The day after the shocking dismissals of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton, the focus shifted quickly to Chris Drury, their former understudy who replaced them both, and his vision for the team’s future.
Drury, the Connecticut kid who won a Little League World Series title, a national PeeWee hockey title, a Hobey Baker Award and an NCAA championship with Boston University, the Calder Trophy and a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, and two Olympic silver medals with the U.S. hockey team, promised Thursday to work to help bring the Stanley Cup back to the Rangers for the first time since 1994.
"I just wanted to say thank you to [Madison Square Garden CEO, and owner of the Rangers and Knicks] Jim Dolan for this opportunity,’’ Drury said in his first address to the media since getting the job of running the Rangers on Wednesday. "I grew up a Ranger fan in Connecticut, and it was a lifelong dream to be able to play for the Rangers. And to be back in player development, and assistant manager, [and] now to have these roles, it's a huge honor and huge thrill.
"And to all the Ranger fans out there, I obviously take this very, very, very seriously. And my goal is to bring a Cup to MSG. Period.’’
How soon he’ll be able to do that, of course, is the question. Three years after Rangers management announced via an open letter to their fans that they would be entering a period of rebuilding, the Rangers appear ready to take the next step, meaning getting to the playoffs next season. The Rangers have missed the playoffs for four straight years, but they were the youngest team in the league for most of the season, playing 10 players 23 or younger.
Drury, 44, was part of the braintrust throughout the entire rebuild, and he said Thursday he doesn’t see himself doing things radically different than what Davidson and Gorton had been doing.
"I really believe in what we have accomplished since the letter, what we were able to do, in not only adding young assets and making some key trades and signing, obviously a marquee free agent in the Bread Man [Artemi Panarin],’’ he said. "So, I think we do have a lot of good pieces.’’
It’s been theorized that ownership decided to fire Davidson and Gorton after they tried to distance themselves from the statement the Rangers made Tuesday in which they decried the NHL’s decision not to suspend Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson following his assault on Panarin in Monday’s game. But Glen Sather, Dolan’s adviser and the former president and GM who will serve as a mentor of sorts to Drury, said that was not the case.
"It had nothing to do with it,’’ Sather said Thursday. "Absolutely nothing.’’
Drury had become a highly regarded young executive over the past few years, and he was a candidate for general manager jobs in Florida and Pittsburgh within the last year. But he withdrew his candidacy for both of those jobs and stayed with the Rangers, being promoted from assistant GM to associate GM.
He was asked Thursday if part of the reason he didn’t leave for one of those jobs was because he had reason to believe he would relatively soon be elevated to the GM of the Rangers.
"I'm not gonna get into personal details between conversations of Glen and Mr. Dolan and myself,’’ he said. "And no, there was absolutely no promises made at any point.’’
Several times during the Zoom call, Drury mentioned that it had been a "whirlwind 24 hours’’ for him, and he refused to get into specifics about what he plans on doing, and in what order. The Rangers’ season ends Saturday with the second of two games in Boston (the first was Thursday night). There is much to do, including appointing someone to replace him as the GM of the Rangers’ AHL Hartford affiliate, for instance.
Asked about the status of coach David Quinn, who is wrapping up his third year behind the Rangers' bench, Drury declined to talk specifically about that.
"I'm certainly not going to sit here and talk about anyone's job status, in the organization, publicly,’’ he said. "We're going to take a look at every aspect of the organization when things end. And we'll start that process next week.’’