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Oh Baby! Rangers hire fan-favorite John Davidson as President

There is a parade going down Broadway and it is headed for Madison Square Garden. The New York Rangers have brought back one of their most popular icons, John Davidson. The former Rangers goaltender and colorful announcer has agreed to become the Ranger’s next president after Glen Sather stepped down last season.

Davidson was a star goalie for the Rangers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With ‘JD’– as the Blueshirt faithful call him– in net the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1979. JD was a popular color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen and the both of them called the Rangers win in game-seven of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Rangers fans will remember him saying “Oh Baby!” whenever Mike Richter made a critical save for the Rangers in the ’90s.

Some of us remember watching Davidson at the Rangers ’94 Cup-Reunion last year. JD stepped up to the microphone to introduce the team and received a standing ovation from the fans at Madison Square Garden, starting a chant for him “J-D, J-D”, which made Davidson emotional. The relationship between Davidson and the Rangers’ faithful couldn’t be stronger.

Davidson now has the chance to rebuild the Rangers into a playoff team again and it will not be an easy task.

Before returning to the Big Apple, Davidson was President of Hockey Operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets for the past seven seasons. In an Associated Press article published last week, Blue Jackets owner John P. McConnell said he believed Davidson was a big reason his franchise improved over the last decade.

“‘He joined our team at a very difficult time and led a transformation that has resulted in consistent winning and appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs,’ said McConnell.” 

Davidson was the backbone behind the transformation of the Jackets that produced this year’s playoff run. The Jackets made the playoffs as a wild card team and shocked the world when they swept the Tampa Bay Lightning, who most pundits had predicted would win the Stanley Cup this spring.

Rumor has it that the Blue Jackets star forward Artemi Panarin wants to test his mettle on the free agent market. Davidson signed him from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017, which was no easy task. The question is, can JD lure the Russian Rocket to New York?

The Rangers need a polished goal-scorer to put them over the edge. Although Chris Kreider has performed better over the last two seasons, he’s still injury prone. Kreider missed 24 games with a blood clot two years ago and last year he was hampered by a hamstring injury. Last season, Kreider and Panarin each scored 28 goals, but Panarin had 87 points, while Kreider managed 52 points.

The Rangers traded their second-round pick in the 2019 draft for right defenseman Adam Fox. Fox was underwhelming for the United States at the recent IIHF Championships. He even sat out the final game versus Russia. With the likes of Tony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk who are both small, it is odd that the Rangers added another small defenseman to their aging core on defense.

Marc Staal has two years left on his contract and has maybe a year or two left on his body. Kevin Shattenkirk, another small right-handed defenseman, has not played up to the level the Rangers expected. He was supposed to be one of the leaders on this team and his skating has diminished to the point where throwing out Lindy Ruff might be a better idea. So why add another small right-handed defenseman to the team? These are just a few of the tough decisions John Davidson and General Manager Jeff Gorton will have to make. Clearly someone must go.

The good news is that one of the Rangers’ best defenseman, Brady Skjei played very well at the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. The 6’3 Minnesota-native scored two big goals and was skating well at both ends of the ice. The good news is there are some young defensemen in the pipeline. The Rangers’ 2018 first-round-pick K’Andre Miller had 22 points in 26 games for the University of Wisconsin last season. Miller along with Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren are young players that may make it up to the Rangers next year.

The forwards are a good mix of young and veteran talents who might just need another year to blossom, especially if the Rangers choose wisely with their number two pick overall at the coming draft. Let’s see if JD and the Rangers can bring home another cup to New York in the coming years. The foundation is there, all the Rangers need is the right guidance.

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Anthony has been a sportswriter at In The Zone since Sept. 2019. He graduated from Montclair State, where he was assistant Editor of the student newspaper's sports section. He also co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on the campus station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.
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