The New York Rangers had a turbulent 48 hours after Tom Wilson got the better of Artemi Panarin in a scuffle that led to an injury that cost Panarin the remaining three games of the regular season. The domino effect of this incident was unprecedented, as James Dolan dismissed president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton after the Rangers released a statement enraged by the lack of disciplinary action taken against Wilson.
The dismissals sent shockwaves through social media. Davidson took over as president just 24 months ago and watched his club rattle off back-to-back winning seasons despite having the youngest roster in the league. But their failure to qualify for the postseason in 2020-21 and the statement which called for head of player safety George Parros’ removal led to the decision to can both president and GM.
Chris Drury will step into both roles until Dolan can determine if he needs assistance or can operate the ship himself. He is being mentored by Glenn Sather, the Rangers’ GM and president before Gorton and Davidson. By all accounts, Drury is as respected a hockey mind as there is, proving his worth over multiple seasons as the Hartford Wolf Pack’s GM.
The former Rangers captain was a hot commodity during the offseason. Teams asked for the organization’s consent to interview Drury, who eventually declined an opportunity to fill the Penguins’ GM vacancy to remain with the Blueshirts, and which ultimately allowed Dolan to promote the 44-year-old to GM.
2020-21 Season Ends in a Victory
This wild, chaotic, and unprecedented season has finally come to a close after the Rangers defeated the Boston Bruins 5-4 in their final game on Saturday. Mika Zibanejad scored twice, including his 200th career goal, while rookies Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and Vitali Kravtsov added tallies.
And obviously it’s a really good team that we’re playing against, and I thought we got better as the game went on. Got the win and got to finish the season somewhat in a nice way.– from Mika Zibanejad, Post Game Press Conference on May 8, 2021
It was nice to see the season end on a good note, especially after what transpired in the last seven days. As Zibanejad stated, the win was a small consolation prize for a disappointing final stretch. But any time you can end the season on a good note, it nonetheless is a positive.
Despite the win, the focus now shifts to the offseason when Drury will have to try and put together a playoff-caliber team despite the looming expansion draft. The win also snapped a five-game losing streak to end a miserable stretch for the Rangers, with losses piling up along with injuries.
We can now close the book on this campaign and look forward to an 82-game season with, hopefully, 18,000 fans at MSG in 2021-22.
Coaching Changes Coming?
One of the first major decisions Drury will have to make is regarding David Quinn’s fate (from ‘The determining factor in Chris Drury’s massive David Quinn decision,’ NY Post – 05/09/21). Will Quinn remain the Rangers’ head coach with another season to prove he has what it takes, or will Drury opt for a completely new regime? Quinn has been the Rangers’ coach since the 2018-19 season, with a 96-87-25 record over three seasons. However, he has only had the luxury of one full NHL season, the last two shortened due to COVID-19.
There are also a lot of qualified NHL coaches who have just hit the open market: John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets parted ways, as did Rick Tocchet and the Arizona Coyotes, courtesy of CBC Sports. Mike Babcock and Gerard Gallant are both free agents, but it’s also possible Drury’s Hartford connection will make Chris Knoblauch a possible candidate.
The Rangers coaching job won’t be hard to sell given their mix of young and veteran talent. Whoever is behind the bench next season knows they are expected to make the postseason and that the owner is actively pursuing that goal. But this could also be smoke in the water, and Quinn retains his job. He has had some questionable moments, but he has also had some good ones, compiling in a winning record despite the rebuild.
Rumors will be flying throughout the offseason. The Rangers have already been linked to Jack Eichel, and now they have to add some grit and monitor the coaching situation. There will be no time to rest for Drury and the Rangers’ brass, as they will be forced to make decisions in the coming weeks that are paramount to the organization’s future.
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!