That was tied to our lack of success. They never gave him the credit.

"He's just handled everything right. He's a great person. Very likable. He handles crisis at a very even keel. He stands up for his teammates. He has everything you want as a leader."

The 1990 Oiler thing is a different deal.

"I'm not saying that as far as personality is concerned," he explained. "I think the two teams have very different personalities.

"It's just things that happened. In 1990, we didn't have Grant Fuhr, we didn't have Paul Coffey. We didn't have Wayne Gretzky. In Ottawa, we lost Marty Havlat ... and Zdeno Chara. Other people got an opportunity to play. And they've played very well.

"And I think this team has good depth to it, like the Oilers had good depth.

"With the Oilers, we struggled during the regular season and got down against Winnipeg three games to one in the first round. We came back to win it and the Stanley Cup.

"In Ottawa, our club got off to not a good start. We became a better hockey club going into the playoffs ... That's the 1990 comparables I like to use."

Muckler getting back to the Stanley Cup is a pretty good story, if you can handle the blasphemy.

He started with the Oilers as an assistant coach for two Cups, became co-coach with Glen Sather for two more, and then head coach for the last one in 1990.

"I really had a different role on every one we won in Edmonton. We won so many Cups there, you expected it would go on for a long time. It's been 17 years, but now that I'm back here, it really does seem like yesterday."

EVERYBODY'S HAPPY

Most everybody in hockey is happy for him.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for John Muckler, for what he's done for the game," said Anaheim GM Brian Burke.

"I think he was the youngest head coach in the history of the league when he first became a head coach. And he's had success as a general manager.

"I think he made real good changes to his club in the least two years," Burke said. "Some gutsy ones; some that were easy."

One of the best things, Muckler says, is that his daughter Jenny now has her chance to get her Stanley Cup ring.

She's 32 now. She was 15 when he won the ring that dad promised she'd get when he won the next one. Or when he died.

"I have five children and gave a ring to each one. But I always wear the last one I won so Jenny has had to wait for hers. Maybe she won't have to wait as long as she thought, now."


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