4:35pm: The Rangers have made it official, announcing that Davidson and Gorton are “leaving the organization” effective immediately. Drury has taken over as president and general manager, while senior advisor Glen Sather will help him during the transition. Dolan has released a statement:
We want to thank JD and Jeff for their contributions to the organization. They are both great hockey professionals who worked hard for the Rangers, however, in order for the team to succeed in the manner our fans deserve, there needs to be a change in leadership. Chris is a very sought-after executive and a strong leader, who has proven himself to be one of the top young minds in hockey. We are confident he will effectively guide the team to ensure the long-term success we promised Rangers fans.
1:50pm: In a stunning development, the New York Rangers have fired team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. This comes less than 24 hours after the team issued a harsh statement critiquing the league and Department of Player Safety head George Parros. Frank Seravalli of TSN reports that the two men “scurried to distance themselves” from the statement, telling other executives that they did not know it was in the works until after it was released. Larry Brooks of the New York Post tweets that associate GM Chris Drury will remain with the organization in a prominent role and Friedman reports that it will be as president and GM.
Darren Dreger of TSN has been told that the firings are not related to the statement and Friedman adds that James Dolan, the team owner, was unhappy with the team this season and wanted a change. Dolan was also behind the statement, reports Friedman.
While the Rangers are going to miss the playoffs again this season, the rebuild is going pretty much exactly as planned. Three years ago, the team issued a letter to fans telling them that they would be trading franchise icons in order to amass a new young core to put them back in contention for the Stanley Cup. Names like Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei, and Marc Staal were all shown the door, while Gorton and his staff compiled prospects and picks to build for the future. The team went out and signed Artemi Panarin to a huge contract in free agency to move things along and even took part in the postseason last year, losing to a much more experienced Carolina Hurricanes team in the qualification round.
This season they will miss the playoffs thanks to a brutal East Division, sitting ten points behind the New York Islanders but holding a 26-21-6 record. The Rangers would hold a playoff position in two of the other divisions with the same record and have the 13th-best goal differential in the NHL.
Apparently, that rebuild has not gone the way ownership envisioned. Davidson and Gorton are out, adding two respected and experienced executives to the market for teams to go after this summer. It was less than two years ago when Davidson resigned his role with the Columbus Blue Jackets to take a similar job with the Rangers, noting that it was a homecoming of sorts for the former player and broadcaster. That homecoming is now over, but it seems very unlikely that Davidson is without work for long if he wants to continue in an NHL front office.
Of course, even though they are moving on from two experienced executives, the Rangers have a ready-made replacement in Drury. An Olympic medalist as a player, Drury has been one of the most sought-after young managers in the league the last several years but has continued to commit himself to the Rangers whenever a new opportunity presented itself. He joined the team as its director of player development in 2015 and has worked his way up the ranks, also serving as GM for Team USA at the World Championships. There’s no doubting Drury’s ability in the role, though his appointment does come suddenly and with plenty of surprise.