On Friday, May 17, the New York Rangers announced the hiring of John Davidson as the team’s President of Hockey Operations. With longtime president Glen Sather stepping into the role of Senior Advisor and Alternate Governor of the New York Rangers, we knew that change was going to come. The Rangers had to find the right fit for the job. It could be one of the most important decisions in this offseason since the Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild. Hiring the best man for the job could make this rebuild a lot quicker than anticipated.
For long-time Rangers fans, this name should seem very familiar. Davidson spent eight of his 10 professional seasons in the NHL with the Rangers from 1975 to 1983. He was a part of the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1979. Davidson was also the MSG Network hockey color broadcaster for 20 years. Alongside Sam Rosen, they were the dynamic duo for the Rangers games. They were able to broadcast the 1994 Stanley Cup run by the Rangers as well.
Rangers fans and the organization love him.
Body of Work
After Davidson left the Rangers’ broadcast booth, he took the St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations job in the 2006-07 season. He would continue this role until the 2011-12 season. In the season before he took over, the Blues were the worst team in the NHL. Throughout his tenure in the Blues organization, there were major improvements. Through the draft and developing players, the Blues became competitive and a force in the Central Division. In his last season as president, the team had their best season at 49-22-11 with 109 points – enough for them to win the Central Division title.
After the St. Louis job, Davidson then took over as President of Hockey Operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2012-13 season. Just like the situation with the Blues, the Blue Jackets came off a season where they were the worst team in the NHL. He would have to build through the NHL Entry Draft with the young talent that the organization had, like he did before with St. Louis.
Not only did he have to draft some young pieces, but he had the chance to develop young players as well – Cam Atkinson, Artem Anisimov, and Ryan Johansen developed into solid players over the years. With the Blue Jackets, Davidson helped the club reach the franchise’s best season in 2016-17 with 50 wins and 108 points. Also, five of the six playoff berths in franchise history came while Davidson was with the team. In his last year, the team that he put together won the franchise’s first playoff series, sweeping the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
With all this being said, Davidson has some great experience with teams going into a rebuild. This is a great opportunity for Davidson to work his magic with the organization that he holds close to his heart.
Why Is This Good?
For Rangers fans, this is a great opportunity to have a President of Hockey Operations that has been through this situation before in his career. As discussed, Davidson has a lot of prior experience rebuilding a franchise. He has been very productive with it as well. He brought two different franchises from worst in the league, to teams that found themselves amongst the top of their divisions.
What really should get Rangers fans excited is that he did this in two very tough divisions, one in which the Rangers are in. That is a very impressive task to accomplish since the Metropolitan Division has always been tough. During the time of rebuilding the Blue Jackets, it was the prime time of Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby bringing their teams to the playoffs. Not to mention his new employer’s franchise, the New York Rangers, who always fought themselves into the playoffs.
Another reason the fans should find themselves jumping for joy about Davidson is that he likes to draft and develop young players. As a Rangers fan, this should get the blood boiling from excitement. It is no secret that the Rangers have already started to bring in younger players that they want to develop. Some of the young drafted talent that the Rangers have to develop are Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Vitali Kravtsov, and many more. You can’t forget how they will be adding a potential superstar talent with the second overall pick this draft in Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko.
Davidson will also be able to develop the younger players that are already on the team, or have recently signed with the team. One of the major components to this would be the signing Harvard defensemen Adam Fox. Fox is a highly scouted defensemen whose mind for the game is highly praised and will be looking to be a big talking point of the future. Add in the likes of Tony DeAngelo, Mika Zibanejad, and Brady Skjei, and you have a core on the younger side that could be a big part of the future of this team. Davidson will look to develop these young players to expand and maximize these players talents to take this team back to the playoffs.
Things Davidson Needs to Avoid
There are two major things that Davidson needs to understand that he needs to avoid, and they go hand-in-hand. He should avoid trying to come into this job to win now for Henrik Lundqvist. We know that Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger, and that the clock is ticking on him winning a Cup with the Rangers.
This doesn’t mean Davidson should come into this position and try to attempt to throw together a team quickly that might be able to make the playoffs. As much as everyone wants to see Lundqvist win in New York, attempting to win quickly would set back the organization too far for the small chance of winning with veterans.
You don’t want to burn cap space or trade away assets for players who would be short-term and older. Davidson needs to continue to draft high-level prospects and let the team grow and develop, like he has done in the past with the Blues and the Blue Jackets. The organization wants to get back to the playoffs, but they also want to be in the playoffs for a long time and ultimately win multiple Cups.
Why He Is the Right Choice
Davidson was the smart choice for the job for a few reasons. His experience of successfully rebuilding two franchises who were last in the league before he got there, to playoff teams that both reached high points in the 2000’s shows what he is capable of. He showed that he could develop young talent through the organization to have them flourish for years to come.
Lastly, he loves the Rangers! Who better to take over the job to rebuild the Rangers than a homegrown ex-player of the team? He knows what the city expects, and knows what it is like to be a Ranger. He will set the bar high for himself, and the expectations will be high as well. Davidson will have this team back in the playoff race sooner than expected.