Less than 24 hours after the boldest of bold statements, and the spotlight still shining brightly on the Blueshirts, they pounced yet again, firing Team President and Alternate Governor, John Davidson and General Manager, Jeff Gorton.
The move, which has not been officially confirmed by the club, which cancelled its media availability ahead of a much-anticipated meeting with Tom Wilson and the Capitals on Wednesday, but has been reported by several reputable media members including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Larry Brooks, the Rangers columnist of the New York Post.
BREAKING. Shocker. Rangers have fired John Davidson and Jeff Gorton, Post has learned. Chris Drury will remain with organization and will have prominent role.
The move comes a day after the Rangers released a strong statement that both expressed disappointment for the league’s decision not to suspend Wilson for taking repeated shots to the back of the head of New York’s Pavel Buchnevich and throwing Artemi Panarin to the ice after the scoring winger came to his teammate’s defense. The statement also called for the George Parros, the head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to be removed from his role. Perhaps this was the ultimate punishment for the ultimate statement?
Not so much, according to many insiders well-connected with the league and Rangers. With the belief being that this move was in the works prior to Tuesday’s statement and Monday’s game and incident.
“A source I’ve worked with closely over the years said that (James) Dolan was letting management know as early as the weekend that he wasn’t happy with the season,” TSN Hockey Insider, Darren Dreger said on a radio hit on TSN 1050, Toronto. “In his estimation the New York Rangers underachieved. That was then, this is now. How Davidson got swept into it, I guess as President he’s in charge of the overall hockey operations department.
The Rangers would have you disconnect between what happened with (Tom) Wilson on the ice–the statement that was issued from the offices of ownership to the firings today. I don’t know how you can separate the two entirely. It feels like a pretty big stretch to me simply because of the timing of it all.”
New York’s season was scheduled to end on Saturday and at the time of the firing, the club had just three games remaining on their season, where the team won’t finish worse than sixth in the East and will have more wins than regulation losses on the year. Dolan, who has long drawn criticism for his involvement and decision making with the NBA’s New York Knicks, has generally kept a lower level of micromanagement with the hockey club–Glen Sather remained in position of GM and President from 2000-2015 despite the team missing the postseason six times under his tenure and struggling at the draft table and in free agency.
Gorton, who took over for Sather as GM in 2015, came from a background that included scouting as the former Director of Scouting for the Bruins and Assistant GM of Boston and New York. Under his tenure as GM, the team has drafted players including Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov and K’Andre Miller while also landing two lottery picks in Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere. He also traded for potential Norris finalist, Adam Fox and along with Davidson, helped the Blueshirts land Panarin via free agency in 2019–inking the ex-Blue Jacket to a seven-year, $81.5 million deal.
Chris Drury, who has served in multiple upper management capacities with New York since his retirement and has served as Assistant GM since 2016, will serve as President and GM for the remainder of the season before the team reportedly will look into how they plan to fill the vacancies including possibly keeping Drury elevated. The Rangers have previously denied clubs from interviewing him for other vacancies and he has pulled himself from consideration as well. UPDATE: Dolan does not intend to interview other candidates, keeping Drury in place as President and GM.
Prior to Davidson’s upper management position in New York, he was best known by Ranger fans as a goaltender for the club from 1975-76 to 1981-82. He’d later become part of an iconic duo on Rangers’ television broadcasts with Sam Rosen. The two worked 20 years together in the booth and Davidson went on to serve as a color analyst for national games as well including the NHL on FOX, ABC and NBC. He was visibly emotional and elated to return to New York at his 2019 introductory press conference.
CONFIRMED: The plan is for Chris Drury to remain as #NYR team president and GM moving forward. Owner James Dolan does not intend to interview other candidates.
Of course the question of timing is the most interesting part of all of this including why Gorton and Davidson, a much-praised duo since the latter came on the scene in 2019 after serving as President of the Blues and Blue Jackets, were not given a third season to try and put the rest of the puzzle together. Instead, they were given two COVID-related shortened seasons and New York will be on the hook to pay both.
And if construction of the current roster, which has dropped three-straight and hasn’t shown consistent battle when to physical confrontations, is indeed the issue at hand, it’s hard to truly separate the last two days and Wednesday’s mammoth news. And suddenly, the impending rematch with many wanting New York to show some pushback, just might have a preview of what awaits if there is none.