NEW YORK — John Davidson has a solid track record of hiring general managers, bringing Doug Armstrong to the St. Louis Blues and Jarmo Kekäläinen to the Columbus Blue Jackets. But this time around, “J.D.” is inheriting a general manager in the midst of a rebuild with the Rangers, Jeff Gorton. The beloved former Rangers goalie and broadcaster took over for Glen Sather as team president this week and was introduced Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Davidson is well-versed in the art of a rebuild having rebuilt the St. Louis Blues and built the Columbus Blue Jackets, though both times he had the luxury of doing so with handpicked GMs. But the club chose Davidson in part because he didn’t want to steamroll anyone and isn’t the type of executive to come in and tear down the progress that has already been made. Davidson’s plans are simply to work alongside Gorton and the rest of the front office to stay this current course and return the Rangers to prominence.
Former Rangers' goalie John Davidson was introduced as team president. Abbey Mastracco, Staff Writer, @AbbeyMastracco
“I’m not a guy who walks in with a hand grenade. I don’t do that,” Davidson said. “I want to go see what everybody does. I want to see who they are, what they do, what their roles are on the bus and just try to find a way to make everything better. They have a game plan. They’ve been sticking to their game plan and that’s a good thing.”It was less than two years ago when Gorton told NBC Sports Network that it was time for the team to “Rebuild on the fly and change the look of our team.” The window following their 2014 Stanley Cup Final run had closed and the team needed to get younger and faster.They have some young pieces in place they felt would allow them to do so and drafted quite a few more last year. They hired former Boston University coach David Quinn in part because of his stellar track record of player development and they got key pieces like Mika Zibanejad under contract on multi-year deals. It’s still early, but Davidson sees a solid foundation that has already been laid.“The one thing I do see here, and I mentioned it at the podium, is the culture,” Davidson said. “I think that coaching staff, all of that staff has done a good job with that. They play hard, they play the right way and they’re demanding about it. If you want to play for the Rangers, this is how it’s going to be. If you don’t have that proper leadership and culture within the locker room itself, it becomes hard. And it’s awfully hard to change it.”
“I’m not going to sit here and say he’s going to have every call on everything, but what happens is the general manager, that’s his job,” Davidson said. “If he wants my advice, I’ll be happy to help, happy to help, but he’s got his seat on the bus and he’s going to do his job.”The next big decision for the Rangers will essentially be made by their rivals across the Hudson. With the second pick in the upcoming NHL Draft, the Rangers will take either Jack Hughes or Kappo Kaako, presumably whichever player the Devils don’t select with the first pick. But regardless, they’re getting a franchise cornerstone at a time when one is needed most. “When you try to grade players, you’ve got the A’s the B’s and the C’s, those are the A’s. The A’s don’t come along too often,” he said. “And when you have an opportunity like this, it’s one of those you can hardly wait for the draft type of things.”Later this summer, the Rangers can try to extend Chris Kreider and maybe even sign a player Davidson knows well, Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin, who is expected to leave Columbus when his contract expires on July 1. Davidson views the Rangers as a team from top-to-bottom, they have to work as one behind the scenes to allow the team on the ice to succeed. “You can’t have two separate entities ever. It’s not going to work if it’s separate,” Davidson said. “You want to be the soul of the franchise maybe. You want to make sure this franchise carries itself well, as it always has. “This is an Original Six hockey club. There are only six members. It’s pretty special and I want to continue with that special attitude toward this franchise. It’s the New York Rangers.”