Jeff Gorton, Jeff Gorton John Davidson Fired

What Jeff Gorton said about the rebuild, Drury, Wilson, DeAngelo and more

Former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton was on the Cam and Strick Podcast and said the following:

  • On initially joining the Rangers as a pro scout, “When I got let go, I actually worked with Peter for a year and we basically decided that it wasn’t going to work. I saw myself as more and he wanted other peopel so we decided to go the other way. At the time I thought I would bounce right back and wouldn’t have to go backwards, but I waited a couple of  months and into September and decided to just be a pro scout and see if I could get back in, but I had no assurances or anything, I kind of leaped back in and went to work with the Rangers and Gordie Clark, who I worked in Boston with, hired me with the Rangers and we were like that for a little bit and after I year I think they realized that this guy is alright and got promoted and went up the ladder until they offered me assistant GM and I moved my family to NY and it fell into place from there.”

  • On how different New York is, “yea, I think it is. Everything that goes into it, you have players that live in Westchester and another set that live downtown. In Boston they all lived kind of somewhere similar and were all hanging around, so there all of these different things that go into making it work. Some people want to live in the city, some in the suburbs because they have a family. Those are hard little things to manage, but it underlines that this is Manhattan, this place is huge, some people don’t want to deal with the City, some do, some only want to go for game days, but the actual organization, the amount of people, there is a huge pride there to make that organization the number one, coveted team in the league and they do a real good job of that. You can tell that when players come in and play there that it’s a special place, you come out and look at the roof and all the fans and walk upstairs and go up that ramp and ‘where am I going?’ And you go in the locker room and it’s tiny, all the room is given to the stars and the singers and the visitors get a little room, the coaches room is tiny and you get on the ice and it’s special and through everything, they are a first class organization that is run right, the players that play there appreciate it and I think the guys that come in there appreciate it, from the time they come in on the plane and having dinners and going where they go, it’s a production and unique to the league and a special place if you get a chance to play there.”
  • On players living in NYC, “It makes the team bonding a little harder, you have to work at it. The parties, maybe these guys move up quite a few blocks to make it easier for them and their wives to meet them somewhere. I remember Mike Rupp struggling with it, he lived in a suburb and half the time he could be late and leave his car and run into MSG to make it on time, he was one that sticks out.”
  • On John Tortorella, “I love him, love the guy. I just think he is so honest, I like that, I like to talk to a guy and have him tell me exactly how he feels about a player about the team, everything. There is no BS. He would do anything for any of his players, the people he works for, he has a huge heart, no one ever sees it, he’s a real good person. Sometimes it’s a little bit of an act to take attention away from the players, just draw it to him so the players can play, a little bit of his evil genius. I like him, I really enjoyed working with him and even today, the guy cracks me up.”
  • On the Panarin situation from this season, “I think we gave The Breadman his space and time to figure it out, the biggest thing when those things are happening is that back home, he has family there and we don’t know what is going on the world. I’ve been to Russia, but I don’t know the lay of the land and how mad people get and what people will do. We gave him his space to work through things with his family and we have security staff and people in place that have a lot of  connections and making calls and making sure everything is fine and he felt comfortable that his family was fine. It was really just making him and his family, he has a wife here and both of their families are back in Russia. It was more giving him time to work through it, giving him support. He was probably less worried than most people think, he was just worried for his family, he has grandparents back there that he is looking after and they were having issues with health and he was just worried that they were being treated the right way and seeing the right doctors and not being shut off, just more of putting him at peace. Like any NHL player, if their mind is somewhere else they are better off not playing until they are ready to come back.”
  • How do you handle players and social media and stuff, “You have no control, these guys have held their phone in their hands for 24-hours a day for years by the time you get them. You have to remember that, but you bring people in to talk to them about it, what is the right thing to do, what to stay away from, how is the right way to handle social media, but there are always going to be a couple of guys who are a little too far into it. We start when they are young, in the draft we are digging information right off their phones. They are naive until it happens to them. Tony is a little different, he loves to talk about Trump and this and that. He is a Philly guy and pretty passionate about the way he thinks the world should work, we understood that, but sometimes when he crossed the line I had to call him and say “Tony, enough, is it really worth it to have all of these fans tweet back at you, do you really want to tweet back at them and have a dialogue, is that really going to be something that works for us. We are in the entertainment business and people are paying for tickets, you try to have a rational conversation with people and talk to them at that level, that is what we would do.”
  • On Tony DeAngelo, “There is a time and a place for it, after your career is over, Tony, you can do whatever you want. The thing about Tony is, he is a very engaging funny person, sometimes turning it off is something he has to learn. His teammates actually really like him, he’s funny, engaging, he’s tough, he’s a good player. He just has to, every know and them, catch himself before he goes over the line.”
