The New York Rangers said the shocking departures of general manager Jeff Gorton and team president John Davidson on Wednesday were unrelated to the scathing letter commissioned by owner James Dolan that criticized the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
"Yeah, I'll clarify that. That's an easy answer: That had nothing to do with it. Absolutely not," said Glen Sather, the team's senior adviser, at the introductory news conference for new president and GM Chris Drury on Thursday.
Given the timing, there had been speculation around the league the Rangers' managerial changes were linked to their statement, which called for Player Safety boss George Parros' job after the NHL fined but did not suspend Capitals forward Tom Wilson for his altercations with forwards Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin on Monday night. The letter was released Tuesday; it was announced that Gorton and Davidson were out on Wednesday.
Sources around the Rangers have told ESPN that Drury's promotion from associate general manager to replace Gorton and Davidson was more related to ownership's frustration with the team's play this season and the timeline of the Rangers' rebuild, which formally started in 2018. New York is currently in 5th place in the East Division with a 26-22-6 record for a .537 points percentage.
But Drury said the expectation before this season was not that the Rangers would make the playoffs.
"I don't think that was the expectation. I don't think that was the mandate. With all the ups and downs with this shortened season, with coaches getting COVID, players in and out of the lineup and our youth, we had some positive growing moments," Drury said. "It's now definitely time to take the next step to turn those moments and collective group of players into a team."
He also didn't commit to the playoffs being the goal for next season either.
"I don't know if there's a set timeline, where I'm going to say, or anyone can say, that the rebuild is over. We're looking deep at everything in the organization to put ourselves in the best spot next October," he said.
When asked about the job status of head coach David Quinn, Drury said: "I'm certainly not going to sit here and talk about anyone's job status in the organization publicly."
Drury, 44, was a Rangers center from 2007 to '11, and played 892 games in the NHL. He grew up a Rangers fan in Trumbull, Connecticut.
For the last few seasons, Drury had been coveted by other teams seeking to hire him as their general manager. As he turned down those opportunities, speculation grew that he was hanging around to eventually replace Gorton.
When asked if Dolan had ever assured him of that line of succession, Drury said, "There were no promises made. At any point."