Blackhawks stick with Kyle Davidson as GM

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After an intriguing search that went beyond hockey to the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Blackhawks ultimately stayed in-house with their general manager decision. The Blackhawks removed the “interim” title for Kyle Davidson, giving him the full-time job in a Tuesday announcement.

“We have a vision here for the future of Blackhawks hockey and today we are a step closer to that coming together,” said Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz in a statement. “As an organization, we know we have a lot of work to do on and off the ice and Kyle is the leader we trust to oversee our hockey operations.

“The thorough process we undertook affirmed much of what we believed we had in Kyle and he stepped up to lead and make tough decisions during his time in the interim role. He without a doubt met every qualification we were looking for, is passionate about the game and represents the high character across everything we do.”

According to various reports, the Blackhawks considered some interesting candidates before sticking with Kyle Davidson as GM.

  • The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus and others tabbed the three Blackhawks GM finalists as Davidson, Mathieu Darche (Lightning), and Cubs assistant GM Jeff Greenberg.
  • Along with MLB, the Blackhawks pondered an NBA choice for GM. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Toronto Raptors vice president of basketball operations Teresa Resch was considered.
  • Though he wasn’t reportedly a “finalist” for the Blackhawks GM gig, reports indicate that analytics innovator and Hurricanes assistant GM Eric Tulsky impressed.
  • Other familiar names popped up in the search. You may or may not find the name Peter Chiarelli popping up pretty amusing. (Chiarelli having an outside chance at another GM job really inspires some hope for excellent future tweets.)

Overall, the Blackhawks at least gave the impression of considering a wide range of candidates. Yet, when the smoke cleared, they went with the familiar.

Immediately, it’s fair to wonder how much will really change.

Then again, there’s plenty of room for Davidson to make his own mark on the Blackhawks as GM. Let’s touch on his background and key decisions that wait ahead.

Kyle Davidson goes from Blackhawks intern to GM

For better or worse, Davidson carries plenty of experience of how Stan Bowman ran the Blackhawks before the former GM resigned in disgrace.

Most of Davidson’s journey to Blackhawks GM can be traced through his time in Bowman’s front office.

Davidson began as an intern with the Blackhawks in 2010, climbing the ranks to assistant GM by 2019. He served as interim GM since Bowman stepped down as details emerged about how the Blackhawks handled sexual assault allegations made toward Brad Aldrich.

With all due respect to Sam Lafferty, Alexander Nylander, and Malcolm Subban, firing Jeremy Colliton was the biggest Blackhawks move under Kyle Davidson so far. Even then, one would assume that a coaching change was close to a unanimous decision for the organization.

So, we only know so much about the path ahead. We’ll find out soon enough if Davidson can learn from Bowman’s mistakes, and steer the Blackhawks in a brighter direction.

Kane, Toews decisions among many challenges for Chicago

What should the Blackhawks do about Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews?

That question lingers over the organization, as both of their contracts (and matching $10.5 million cap hits) expire after the 2022-23 season.

There’s a wide variety of ways to handle that situation, including trading Kane and/or Toews. With each player, there’s also a thorny knot of questions, from Kane’s comfort with a possible rebuild to Toews’ long-term outlook after dealing with health issues.

Whatever happens, the Kane and Toews situations loom large over Davidson’s early Blackhawks decisions.

But he has a lot to work to do beyond handling superstars whose best days are likely behind them.

  • Stan Bowman didn’t only hand Seth Jones an extension that already looks scary. Bowman gave up Adam Boqvist and picks including (mostly likely this year’s) first-rounder to trade for Jones. Can Davidson recoup some of those losses by selling off rentals at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline?
  • If the Blackhawks don’t trade the likes of Dylan Strome (pending RFA), it will be important to sign free agents to team-friendly deals.
  • As of this writing, the future looks fuzzy in net. Beyond, perhaps, a big neon sign that flashes “trade Marc-Andre Fleury.”
  • Alex DeBrincat is all-too-rare for the Blackhawks. He’s underpaid ($6.4M) and young (24). But he also needs a new contract after 2022-23. Gulp.
  • Oh yeah, there’s also interim head coach Derek King. Should the Blackhawks remove another interim head coaching tag, or go after someone else?
  • That may all come down to the larger direction of the team. If you’re rebuilding, King may make more sense than breaking the bank for a big name. If you’re trying to force things despite the writing on the wall (Bowman-style, frankly), then maybe you go after an expensive coach.

Phew.

Uncomfortably, that’s just part of the “to-do list” for Kyle Davidson as Blackhawks GM. This is a team riddled with flaws.

As much as the Kane and Toews decisions matter, it’s crucial to remember that the Blackhawks have largely failed lately with Kane and Toews. If any deep runs happen with those franchise icons still around, it will be because Davidson found a way to bolster the Blackhawks with other key parts.

Chances are, that will require vision, wisdom, and plenty of luck. Did the Blackhawks pick the right person for the job?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.