This offseason has been a rollercoaster for the Chicago Blackhawks. There have been many reasons for optimism with the moves made to improve the “on-ice” product, but the “off-ice” issues have tarnished the image of the franchise from what it may have once been. And, one way or another, it will take a long time (if ever) to recover in the eyes of the public.
With multiple lawsuits and investigations into the club this offseason, staff changes have gone under the radar. According to Jon Greenberg and Scott Powers of The Athletic, there have been a number of significant changes made inside the organization with a number of prominent names heading out the door.
The Blackhawks have had some recent changes throughout the organization. Jay Blunk left. James Gary retired. Kyle Davidson's title changed. Dominik Zrim, a CapFriendly founder, was hired.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) September 2, 2021
I won’t go through the entire list of the changes or additions, if you want to go that deep you can read the full article from Powers and Greenberg here. But among the names that catch the eye in the report are Jay Blunk, James Gary, and Barry Smith, all of whom have formally left the Blackhawks or are no longer listed as part of the organization on the team’s website.
According to the report, Blunk informed the organization in early August that he would be leaving after 16 years with the Blackhawks. Blunk was brought into the Blackhawks organization by then-Team President John McDonough in 2008 and would serve as the organization’s vice president of business operations. Responding to The Athletic, Blunk said he resigned from the Blackhawks “to pursue a practice helping college athletes in their brand development.”
Smith had worked with Blackhawks Senior Advisor Scotty Bowman for many years as an assistant coach with the Red Wings in the 1990’s and 2000’s before eventually making his way to the Blackhawks in 2010 as a pro scout. Smith served as the Blackhawks Director of Player Development from 2011-2016, then had his title change to Director of Player Evaluation starting in 2016, a position he held until this offseason. He is heading to Sweden to become the head coach of Djurgårdens.
Then there are the departures of James Gary and Marie Sutera. Gary had served as the Blackhawks team mental skills coach for more than a decade. You’ll recognize Gary’s name from his alleged involvement in the incidents from 2010 involving former Blackhawks players and former video coach Brad Aldrich. In The Athletic’s report, a source tells them Gary retired from his position with the Blackhawks following the 2020-21 season and has also retired from his personal practice. Also tied to the investigations surrounding the Blackhawks involving Aldrich is Sutera, who has left the Blackhawks after 13 years serving in her role as vice president of human resources.
On a more positive note on the changes to the Blackhawks front office, the club is bringing in Dominik Zrim, one of the founders of the NHL Salary Cap site CapFriendly. Zrim will be joining the Blackhawks as their Manager of Hockey Strategy.
More details here directly from CapFriendly:
As was reported by @ByScottPowers today, we want to wish a huge congratulations to the founder of CapFriendly, Dominik Zrim, for being hired by the Chicago #Blackhawks as their Manager of Hockey Strategy!
Additional details 👇 pic.twitter.com/KCbxzzjNEw
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) September 2, 2021
Maybe this will help the team no longer continuously be in a salary cap crunch. One can dream.
A few other bits of information from The Athletic’s report include radio and TV Broadcasters John Wideman, Troy Murray, Pat Foley, and Eddie Olczyk’s contracts are all set to expire following the 2021-22 season. It is already known that this will be Foley’s last season as the TV Play-by-Play broadcaster with NBC Sports Chicago.
While Jamal Mayers and Steve Konroyd will not be back with NBC Sports Chicago, we have already seen Colby Cohen join the club and the local broadcast team. According to Powers and Greenberg’s report, the Blackhawks plan to utilize former players in the broadcast studio, but it hasn’t been decided on whom and how often they will join Cohen.
Again, for full details on every move recently made in-house by the Blackhawks, I highly recommend reading through The Athletic’s full report.