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Dreger: Rangers firings, GM change not about Tom Wilson statement

James Dolan's decision to fire Rangers GM Jeff Gorton and president John Davidson was shocking given the timing, but Darren Dreger reports that the moves were strictly related to the team's performance.

As if there weren’t already enough fireworks heading into Wednesday’s Rangers - Capitals game following the Tom Wilson incident, the Rangers stunned the hockey world with big changes to their front office. Few saw it coming that the Rangers fired John Davidson and Jeff Gorton, setting the stage for Chris Drury to become their new GM.

Considering that the firing happened a day after the Rangers made a eyebrow-raising statement about the Tom Wilson fine-not-suspension, many wondered if that inspired owner James Nolan’s decision. Some probably will still feel that way.

But during an NBCSN appearance before Capitals - Rangers, Darren Dreger reported that sources told him the decision was a long-time coming.

Will Rangers make the right types of changes to Wilson/etc., or overreact?

According to Dreger, Dolan believed that the Rangers have been “underachieving.” Perhaps Dolan has grown restless a few years removed from the Rangers’ bold, and open rebuild?

Along with Dreger’s report, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks provided some interesting insight. Two points stand out.

  • It seems like Dolan wants the Rangers to accelerate the process. Gorton and Davidson favored a more patient approach, according to Brooks.
  • Dolan might also want to skew a bit more toward “will over skill.”

That last point could end up being especially interesting.

Will the Rangers chase players who can “stand up” to Tom Wilson? Will they find the right balance between adding grit (“will”) in tandem with that skill?

It’s fair to ask, as then-Penguins GM Jim Rutherford arguably overreacted to his team seemingly getting pushed around ... during repeat Stanley Cup wins. Could the Rangers follow in the Penguins footsteps in spiting themselves in hopes of countering Wilson’s menace?

Or will the Rangers merely tweak things a bit? That’s up to Drury, and maybe it comes down to getting Dolan and other key Rangers figures on board.

The events that led to Rangers firing, fight-filled game with Capitals, Wilson

Take a look at this timeline of the Tom Wilson incident, including the Rangers’ firings. (Whether they had anything to do with the Wilson incident, or not.)

  • In a now-notorious incident, Tom Wilson was penalized, but not ejected, after an incident most primarily involving Artemi Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich. Panarin suffered season-ending injuries, though it’s worth noting that New York’s season is nearly over.
  • At first, the Rangers reacted to Wilson getting fined, not suspended, by players like Ryan Strome calling it a joke. Strome would be involved in one of the Rangers - Capitals fights.
  • Following that, the Rangers released a surprising statement criticizing the Tom Wilson non-suspension, and the job performance of George Parros in the Department of Player Safety.
  • That wasn’t the only big Rangers news, though. Earlier on Wednesday, the Rangers removed Jeff Gorton and John Davidson, with Chris Drury moving in as their new GM.
  • Finally, there was Wednesdy’s fight-filled Rangers - Capitals game.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.