How Chris Drury fixed the New York Rangers

New York Rangers GM Chris Drury talks with the media (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
New York Rangers GM Chris Drury talks with the media (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers have gone through many changes since the infamous “letter” back in February of 2018. The core that Ranger fans had come to know and love was to be disbanded and the Cup window slammed shut for a younger core and a new window. Former General Manager Jeff Gorton was believed to be the leader in this process to bring the Cup back to The Garden. Or so we thought.

On May 3rd, 2021, Tom Wilson exposed the biggest flaw in Jeff Gorton’s plans. He drafted and acquired many players with skill and talent but forgot to address an aspect of the game needed to bring teams over the top. A backbone.

Tom Wilson rag-dolling superstar Artemi Panarin to the ice, almost giving him a career-threatening concussion, and making Pavel Buchnevich look like a turnstile was a gigantic wake-up call to the Rangers’ brass. They needed to get grittier and tougher. And fast.

As a result, James Dolan, the universally despised owner of both the Rangers and Knicks, fired Ranger President John Davidson and Jeff Gorton and elevated Chris Drury to finally lead the Blueshirts to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 (not counting last summer’s Stanley Cup Qualifier).

But many people were upset with this move. Others laughed at it. “The Rangers were ended by Tom Wilson,” they said. Or “James Dolan went from ruining the Knicks to the Rangers!” The overall reaction has been that the ownership overreacted.

However, what these “experts” failed to realize is that the Rangers were never going to see any type of success with the way they were running things. It was time for a change.

Look around the League

All you need to do is look towards Long Island to see how to build consistent success. I know that it is a bitter pill to swallow for Ranger fans but the Islanders have built a winner by hiring a proven coach who has won in this league and assembling a well-balanced group that has a mix of skill and grit.

And if you don’t want to look towards Long Island, definitely look down south to Tampa. The Lightning are back-to-back champions by simply building an all-around complete roster. They had the skill in Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point. And they had the grit in Barclay Goodrow, Pat Maroon, and Alex Killorn.

Tampa’s route to their Cups was traditional. First, they missed the playoffs five of six years, then endured years of playoff disappointment before finally achieving Stanley Cup glory. Chris Drury has clearly taken notes from Tampa. And the Rangers will be better off because of it.

The Moves

Chris Drury traded fan favorite Pavel Buchnevich for a second round draft pick and winger Sammy Blais. Blais is a gritty third/fourth liner and knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup, doing so with the St. Louis Blues back in 2019. Drury also signed the aforementioned Barclay Goodrow, enforcer, big defenseman Patrik Nemeth and traded for Tom Wilson’s archenemy, enforcer Ryan Reaves.

The draft saw the Rangers select winger Brennan Othmann.  Many have questioned this pick, especially since the team needs help at center, but Othman checks off many of the qualities that the Rangers are looking for.  When Drury couldn’t swing a trade using his first rounder, he went with Othmann, a pick that has to be seen as controversial.

What does this mean for the Blueshirts moving forward?

Chris Drury has successfully created a well-rounded roster that will compete for a playoff spot next year. Even trading Pavel Buchenvich will help this team in the long run. Gone are the days of Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko being stuck on the third and fourth lines. Expect them to be front and center.

By trading Buchnevich who eventually signed for a $5.8 million AAV with the Blues, the team gained some valuable cap space they will need after this season.

Finally, the grit. Now, the Rangers will be the ones to push around the competition and not the other way around. Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves are two players that will make a difference right away and will make opponents take notice as a result. Especially Tom Wilson.

The verdict

Chris Drury should be praised for building a playoff-ready roster for next year and many years to come. Gone are the days of the Islanders’ fourth line and Tom Wilson throwing around the Rangers. It is time to return the favor.

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