Per Arthur Staple, who appears to be temporarily replacing the retiring Rick Carpiniello on the Rangers beat for The Athletic, there is much more to the Vitali Kravtsov saga than meets the eye. While Kravtsov is certainly to blame for this situation, lost is that Chris Drury is as well. What Staple reports, and it is a fascinating read, is that Drury completely tore apart Kravtsov multiple times, including in front of teammates, dating back to the 2019-2020 season. It appears nothing has been resolved. But right now, the Rangers have a Chris Drury problem.
Macro level mismanagement
Without putting too much of Staple’s article here, since it requires a subscription, Drury was at the center of Kravtsov’s drama. He told Kravtsov he quit on the team when he went back to Russia, despite Kravtsov having an out clause (and being a teenager). He then publicly chastised him in the bubble in 2020. Then there was a pretty rough exit interview last season.
To say that Kravtsov, this year, has been whiny is an understatement. If he just took his assignment, perhaps none of this would have happened. But that’s at the micro level. It’s at the macro level where Drury has completely failed.
What was the RW plan?
So let’s lay out the facts.:
- Drury knew Kravtsov was not happy.
- Drury traded Pavel Buchnevich.
- No other right wingers were brought in.
Let’s also lay out assumptions:
- Drury likely didn’t have Kravtsov in his plans.
- Whatever Eichel trade they thought they had likely included Kravtsov, which fell through.
- Drury and Gerard Gallant assumed Chris Kreider or Alexis Lafreniere would be fine at RW.
Now the macro level mismanagement key: If Drury knew Kravtsov was not happy, and we have a logical assumption he was not in the Rangers long term plans, why wasn’t another RW brought in?
It is fine to trade Buchnevich too. Cap hit matters, and the Rangers locker room was reportedly very cliquey. That shook things up for sure. So now the Rangers are without any RW depth in the top six beyond Kaapo Kakko. Converting someone to the off wing is easy enough. But what about injury depth? What was the plan?
General Managers, like corporate CEOs, belong at the big picture level. Not in the locker room.
Drury mismanaged a lot
The Chris Drury problem extends far beyond his mismanagement of Kravtsov and Lias Andersson. Drury was at the center of both fall outs with top ten picks. At best, Drury is a poor personality manager.
However at worst, and we are seeing this play out, Drury appears to be just as whiny as Kravtsov. This is someone in a senior leadership role berating prized assets and top ten picks. Whiny and personal feelings should be out the door.
If you or me mismanaged one key asset like that in our roles, we’d get a lesson learned. We would be expected to avoid the same mistake twice. But Drury did not. He made the same mistake again. If you make the same mistake twice, especially with such key assets, you get fired. But not in the NHL, which is littered with GMs repeating mistakes.
Chris Drury, right now, is no different from any other NHL GM. He made multiple mistakes with personality management, and then doubled down by not addressing them in the offseason. Whiny prospects aside, you can’t have a whiny President and General Manager too.