The Columbus Blue Jackets have a tough offseason in front of them after going all-in at the trade deadline, and will now have to do it without their top hockey executive. John Davidson, President of Hockey Operations and alternate governor for the Blue Jackets has resigned his post and has taken the same position with the New York Rangers, signing a five-year deal with the team per Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic. Davidson had been immediately rumored to be an option for New York after it was announced that Glen Sather would be stepping down from the presidency. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will now serve as alternate governor in addition to his current duties.
It is difficult to overstate how important Davidson has been to the Blue Jackets organization over the last seven years. After leaving the St. Louis Blues, Davidson came to a franchise that was floundering on and off the ice, never finding much success since entering the league in 2000. The team had made the playoffs just a single time, and were routinely seeing changes in the coaching staff and management group. Roster turnover is inevitable but the Blue Jackets hadn’t been able to build any sort of consistency in their group and had recently traded their captain and face of the franchise, Rick Nash to the Rangers.
One of the first big changes Davidson enacted was firing general manager Scott Howson a few months after taking control of the team. He replaced Howsen with Kekalainen who he knew from his days in St. Louis, a move that is still paying off despite the gamble of this season. The Blue Jackets have grown into one of the most consistent organizations in the NHL, recording at least 89 points in five of the last six seasons and making the playoffs on four of those occasions. This year saw the team win the first playoff round in franchise history, when they shocked the hockey world by sweeping the Presidents Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
New York though was always a dream for Davidson. Blue Jackets owner John P. McConnell said as much in his statement today:
When we hired John Davidson in October 2012, I said I thought he was the perfect person to lead our hockey operations efforts. Nearly seven years later, I believe I was right. He joined our team at a very difficult time and led a transformation that has resulted in consistent winning and appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. J.D. is a man of great character and compassion and I completely understand his interest in the unique opportunity before him. I know leaving Columbus is a difficult decision for him as he has a genuine love of our community and organization, but the possibility of returning to his roots in New York, where he spent three decades as a player and broadcaster, is an extraordinary circumstance for him and his family.
Davidson was originally drafted fifth overall by the Blues in 1973, but would end up playing most of his career with the Rangers before retirement took him into the broadcasting ring. A generation of fans in New York grew up with “J.D.” as the color commentator for Rangers’ games, making this quite a homecoming for the respected executive. In the Rangers’ release, Davidson explained his excitement:
I am excited and humbled to be named the President of the New York Rangers. The opportunity of rejoining the Rangers organization and returning home to New York, where my family and I have spent so many wonderful years, was one I simply could not pass up. I want to thank James Dolan for offering me this chance to come home.