NHL

New York Rangers fire president Davidson, general manager Gorton

The New York Rangers fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday, the New York Post and Sportsnet reported, one day after the team made waves by releasing a statement critical of the NHL's head of player safety.

Associate GM Chris Drury to assume newly vacated roles

John Davidson, left, and Jeff Gorton, seen above at the 2019 NHL Draft, were reportedly fired by the New York Rangers on Wednesday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers abruptly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday with three games left in the season, a shocking move in the aftermath of the latest controversy for the storied NHL organization.

Chris Drury was named president and GM. He previously served as associate GM under Davidson and Gorton.

"We want to thank JD and Jeff for their contributions to the organization," owner James Dolan said in a statement. "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."

The stunning news came less than 24 hours after the team ripped the league for fining but not suspending Washington's Tom Wilson for his role in a scrum Monday night that injured Rangers star Artemi Panarin. A team statement called the decisiona dereliction of duty and that George Parros was "unfit" to remain in his job as head of player safety.

WATCH | NHL fines Tom Wilson after incident against Rangers:

NHL fines Capitals' Tom Wilson for roughing up Rangers' Pavel Buchnevich

5 months ago
3:44
The NHL Department of Player Safety fined Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson $5,000 after he punched the New York Rangers' Pavel Buchnevich and slammed Artemi Panarin to the ice in Monday night's game. 3:44

It was not immediately clear if the front office shakeup had any connection to the criticism of the league. But the incident obviously had an effect on the Rangers' game against the Capitals on Wednesday night, which was the first in NHL history to feature six fights in the first five minutes and served as the coda for an eventful few days.

"It's obviously a crazy day," Rangers forward Ryan Strome said. "You add in the anxiety or anticipation all day from our group, and then waking up from a pregame nap with the whole set of news. It's never easy, I think, in pro sports."

Whatever the reason, cutting ties with Davidson and Gorton is a surprise. Since Gorton became GM in 2015 and Davidson joined the organization in spring 2019, the Rangers have built one of the most impressive collections of young talent in hockey.

The Rangers qualified for the NHL's expanded, 24-team playoffs in 2020, won the draft lottery and the opportunity to select Alexis Lafreniere with the top pick, and are expected to finish fifth in the eight-team East Division this season.

In addition to Lafreniere, the Rangers picked forward Kaapo Kakko second overall in the 2019 draft, found their goaltender of the future in Igor Shesterkin and acquired an elite No. 1 defenceman in Adam Fox.

Those players, along with Panarin and centre Mika Zibanejad, are expected to make up a core that contends for the post-season for years to come. Gorton and Davidson are responsible for bringing in all those players.

"I think we're all surprised," said coach David Quinn, whose own status has been plunged into uncertainty. "We all felt good about what we've done up to this point."

The path forward will now be charted by Drury, a rising star in management who finished his playing career as captain of the Rangers from 2008-11. He was recently named USA Hockey's GM for the upcoming world championships and earned a promotion from assistant GM of the Rangers in February.

"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," Dolan said. "We are confident he will effectively guide the team to ensure the long-term success we promised Rangers fans."

Former Rangers GM Glen Sather, now a senior adviser, will work with Drury in his transition and continue in his consulting role.

WATCH | 9 controversial Tom Wilson hits in 90 seconds:

9 controversial Tom Wilson hits...in 90 seconds

5 months ago
2:36
Wilson was in the spotlight Monday night for the wrong reasons, but as Rob Pizzo shows you, this is nothing new. 2:36

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