- The New York Rangers have fired President John Davidson and General Manager Jeff Gorton
- Former NHLer Chris Drury has taken over the team’s President & GM role
It’s been a whirlwind 48 hours for the New York Rangers, and on Wednesday things got a whole lot weirder.
By now, you’re well aware of the Tom Wilson antics that went on at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. I’m not going to go into detail here, but for those living under a rock (or don’t follow the NHL whatsoever), check out my piece from last night highlighting the madness that was yesterday.
Well, today’s a new day, and more bombshell news came out of New York that has the hockey world in a spin cycle. Here’s what’s new out of New York today, and it’s a doozie.
Rangers Fire President Davidson, GM Gorton
Following the lack of suspension and subsequent embarrassingly soft $5K fine the NHL’s Department of Player Safety levied on Wilson for his UFC showcase on Monday night, the New York Rangers released a statement condemning the league, but more specifically called for the firing of department head George Parros whose final decision was to not hand down any discipline on the five-time repeat offender.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) May 4, 2021
The statement reads, in part, “we view this as a dereliction of duty by NHL head of player safety, George Parros, and believe he is unit to continue in his current role.”
Now, about 24 hours after that statement was released, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped the bombshell that the Rangers had fired president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton.
NYR have fired John Davidson and Jeff Gorton
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 5, 2021
Understandably, many, including Friedman, rushed to the seemingly obvious conclusion that the firings were a direct result of the team showing up the league publicly and calling for one of its head officials to be canned.
Not so fast.
According to Friedman, that statement came from Rangers owner James Nolan and Davidson and Gorton were both unaware of its release until the rest of us saw it.
Apparently, Dolan was unhappy with the Rangers’ 2020-21 campaign and the direction of the team. You know, the same team that released a statement to its fans declaring a rebuild in February of 2018 only to sit near points away from a postseason spot two years later in March of 2020 before the season was shut down.
In other words, Davidson and Gorton went from a full-blown, public rebuild to within inches of the postseason (the Rangers qualified for the expanded playoffs last year) in two (!!!) years, but were axed on Tuesday, because, well, James Dolan.
I’m looking at you, Knicks fans. You know Dolan more than anyone, and while he usually doesn’t bother messing around with his hockey team, he not only was behind the release of the boldest statement an NHL team has released in history, but the firing of the two men responsible for bringing the team from a rebuild to prominence in a 24-month span.
The Rangers aren’t going to make the playoffs this season, but they were realigned into the toughest division in the league this season, and sit fifth of eight teams. They were never going to finish ahead of Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston or the cross-town Islanders. Fifth was as good was it was going to get, and they sit… fifth. A guy who know’s zilch about hockey — including the team he owns — just axed the two men responsible for turning the franchise around, and chose to do it when all eyes were already firmly on them given what has transpired over the past 48 hours.
Dude is off his rocker.
Drury Takes Over as President & GM
In happier news, a true good guy in the game, Chris Drury, has been promoted as the club’s new president and GM.
Chris Drury will be President & GM of NYR
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 5, 2021
Drury, a former NHLer who enjoyed a productive 12-year NHL career, the final four of which came with the Rangers, has been a hot name around general manager vacancies of late. He’s reportedly had plenty of offers elsewhere, though it’s unclear in what capacity, but decided to stay in New York and work as an assistant GM with the Rangers.
Now, the 44-year-old Connecticut native who spent the final seven NHL seasons playing in the state of New York between Buffalo and the Rangers, gets to take control (well, sort of) of a franchise with an upwards trajectory that trumps all non-playoff teams this season.
Remember, Artemi Panarin, the 170-pound ragdoll victim of Wilson, was the top free agent on the market in the summer of 2019 before Davidson and Gorton lured him to the Big Apple. He’s since put together a couple of MVP-caliber seasons and is around for the long haul. The team drafted Kaapo Kakko No. 2 overall in 2019 and Alexis Lafreniere in 2020, adding them to one of the game’s premier young cores, one that features a 23-year-old defenseman in Adam Fox who may just pull the upset of a lifetime and win the 2021 Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top blueliner
Let’s also not forget the future superstar goaltender Igor Shesterkin who owns a 2.52 GAA and .923 Sv% through the first 45 games of his NHL career following sheer domination in his native Russia.
The supporting cast around all these impressive young pieces is productive, youthful and ready to give it a heck of a go next season when the league — and its divisions — return to normalcy.
The downside is he’s now in the clear focus of Dolan, but the upside is that a well-respected hockey guy in Drury gets to make good on a promising career as an executive, and he gets to do it with a roster ready to compete immediately.