  • On teams calling about DeAngelo, “I had more than one team call me and ask about him. I basically told them what I told you guys, he’s a good guy. I think what happens sometimes, with the Rangers, we are a young team and we could use a few older veteran leadership-type players that could more hold a guy like that accountable and make him fall in a line a little better and we didn’t necessarily have enough of that, but I tell teams that if they have that you are going to get a guy on his last chance, with a lot of skill, 60 points that will fight for you, that is a good person, he has had some hiccups, but he has a good heart and I’ve told teams that. I do think, you get a last chance here, it’s up to Tony now.”
  • On having more of a veteran presence, “I think, if you look at my time with Boston and they developed a core of Bergeron and Chara and Marchand becomes one of them and now McAvoy becomes one of them, you establish this way of how we play and how we do things and in NY, by contrast, we are rebuilding and trying to put as many kids in the lineup as we can, on the fly, to learn who can play, who is going to be here, who will be flipped for other guys and types of players. In some ways I hear the chatter and that we aren’t tough enough and this happened to them and this is why, when you are a good team and ready to win, that is when you start filling in your roles and you get these guys that can push you over the top, but when you have 9-10-11 kids that have to play, you have to play them and then you figure it out and over time you become more of a team. I kind of get a kick out of it, people say that you lack toughness and we didn’t know it, I knew we weren’t that tough in NY, I knew we had to get to it, but I also knew that we needed ice time for Fil Chytil, Lafreniere needed to play, Kakko had to play a certain amount of minutes if we wanted to get him to where we wanted to get him. In this day and age you can’t put those guys in the minors because everybody, the agents, families, players, they lose it so you are handicapped and you do it in the NHL on the fly and over time, yea, those guys are completely valuable, that is why you see the Rangers go after Barclay Goodrow, that is why they are going after Reaves, that is why they are going after these guys to fill those roles and become more of a team, you can see why it’s setting up that way.”
  • Did you know the Wilson/Panarin thing was going to turn into what it did, “No, I didn’t know it was going to turn into that. It surprised me that it turned into what it turned into. Obviously, I lost my job and it probably has to be more than that, I don’t really know,  it has to be more than that. It can’t be one thing that we….you can’t tell me that JD, who loves toughness, didn’t know we weren’t tough. I can tell you that all the meetings we had, we talked with David Quinn about everybody, getting tougher over time, but we also needed some of these young guys playing for us to play through adversity and deal with this stuff and see what they did with it. Obviously it didn’t go well and Wilson should have been suspended, I didn’t think that that night was going to be what it turned into, that people were going to lose their jobs and it’s going to be forever remember for what it is.”
  • Who wrote that press release, “That is PR with the owner.”
  • What did you and JD think when you read that, “I think that is fair to see, you might have seen it the first time I did.”
  • On Wilson and the Rangers, “we play them all the time and he knew we didn’t have anybody that could deal with him, at the time. He can be a bully, he took advantage, but I don’t know if there is any other story beyond that. Brendan Smith stood up to him, I thought he did pretty well and I give him full marks for that and I thought the team handled it, probably not the way the league wanted it, the way they needed to handle it.”
  • Was Panarin hurt on that play, “Yea, he got dropped on his neck and shoulder and he did have a knee at the time, so he had some things he was dealing with and we were done, a couple of games left, no sense to put your star player in.”
  • On how tough it is to rebuild, “Doug Armstrong is the one with the saying, ‘why plant the tree if I can’t sit in the shade?’ It’s hard. We made an organizational decision, we sat in a meeting for hours and talked about why we should do this and we had several runs where we were close, we lost to LA in the Finals, we were in the conference Finals three times, we had good teams, but there were always Pittsburgh and Washington and teams that were better. We made a decision that if we are going to win a Stanley Cup here, it’s probably not with this group and it took some guts to do it and come out in public, but at the time we felt strongly that this is NY and we have to tell people what we are doing, need our fans on board with what we are doing and I feel, and most people I talk to feel like we were moving in the right direction in a short period of time, we traded a lot of people, I made a lot of phone calls to a lot of good players telling them they are gone from NY, so we did that and everything we are saying and ready for the next phase, but I think it’s true, a lot of people don’t last the amount of years it takes to rebuild.”
  • On having Chris Drury work under him, “I used to say to him, ‘one day I’ll be gone and you’ll be here.” I might have not predicted when, but that is life. Chris is a bright guy, works really hard and from the moment I hired him, in player development, he worked extremely hard at it and like a year later I became GM and we hit it off and…he’s smart, I knew he would be a GM, he had a ton of teams calling for him asking permission and rightly so. He’s a hard worker, played, won, dialed in and focused on what he wants. He’s going to be good.”
  • Did you and JD get along, “JD is a great guy, super nice guy, real first class guy and right from the get-go everybody told me that I was going to love JD and I do, he’s great. Even today, it’s been like three months since we were let go and he calls me like every day and we talk and he is a special person and I can’t see too many people not getting along with him.”
  • On what is next, “I’d like to be a GM again, I’m 53, I think that I’d like another chance at it and see what happens. I’m not rooting for anyone to lose their job. I think I’ll do a little bit more TV, stay active in hockey and let people see me and know that I’m still watching the NHL and get another crack at it. I think I’ll do NHL Network, maybe a couple of days a week and stay busy because it’s pretty close to me.”
  • Does James Dolan call you everyday, too, “I haven’t talked to him since he fired me.”
  • You ever tell Panarin to stop with the leg kicks, “I try, but he pretends not to speak English, so it’s hard, but his English is perfect….”