In a stunning move, on Wednesday afternoon the New York Rangers fired President John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton.
There still are plenty of questions to be answered, mostly whether the motive for this move was related to performance or due to the Tom Wilson debacle.
And while the purpose of this article isn't to speculate on why he may or may not have been fired, the natural, almost automatic, follow-up in the immediate aftermath was clear: will the Blue Jackets bring back Davidson?
Of course, it's theoretical, but the organization should absolutely look to bring back their former President of Hockey Operations and Alternate Governor. After Davidson left in the summer of 2019 to join the Rangers, the team he's most connected with as both a player and broadcaster, current Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was promoted as the organization's Alternate Governor. The Blue Jackets have basically handed the organizational reins over to Kekalainen entirely. It's worth wondering if that job is ideally meant for two people. Sportnet's Elliotte Friedman made this point on his popular 31 thoughts blog after the Pittsburgh Penguins hired Ron Hextall and Brian Burke to hold top jobs within the same organization.
The Hextall/Burke hiring comes at a time where I’m thinking the GM job has become too big for one person. When the Rangers held their media conference last week following Tony DeAngelo’s removal, both John Davidson and Jeff Gorton were there. Davidson, the president, handled the bigger-picture queries while Gorton answered the hockey-related questions. The proper structure (although I recognize finances are an issue during the pandemic) is probably your “hockey person” and your “manager.”
The benefits of a reunion with Davidson are obvious. During his seven-year tenure, the Blue Jackets made the playoffs four times. He brought immediate credibility and a 'brick-by-brick' philosophy.
The Blue Jackets head into the 2021 offseason at a crossroads. Seth Jones is one season away from UFA. Patrik Laine is a pending RFA. Zach Werenski is eligible for an extension this summer. With three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, including one that could be a top-five pick, the organization could just as easily find themselves in a full-fledged rebuild as the 'retool' that Kekalainen espoused last month.
Having a presence like Davidson in the front office would surely give ownership more confidence in the direction of the franchise. But there are plenty of variables at play. For starters, would Davidson, who sold his Powell home over a year ago, even be willing to move back? Is there an appetite from ownership to spend the big dollars required (in this environment, no less) to hire him? Lastly, would the state of the franchise, which is in an objectively worse place than it was when he left in 2019, be a deterrent?
Davidson told The Athletic's Aaron Portzline that he was going to "unwind" before considering next steps. So for now, we wait and see if there may be another spark between the 68-year old and the Blue Jackets.