Musings

John Davidson’s To-do List

Earlier this week, the stars finally aligned for a reunion of John Davidson and the New York Rangers. It was the rare front-office hire that was universally praised by pretty much everyone. JD’s introductory press conference on Wednesday was nothing short of a love fest; it’s what JD and the Rangers both deserved.

However, moments like this are appropriately short-lived. Davidson is officially on James Dolan’s payroll as the highest ranking member of Hockey Operations at the New York Rangers. JD himself acknowledged that hard work lies ahead, and that his experience in both St. Louis and Columbus means he’s well prepared for the task at hand with the Rangers.

But what exactly lies ahead? Building a hockey club into a perennial Stanley Cup contender is not a straightforward task. Davidson’s role as President is overarching, comprised of much more than just making the final call on personnel decisions. The Rangers are an organization with almost limitless resources – valued at $1.6 billion – that generated $253 million of revenue during a down year in 2017-18 (that data from Forbes is the most recent available). Davidson’s job, in a nutshell, is to invest those resources (as James Dolan allows, of course) back into the team appropriately. It goes well beyond just how the $83 million allotted for players is spent, and this is also an area where the Rangers should have a significant advantage over their smaller market competition.

So where does JD begin? Here’s a look at what might be on his to-do list.

1. Get to know the current organization, and ask some difficult questions.

JD’s first month or two will be spent getting to know the current front office staff. There are lots of names on this list, but Davidson has called himself “hands-on” and a “people person,” meaning he’ll likely spend significant time with all of the key players. While I wouldn’t expect him to go full Office Space (“What would you say you do here?”), Davidson will likely probe for weaknesses, redundancies and inefficiencies across departments. Glen Sather spent 19 years as President and, for better or worse, built the Rangers organization in his image. Davidson will start to look for ways to put his stamp on it.

One area that has been called out already by JD himself (unprompted, in an interview with Michael Kay on Wednesday) is data and analytics. The Rangers’ Metro Division rivals are currently stacked with some of the most talented people in the field, and it’s pretty clear that the coaches and front office staff have under-utilized data in their player evaluation process over the last few years. There is currently one person in the entire organization that oversees analytics. His name is Jim Sullivan, and his actual title is “Director, Player Care & Development/Analytics and Hockey Technology”… whatever that means. Expect JD to make some significant changes or additions in this area.

2. Prepare for the draft

Successful drafts are the result of a coordinated effort between all of the key decision makers at a franchise. Scouts, coaches, advisors and management must figure out how to maximize their most valuable assets. The Rangers have nine total picks in this June’s draft, and another nine next year. The easy part of course is the second overall selection: Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, whoever is left. But beyond that, the Rangers have a plethora of options on the table, including potential trades.

While Davidson will likely let Jeff Gorton and the current scouts take the wheel this June, this is a great opportunity for JD to begin setting the tone for how he wants to operate moving forward. It’ll be our first real glimpse into JD’s style and how it might differ from Glen Sather’s.

3. Establish a vision for the franchise

A successful organization, whether in business, politics or pro sports, usually coalesces around a clear and definable vision for the future. When Glen Sather took over as President and General Manager in 2000, he implemented his vision immediately, flawed though it was. Sather aimed to turn the Rangers into the hockey version of the Yankees, dominating the sport through the power of the purse (remember, there was no salary cap at the time). Unfortunately, Sather’s signings almost universally flopped, and the Rangers continued on a downward spiral that lasted almost a decade.

Ironically, Sather was saved by the implementation of the salary cap after the 2004-05 lockout, and through some combination of prescience and dumb luck, built a team that was well-suited for the “new NHL” when play resumed in October of 2005. Yes there was Jagr, Straka, Nyladner and Lundqvist, but Sather also hired Benoit Allaire in July of 2004. At the time, no one batted an eye, but those under-the-radar moves are often the most important.

Davidson made it clear that “patience” will still be part of the plan moving forward, which is probably the best clue we have as to what his overall approach to the Rangers will be. There has been wide speculation that with plenty of cap space and the second overall pick in their pocket that the Rangers will look to accelerate this rebuild. With Davidson at the helm, that may not be the case.

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38 Comments

  1. Fire Gordie Clarke the fire Ruff …get rid of 18 22 42 44 …Then get Trouba and a UFA here. Playoffs here we come

    1. I would love to see what John Davidson thinks of Chris Drury. Man, he moved up to Assistant GM pretty damn quick with little experience. Maybe he is great but just sayin’….

      Sometimes these guys look and sound the part. We will see

  2. Pick Kakko (Devs will pick Hughes, book it).
    Trade the 20th pick, plus for Trouba.
    Trade Staal and Georgiev to the Canes to get our 2nd rounder back.
    Trade Smith and Pionk to the Sens, to help them get to the cap floor.
    Trade Shatty to FL for picks.
    Sign Panarin.
    Sign Buch, DeAngelo, Claesson, and Lemieux to 2 year bridge deals.

    Panarin-Zib-Buch
    Kreider-Chytil-Kakko
    Names-Strome-Krav
    Vesey/Andersson-Howden-Fast/Lemieux

    Skjei-Trouba
    Rykov-DeAngelo
    Hajek-Fox
    Claesson

    Hank
    Shesty

    1. Im with you almost 100% my friend. But I cannot trade Georgie right now…He just might be the #1 right now

      1. Don’t be suckered in my friend.

        In order to have a team take Staal, you have to give them incentive. Canes need a starting goalie, well they would get a low cost goalie, which makes taking Staal more palatable.

        Shesty sounds like the real deal, so Hank can mentor him and they can split time. Besides, there’s also Huska who is a legit goalie prospect that no one talks about.

        As long as we have Benoit, the goalie position is the least of our worries.

