Rangers GM Chris Drury speaks during a press conference prior...

Rangers GM Chris Drury speaks during a press conference prior to the jersey retirement ceremony for Henrik Lundqvist before a game bagainst the Minnesota Wild at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28, 2022. Credit: Getty Images/Steven Ryan

GREENBURGH — This was Jan. 1, 2010 and we, the media, were crammed into a bandbox-sized room on the press level at bandbox-sized Fenway Park. Team USA general manager Brian Burke was discussing the selections for the Olympic team that would eventually earn a silver medal and that included Chris Drury, the Rangers captain relegated to a fourth-line role in the penultimate season of his NHL career that would be ended by a degenerative knee condition.

I covered the Rangers for another publication at the time, so I questioned Burke about Drury’s inclusion. While the current Rangers’ GM was already a two-time Olympian, Burke had passed over other former Olympians, including future Hall of Famer Mike Modano.

“I don’t have to say anything else about Chris Drury except that he’s Chris Drury,” Burke said that day. “We picked Chris Drury because he’s Chris Drury.”

Burke did add Drury provided “essential leadership,” but, at the time, I thought his answer was one of avoidance.

Only years later do I understand what Burke was saying.

Winners understand winning and how to impart that on those who haven’t won. Drury’s list of victories, from Little League Baseball to the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche, is impressive.

Drury, expected to address the media on Tuesday before the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers open the Eastern Conference final against the Atlantic Division-champion Panthers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, does not say much publicly.

But the ultra-competitive Drury certainly sets a high standard. He is everything as a GM that he was as a player: feisty yet soft-spoken, decisive, intolerant of mistakes or what he perceives as missteps or encroachment. While captain, he once got angry with me for still being outside the Garden postgame dressing room 30 minutes after the rest of the media had left as I waited for a pre-arranged interview.

In a word, Drury is cutthroat and that’s what he needs to be. He puts his faith in some. He’s also run some long-serving executives and staff members out of the organization in what seemed, to those not in the building, curious or unnecessary moves.

And, in three years since taking over for the fired combo of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton, Drury’s Rangers have reached the conference final twice.

For context, Neil Smith’s Rangers made just two from 1989-2000, including the team’s last Cup in 1994. The Rangers made the conference final three times during Glen Sather’s GM tenure from 2000-15, losing to the Kings in the 2014 Cup Final.

“He’s a guy that’s been a player and knows what it’s like as a player, especially in New York,” Barclay Goodrow, who won two Cups with the Lightning before joining the Rangers, told Newsday after Monday’s practice.

“He’s done a great job of bringing in good players and good people. It’s easier to have a good culture when there’s a lot of character amongst the group. He’s very competitive. It’s good to have a GM that wants to win just as much as the players, if not more. The culture is set by him.”

Drury has had his bad moments — Pavel Buchnevich for Sammy Blais shouldn’t be included on anybody’s resume — but he’s consistently shown a willingness to give his team the parts they need.

That includes signing Goodrow and Vincent Trocheck as free agents. Last season, Drury added Patrick Kane, Tyler Motte and current Panthers Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola. This season, it was Jack Roslovic and Alex Wennberg plus defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.

Drury also moved on from coach Gerard Gallant after a 107-point regular season in 2022-23 but a first-round loss to the Devils, which followed a 110-point season and a berth in the conference final against the Lightning. There was reportedly discord between the two but, still, the easier move would have been to keep Gallant.

Instead, Drury made the masterstroke of hiring Peter Laviolette.

“Dru and I had a lot of conversations about a lot of different things,” Laviolette said, “from the way we were going to play the game to culture to systems, the locker room, players. Our relationship has been wide open. Anything I know, he knows and vice versa.”

Back to the 2010 Olympics to finish.

Drury, then 33, had two goals in six matches at the Vancouver Games as Team USA lost to Team Canada for the gold. Burke picking Chris Drury because he was Chris Drury was not a bad pick.

“A level of professionalism and confidence that he brings in, leadership wise, went a long way,” Jonathan Quick, Team USA’s third goalie in 2010 and, like Drury, a Connecticut native, told Newsday. “At that time, we had a lot of young guys on that team. On that type of stage for the team to play as well as we did, you need great leaders and he was one of them.”

The same holds true now, with Drury’s Rangers headed to the conference final. Winners understand winning and how to impart that on those who haven’t won.


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