Tonight, we will hear from Blackhawks Owner and Chairman Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz, and President of Business Operations Jaime Faulkner in the team’s “Town Hall” event, open to fans, staff, and media members, that will provide details on the direction of the team moving forward and details on the search for a new, permanent GM with the club.
While the GM search is the primary reason the Blackhawks are holding this event, this is also the first time since the Kyle Beach and “John Doe 2” sexual assault investigations and settlement(s) went down that the Wirtz family will be taking actual questions.
There’s so much beyond the GM search for the organization to cover, which we talked about yesterday and you can find here.
But focusing on the search for a new, permanent GM, the Blackhawks are looking to have someone in place before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21. Kyle Davidson has been running the team in the interim after the firing of Stan Bowman back in October. Davidson is the only known candidate for the position currently, but the list should be as robust as the search committee that the Blackhawks put together to find them. Chicago is open to going “outside of the box” and outside of hockey, even, to find the right person for the position.
Even interim head coach Derek King knows the job ahead is not an easy one:
"Obviously you see what these top teams have and that shows you what we're missing. … I mean there's some work to do. Whoever comes in here (as GM) is gonna have a job. It's gonna be some work."
Derek King when asked where #Blackhawks are compared to Minnesota, Colorado, etc.
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) January 31, 2022
It’s no secret that this current group in Chicago is not going to get it done. The fingerprints of Stan Bowman as he walked out the door are still all over this club and need to be scrubbed in a rebuild, preferably with fresh eyes, for Chicago to get back on track to being a top team in the league.
With the GM search in mind, here’s who I would have on my radar for the GM position with the Blackhawks if I was part of the search committee. Of course, people who are with teams outside of Chicago would need permission to interview, so assume they get it for the purpose of this post.
The obvious choice among those close enough to the organization continues to be Kyle Davidson. He’s been with the Blackhawks since the 2010-11 season, becoming the Manager of Hockey Administration before the 2011-12 season. He worked his way into the position of assistant GM under Stan Bowman before the 2019-20 season and took over in the interim after Bowman was fired. He’s been groomed to be a GM in the NHL, why not let him take over the team he has already been running for most of this season. Especially considering that the Blackhawks are going to hire someone prior to the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline on March 21, why shake things up by then when this year’s deadline means so much to the short and long-term future of the club. I’d be shocked if Davidson isn’t hired as the permanent GM, to be honest.
Speaking of Chicago’s leader of their Hockey Administration Department, the Blackhawks could stay in-house with their hire even if they don’t go with Davidson. Meghan Hunter has been with the organization as an executive assistant, a scout and the Director of Hockey Administration for the last two years. She comes from the Hunter hockey family tree, uncles Mark, Dale and Dave Hunter had lengthy NHL careers, and Dale and Mark have owned and operated the OHL’s London Knights for nearly two decades. She has been around the game her entire life and has been scouting for much longer than her official career with the Blackhawks. She was a standout at the University of Wisconsin in her playing days, finishing her college career as the Badgers’ all-time points leader at the time and became an assistant coach with Wisconsin, Niagara, and Maine in the mid-2000’s.
When the Blackhawks were expected to name both a GM *AND* a President of Hockey Operations as two separate hires, my first thought for a fresh perspective on the team and the sport in a Hockey Operations leadership role was Kevin Weekes. A former NHL goalie, Weekes had a long career that spanned 13 professional seasons and 348 NHL games after being a second-round pick by the Florida Panthers in 1993. Following his playing career, he became the first Black hockey TV analyst on Hockey Night in Canada. Weekes has become a household name in the hockey world with his broadcasting work with the NHL Network, Sportsnet, and ESPN. While he’s never held a front office position, his name has surfaced numerous times for open Hockey Operations jobs in recent years. His blend of old and new school hockey thinking and his rapport around the league would make him a worthy hire to bring completely fresh eyes to Chicago.
Why not strike while the iron is hot?
Recently we spoke about Darche being on the radar for a number of open GM positions, including Chicago’s. He had a long career as a professional in the AHL and NHL, and has recently found instant success within the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Following Steve Yzerman’s departure from the club, Darche was brought in to be the Director of Hockey Operations and assistant GM to Julien Brisebois after he replaced Yzerman. Since then, Darche has been instrumental in keeping a talented Lightning club together through back-to-back Stanley Cup runs. In Tampa Bay, he’s had a key role in player contract negotiations, budgeting and the salary cap. Things the Blackhawks have not been great at in recent years.
How much history can Cammi Granato make?
Granato was the first woman elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a long-time player and pioneer of the women’s hockey movement for the past three decades. She was also the first female pro scout for an NHL team when she was hired by the Seattle Kraken in 2019. Granato is a native of Downers Grove (local hire) and is the U.S. Women’s National Team’s all-time scoring leader with 343 points (186-157) in 205 games. She has long-standing family history in hockey as well with her brothers Tony and Don (former Blackhawks assistant coach) and her husband Ray Ferraro.
If the Blackhawks want to go out-of-the-box, why not go after one of the most analytical minds in the sport? Chayka has never held a front office position in the NHL, but as the co-founder and leader of Stathletes, an analytics company the is widely used in the hockey world, er name has been brought up for numerous front office positions in recent years. Embracing the future of the game from an analytical standpoint could give Chicago the jolt in the front office it is looking for.
Not long ago, we mentioned that Mellanby should be a target for the Blackhawks’ GM position once he stepped away from the Montreal Canadiens. A veteran of 20 NHL seasons and over 1,400 NHL games, he had been with the Canadiens front office since 2012, serving as Director of Player Personnel for two years before becoming the assistant General Manager in the 2014-15 season. Mellanby left the club after learning he would not be given the GM role in Montreal after the firing of Marc Bergevin, with the Habs instead going with Jeff Gorton.
A candidate a lot like Darche in Tampa Bay, MacFarland has been the right-hand person to Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic since the 2015-16 season, helping oversee the rebuild in Colorado and getting them back to being one of the top teams in the NHL. Before that, MacFarland was the assistant GM with the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2007-2015, serving as the Director of Hockey Operations in Columbus before that from 2000-2007. The guy has been around. Recently, MacFarland’s name has come up in GM searches in New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, and Anaheim. If you believe in paying dues, MacFarland has done that and has been around winning hockey for a number of years now with Colorado. He’d be ready to be a GM on day one.
The funny thing is, I’m only half-kidding.
I know that Epstein has much bigger fish to fry in his career than fixing the Blackhawks. But imagine the kind of PR move this would be for the organization and what kind of storyline in the city of Chicago, with this kind of hire, could weave. After ending the World Series droughts of the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, Epstein could come into a Blackhawks organization needing a complete overhaul and could just be like, “Oh, this again? No problem.” If I trust anyone who could navigate a rebuilding process, it’s Theo Epstein. And in a city where he could do no wrong, seemingly, the fanbase would likely jump right back on board for whatever direction he’d want to go. With Faulkner’s connections to baseball and the Cubs (her husband Colin is the Executive VP of Sales and Marketing and Chief Commercial Officer) and with the Blackhawks reaching out to the Cubs and Jed Hoyer in this search process, crazier things have happened.