      2. “He just might be the #1 right now”

        that’s why he wants to do it. A year from now, he may want to trade Shesty.

            1. Probably not…If Shesty is the real deal getting rid of one of the 23 year olds to accommodate a 37 year year old is gross negligence. Its gonna be interesting to see what happens

              1. Based upon what Lundqvist looked like at the World’s, it appears he has lost some of his skill set. With our D, that will be compounded. I wholeheartedly agree that we cannot trade Georgiev. We may have a Hank problem.

    2. Tony

      That would be a hell of a line up if all those moves were made. I’m also in the camp of seeing what Shesty can do, so I’d have to pass on moving Georgiev. To be honest, I’d consider what Vesey can bring back as well?????????

      1. I don’t think Georgiev is the asset, Benoit is the asset.

        Every back up that comes through here shines. There’s only one constant.

        1. (a) Pavelec didn’t shine
          (b) by your argument, Lundqvist is not a HOFer, just an average goalie with a good coach.

          1. Raymond, do you say these things because you believe them or just to get a rise out of people?

      2. Am I the only one here who likes Vesey in his proper role. I think he’s an asset. I like his style.

    3. As if things were so easy …

      No to trading Georgiev, that’s crazy talk right now. Sorry but the first goalie out the door has to be Hank … and hopefully Hank will realize that it may be time to retire in the next year or so. His performance at the WC was sub-par, on top of being sub-par in the 2nd half of the season. Obviously it wasn’t just because the Ranger d’ sucked, there was more to it. I hope Hank is classy enough to realize that it’s better to retire a year early than a year too late. Transition him to management, he would be perfect for that — let him decide in what capacity.

      The PLUS for Trouba will be a lot, there are lots of other suitors out there.

      Sign Buch and DeAngelo to long term deals, sign Lemieux to a 1 year show me deal — and I’m somewhat confident he will show us.

      1. LOL, I’m not saying that it’s easy nor am I even saying that it could be done. I just felt like giving my fantasy Ranger offseason.

        But I am serious about trading Georgiev. Sell high!!

        1. And it is a fine fantasy for the most part, although I still can’t figure out the desire to trade Georgiev when it’s clear that Hank has entered the denouement of his career and Shesty hasn’t played a game in NA.

          1. The only desire to trade Georgiev is if it ends up in a big positive for the Rangers.

            I’m not looking to trade him per se, but his value is high now, especially after this World tourney.

      2. Spot on comments, I love the grit this Lemieux kid brings, I would love to see a Josh Manson or a Brady Tkachuk in a Ranger jersey!!, Go get them JD!! EXCITING TIMES!!

    4. The problem is, this is Hank’s second to last season (?). Trading away a proven backup is questionable. Personally, I don’t exactly like Georgiev, but we might lose a for sure backup. BUT we have plenty of great goalies in the system.

      1. “Trading away a proven backup is questionable.”

        Noted, and I get the sentiment. But that’s what we said about Talbot, then Raanta, and now Georgiev.

        I am assuming that Shesty is the real deal.

        1. When all is said and done, I believe the Rangers got nothing for Talbot. After Raanta was traded away, the Rangers missed the playoffs for two consecutive years and counting.

          Could Raanta have won the Cup in 2017? We’ll never know.

        2. That was when we had a different King in the nets, he isn’t the same …. the decline has started.

          1. I don’t discount the decline at all, that’s foolhardy not to.

            My point is that we keep getting hysterical over the back up goalie leaving and they come up with someone else. So unless Hank SOMEHOW reconsiders and agrees to a trade, Georgiev will be the odd man out, because they’re not bringing Shesty here to play in Hartford for 2 years. He may start there, but he won’t be there for long.

            So the right “business move” is to trade Henrik. #1, he has to agree, and #2, it has to be a contender who has cap space, lol. Carolina has cap space. Do they take Henrik? Would Hank go there? I don’t see it, he loves NY too much. The Isles make perfect sense and Hank could stay in NY, but that’s complete “no way” for the Rangers.

            So tell me, what contender has cap space? And that Hank is willing to get traded to that team? Because he’s not going just to go. Good luck paisan, lol.

    5. Signing Panarin is not a given. We have plenty of competition for his services. IF he decides to sign here, it’s a major plus, and I’m all for it, but it’s still too early to pencil him into the lineup. I’m not sold on Lemieux yet, either, but if he’ll take a cheap bridge deal, OK. I’m all good with the rest of your lineup and would love to see those deals come through, although the “plus” you mention for Trouba might be Buch. I like the kid, but if he brings us Trouba, I’d like that even better.

  3. I am in the camp that believes that the hall of fame net minder is showing the signs of age. He is an awesome competitor and will shine in many games, but he will also have down periods and be prone to nagging injuries that he did not suffer in the past when he was younger. So trading Georgiev is risky because the Russian kid might be the real deal, but might need a little time in the AHL? Hard to know at this point. I think I’d like to hang on to him at least until Shesty has played some games in the AHL.

    JD is likely to bring some fresh air to the front office. I think Gorton is likely his type of guy. I think that they will work well together. I look for him to beef up the scouting and coaching staffs, and to overhaul Hartford as his main priorities.

    1. Peter

      “I look for him to beef up the scouting and coaching staffs, and to overhaul Hartford as his main priorities.”

      Based on JD’s track record with both the Blues, and Bluejackets. I suspect that he will also beef up the players drafted, and or traded for!

      While we are off and celebrating this Memorial Day Holiday, I give everyone something to think about:

      Armed Forces Day is for those who wear the uniform

      Veteran’s Day is for those who wore the uniform

      Memorial Day is for those who never got to take the uniform off.

      Let’s just keep those brave souls in our thoughts, and prayers!!!!!!!!!!!!

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