Five biggest New York Rangers stories of 2021

new york rangers 2021
May 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during the second period against Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have one more game on tap before they officially close the book on the year 2021.

As they prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, we look back on one of the most interesting years in recent memory. Alexis Lafrenière’s debut was an easy choice to kick us off, but no story had bigger implications to the franchise than the Tom Wilson incident.

Let’s review 2021.

5. Alexis Lafrenière debuts with Rangers (January 2021)

On January 14, 2021, Alexis Lafrenière made his long awaited debut for the New York Rangers at home against the rival Islanders. The first ever real #1 overall pick in franchise history did not record a point but played 13:21.

“First NHL game is something I’ve been dreaming for a long time,” Lafreniere said at the time. “It’s going to be a really special moment for sure.”

Lafrenière registered his first ever NHL point on an OT goal against the Buffalo Sabres on January 28.

The 20 year-old has recorded 29 points in his young career spanning just 87 games.

4. Artemi Panarin deals with political hit job (February 2021)

Panarin is unquestionably the Rangers best player and was having a great start to the 2020-21 campaign before a political hit job derailed his season in February.

An outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, he found himself in the crosshairs of his former KHL coach Andrei Nazarov claiming Panarin assaulted a girl and it was covered up. Nazarov, a Putin loyalist had a reputation for outlandish remarks prior to this.

The unfounded allegations were quickly refuted by former teammates, but Panarin needed a two-week leave of absence to deal with the safety of his family in Russia.

3. Tom Wilson Incident (May 2021)

tom wilson incident
May 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during the second period against Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The Tom Wilson Incident as it is now known began when the Blueshirts crashed the Caps net during a power play. Pavel Buchnevich was in the middle of the action, face-down on the ice when Wilson blatantly punched him in the back of the head. The Rangers responded as best they could to defend him led by Artemi Panarin.

Wilson started punching Panarin and dislodged his helmet to the ice. The Caps’ enforcer then pulled his hair and slammed him to the ice. As Panarin tried to get up, he slammed him back down causing a cut over his eye.

Wilson received a double minor and a ten-minute misconduct. Panarin was out for the rest of the season.

The ultimate insult came when the NHL DoPS slapped only a $5,000 fine to Wilson for just the sucker-punch to Buchnevich. What came next was a statement by the Rangers calling George Parros unfit to lead DoPS. This prompted the league to fine the Rangers $100,000 for the disparaging remarks.

Owner James Dolan stepped in and cleaned house one day after the Wilson incident.

“No, I didn’t know it was going to turn into that, it surprised me,” GM Jeff Gorton said. “Obviously, I lost my job – it probably has to be more than that. I don’t know but it has to be more than that – it can’t be just one thing.”

This is without a doubt the biggest story of 2021! The ramifications have been felt ever since.

2. Davidson, Gorton, and Quinn fired; Drury promoted (May 2021)…

On May 5th, President John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton were fired. Upon the official announcement, Dolan said that the team needed a “change in leadership.” He then promoted assistant general manager Chris Drury to the role of President and GM after speaking with his advisor, Glen Sather.

“What I’m talking about is not just something that happens in the locker room,” Dolan said. “It’s an entire organization that has to be together as a team. It’s everybody from the president, the general manager, the coach, the players, the assistant coaches, the trainers. … Everybody has to be together as a team, because everyone makes a contribution. Our organization doesn’t have that.”

NY Post

On May 12, the Rangers relieved David Quinn and his entire coaching staff of their duties.

and Gallant hired (June 2021)

gerard gallant rangers
Dec 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant speaks to the media after a 1-0 win against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

On June 16, the New York Rangers made the hiring of Gerard Gallant official.

“I would like to welcome Gerard to the New York Rangers,” owner James Dolan said in the team’s press release. “Gerard’s proven track record has made him one of the league’s most sought-after coaches, and we are fortunate to have him as part of the team. I have no doubt that he will play a critical role in helping us take the next steps to building a championship-caliber team.”

The move so far appears to be an excellent choice. This season, the Rangers are 19-8-4 for 42 points which is good for third in the Metro Division and just 3 points behind the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes for first.

1. Adam Fox wins Norris Trophy (September 2021)

adam fox
Jan 26, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) brings the puck up the ice against the Buffalo Sabres in the first period of a game at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Fox won the Norris Trophy beating out the Lightning’s Victor Hedman and Avalanche’s Cale Makar.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted their ballots for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, and Fox rightfully won the award which was presented by former Rangers great, Brian Leetch.

“It’s definitely special to have my friends and family come see me play,” Fox said as he accepted the honor. “It’s definitely a privilege to play for the Rangers have you present me the award.”

Fox was rewarded for his Norris win by the Rangers with a massive new contract on November 1. The team announced AN extension worth $9.5 million annually against the cap for the next seven years.

Editor’s Note: I just wanted to thank you all for the support you gave Forever Blueshirts in 2021. Every article read means the world to us! Happy New Year to you and yours!

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