Jeff Gorton gets a lot of kudos for his work rebuilding the New York Rangers. The common assessment is that he took an organization that was gutted by years of sacrificing for the present at the expense of future and has made it into a team that is ready to become a Stanley Cup contender. Is it true?
Let’s get one thing straight. The New York Rangers are a multi-million dollar corporation. They are the most valuable franchise in the NHL per Forbes Magazine, valued at $1.7 billion dollars. Their operating income is in excess of $120 million per year.
Owner James Dolan hired a new CEO in May when he plucked John Davidson away from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Davidson’s mission is to build a winner and increase the revenue, just as it is for any corporate CEO. In taking over, Davidson inherited an organization and so far, he has made no major changes in the operating structure.
He has made some changes. He started with their Hartford Wolf Pack farm team, replacing the coaching staff. He added regional player development experts to help nurture the Rangers’ plethora of prospects here and in Europe.
However, he has not made any changes to the NHL team and the question is, what is he considering? When there is a corporate shake-up, change is inevitable and no one should believe that anyone in the group of holdovers is safe in the long run. In fact, this season has to be seen as an audition for them in front of their new boss.
So far, the audition has had mixed results
Davidson’s track record
When John Davidson became President of the St. Louis Blues in 2006 he inherited respected hockey executive Larry Pleau as his general manager. When Pleau stepped down in 2010 Davidson replaced him with Doug Armstrong who was the Director of Player Personnel. As a newcomer to the management structure he stayed within the organization.
Davidson became President of the Columbus Blue Jackets in October 2012. He fired General Manager Scott Howson in February, replacing him with Jarmo Kekalainen, who he had worked with in St. Louis. Kekalainen had left the Blues and returned to Finland when Davidson hired Armstrong as GM.
The Blue Jackets coach, Todd Richards, last two seasons under Davidson before he was replaced by John Tortorella.
So, in St. Louis in his first gig as a hockey executive, Davidson took his time before making any changes in the organization and he also stayed with personnel from the organization. In Columbus, it was different and he was quick to remove the GM so he could appoint Kekalainen was was his clear choice after their work together with the Blues.