New York Rangers
In a stunning move, the Rangers canned president John Davidson (left) and general manager Jeff Gorton (right) with just days remaining in the 2020-21 regular season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Turns out the Tom Wilson saga isn’t the most notable thing to happen to the New York Rangers this week.

That’s team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton, to be specific. The moves are absolute stunners; no doubt about it. Davidson has been team president since July 2019, following successful tenures in the same role for the St. Louis Blues (2006-2012) and Columbus Blue Jackets (2012-2019). He also played goaltender for the Rangers from 1975-1983. The Rangers hired Gorton as GM in July 2015 and was previously assistant GM for the Bruins for seven seasons. Gorton has been a member of the Rangers organization since 2007. Both were seen as key figures for the Rangers’ rebuild and budding return to prominence in the years to come.

Yes, the Rangers are going to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season in 2021 (not counting being swept 3-0 by Carolina in the 2020 Qualifying Round as the #11 seed in the East). But the future looks bright on Broadway. The Rangers have an electric young core featuring several exceptional young talents. These include the likes of Alexis Lafrenière, 2021 Norris candidate Adam Fox, Kappo Kakko, K’Andre Miller, Igor Shesterkin, Vitali Kravtsov, and more. Their veteran core is led by players such as Artemi Panarin (2019-20 Hart Trophy finalist), Mika Zibanejad (41 goals in 2019-20 and is still good despite a nightmare start to this season), and Chris Kreider. With the Rangers seemingly on the rise, why were Davidson and Gorton let go now? Glad you asked.

The fact that the dismissals come right after a lack of agreement of the club’s bold statement about the Wilson incident adds another layer of complexity to this story. Same for the fact that team president James Dolan orchestrated the move. Dolan is well-known for his antics shall we say in running the New York Knicks over the last several years. He’s been much more under-the-radar when it comes to handling the New York Rangers, but that clearly isn’t the case right now. Ultimately, the firings appear to be a separate decision from the Wilson events with just terrible coincidental timing. But it’s also possible the Dolan decided the Wilson saga combined with what Seravallia mentioned above is the last straw.

Where the Rangers move from here is anyone’s guess. Gorton will probably join another club and work towards earning another GM job in the years to come. His record features some great decisions (the Zibanejad trade, plus drafting Shesterkin in the 4th round and Miller 22nd overall). It also includes some not-so-good moves (the Jacob Trouba contract doesn’t look so hot, and the Rangers lead the NHL nearly $13 million in cap penalties due to buyouts, about half of which come from contracts Gorton signed). Davidson, 68, could return to the broadcast booth, which he did from 1983-2006, both for the Rangers and in a national role. Or perhaps another team snatches him up in hopes of him orchestrating a turn-around like the ones in St. Louis and Columbus.

As for the Rangers themselves, the club’s window for winning seems to be on the cusp of re-opening. But winning in the returning Metropolitan Division won’t be easy. Dethroning a team like the Capitals or Penguins or leapfrogging a team on the rise like the Hurricanes or Islanders certainly won’t be a cakewalk. Not to mention potential bounce-backs from the Flyers or Blue Jackets or a quicker than expected rise from the Devils. And if the results don’t improve soon, head coach David Quinn (95-85-25 with NYR) could be next on the chopping block.

Of course, that isn’t guaranteed to happen. If the Rangers do go that route, replacing Quinn would probably be done in the offseason by whoever succeeds Gorton and Davidson. Per the New York Post, current Rangers assistant GM Chris Drury is the leading candidate to replace Gorton; the same goes for Rangers legend Mark Messier in terms of filling Davidson’s shoes. In firing Davidson and Gorton, the New York Rangers made a statement far bigger than even the most poignant press release could. What comes next will be crucial to determining the direction of this proud franchise.

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