If you think the 2020-21 New York Rangers fired President John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton for underachieving this season, then think again. Entering the 2020-21 NHL Season, the Rangers were projected to compete for the fourth spot in the East Division. With the season wrapping up this weekend, the Rangers sit fifth in the division. Five days ago, the Rangers were in striking distance of passing the Boston Bruins for fourth in the division. Unfortunately, the team came up short. Once again ownership expectations were just set too high after making the return to play Stanley Cup Playoffs in August. Instead of letting the rebuild play out, James Dolan wants instant success. Was their firing a coincidence to what happened with Tom Wilson? Absolutely not. It had everything to do with it and more. Time to dive into how the 2020-21 New York Rangers did not underachieve.
New York Rangers Were On The Right Track Towards Success
Go back two seasons ago when the Rangers put out a letter to their fans citing they were entering a rebuild. The team was trading away veterans like Ryan McDonagh and others to make room for the young players in their system. While it was a shock to some, the Rangers knew a rebuild needed to happen. During this time period, John Davidson was brought on board to be President of the team. At the time Jeff Gorton was already there as the general manager. Mika Zibanejad was already on the team.
The team draft Kakko Kaapo number two overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. The signing of Artemi Panarin certainly accelerated the rebuild. Not only that the team was drafting and developing the pieces needed to contend down the road. The letter even stated this was not going to be an easy process. The emergence of Igor Shesterkin gave the Rangers hope for the future. They did not expect it to come right away. When the season was stopped the Rangers were on the outside looking in on the playoffs. When the NHL announced the NHL’s Return to Play, the Rangers made the 24-team playoff. While they lost in the play-in series to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers showed they were moving in the right direction.
This Season Under Jeff Gorton
Things started strong for the Rangers in the off-season as they got the number one overall pick drafting Alexis Lafreniere. So expectations for the team and the player were high. Based on the previous results from a season ago, many expected the 2020-21 New York Rangers to make the playoffs. Which if you follow the team thought they would come up just short but compete hard for the final spot in a tough East Division. Some had them making the playoffs. But most agreed next season would be the next step the Rangers would take the next step and be a true consistent playoff contender.
And things did not get off on the right foot for the 2020-21 New York Rangers. The team got off to a slow start. One of their top players in Zibanejad dealt with COVID-19 during training camp and was not himself to start the year. It took Zibanejad a while to find his game, but he was a big reason why the Rangers were competing for the fourth spot in the East once he did. Then there was the whole Panarin situation. That hurt the team as well. Not to mention injuries and poor play from their goalies. At one point the 2020-21 New York Rangers were relying on Keith Kinkaid to be their number one guy.
Race To The Final Spot
However, the Rangers started to turn things around when head coach David Quinn and the staff were sidelined with COVID-19. When Kris Knoblauch and Chris Drury came up from the AHL, the Rangers started to take off. Just having a different voice on the bench propelled the Rangers to a resurgence in the standings. Before failing to make the playoffs, there was a stretch where the Rangers went 16-3-2 and were within two points of the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders in the standings. Every time the 2020-21 New York Rangers got close to the playoffs, they just ran into the Islanders. Ultimately, they just could not get past their rival to get into the playoffs.
A Change In Direction Is Needed Now After Jeff Gorton Firing
But why change the front office now? Because the team did not meet the owner’s expectations. If that was really the case, then why not wait until after the final three games of the season. However, according to owner James Dolan in a statement “for the team to succeed in the manner our fans deserve, there needs to be a change in leadership.” Interesting considering the 2020-21 New York Rangers were in the race for the final playoff spot until the very end. So what is really going on here?
There is a belief the firing has to do with the fact that Davidson and Gorton were not on the same page with Dolan when it came to the statement released condemning the inaction of the Department of Player Safety involving Tom Wilson. Recall Wilson was involved in altercations after the whistle with Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin. Panarin is lost for the rest of the season. But with Davidson coming from the old school, there is a belief he did not agree with it. And in fact, that cost him his job, not the fact, that the rebuild was going to take longer than the owner would have liked.
Regardless of the reason, the Rangers are known for being ahead of the game and having things pay off. But this move comes at such a weird time. Considering there is talk Mark Messier will join the organization once the season is over.
There is no way the 2020-21 New York Rangers underachieved. In fact, you could say they will finish right where they should have. There is no rhyme or reason to the firing of Davidson and Gorton and replacing them with Chris Drury. The timing is definitely strange for sure. We will never find out the real reason behind this. No, but those intelligent enough can put two and two together. One thing is for sure, going forward the Rangers have to get tougher.
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