The Chicago Blackhawks have handcuffed themselves ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. We are less than four weeks away from the end of trade season in the NHL, ending on the afternoon of March 21. Chicago, a team not contending for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, has a lot of trade potential on their roster and a lot of future needs they can address through moving those players.
The problem is, they don’t have a GM with the power to do any of that.
Kyle Davidson is operating in the interim, but one has to wonder what his real control he has over the direction of the organization right now. The Blackhawks have said that they wanted the process to be complete before the NHL Trade Deadline, but we are starting to run short on time for that to happen. If there is a new GM coming into power, they are going to have to learn the roster and gain the trust of the rest of the organization pretty damn fast to make the right moves with the players that are/should be on the trading block. That is, if the Blackhawks don’t just keep interim GM Kyle Davidson in his position.
On the latest ’32 Thoughts’ Podcast with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, the two talked extensively about the GM search in Chicago and what to potentially expect in the coming days or weeks as the Blackhawks narrow their search.
On the subject of the GM search candidates, Friedman says it is his understanding that the seven candidates were selected by Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz, President of Business Operations Jaime Faulkner, and consultant Mike Forde, with some input from the NHL league offices. He also states that the extended search committee, which we know included at least Eddie Olczyk, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp, did not have any input on who would be interviewed for the position. Instead, that group is simply expected to give thoughts and opinions on the candidates brought to them.
In any case, of those seven candidates, the Blackhawks have confirmed six of them: Kyle Davidson, Eric Tulsky, Mathieu Darche, Scott Mellanby, Peter Chiarelli, and Jeff Greenberg. Friedman has reported that Toronto Raptors VP of Basketball Operations Teresa Resch has also been interviewed for the position, but that has not been confirmed by the team like the other six have been.
If we are going to say that the NHL had some input as to who was interviewed in the process, my guess is that explains why Peter Chiarelli was part of the list. I still would like to hold-out hope that there are smarter people involved in this process for the Blackhawks than ones that would think hiring Chiarelli would be a good idea in the year 2022. Outside of Chiarelli, the six candidates (if we are going with Friedman’s intel) seem to fit the bill for what Chicago’s ultimate goal was in the search process — i.e. target people outside of the organization (or even outside the world of hockey) to find the best candidate.
According to Friedman, the candidates are going to be, or already have been, ranked and we will know how they were ranked based on who moves on to the next round of interviews. Furthermore, Friedman says that it is his understanding that Danny Wirtz would like Kyle Davidson to stay in the position, while Faulkner and Forde are more open to a candidate from outside the organization.
Friedman and Marek also shared some thoughts on a few of the seven candidates:
EF: Would she really leave the Raptors for this, is she was the preferred candidate? I could always be proven wrong, but some people were telling me they don’t think she would. I was told by a few people they would be surprised that she would want to take this job, at this time.
EF: I heard Greenberg from the Cubs interviewed really, really well.
EF: We get the sense that he is going to be a GM somewhere, someday…Someone who knows him from another team said that the next phase in his evolution is having more responsibility interacting with other teams. They said that once he [Tulsky] starts doing that more for Carolina, then it’s only a matter of time.
JM: I think the most intriguing person is Eric Tulsky, because he comes from a couple of different paths. He comes from the world of nanotechnology. He dovetailed that into his work in analytics and then dovetailed that into a career in the NHL. He can speak to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. He can speak “industry” to business people. He can talk hockey and analytics and analyze the game with hockey people, as well. I look at him and say that he can have a conversation with anybody who is interviewing him in that room.
JM: Who has the ultimate decision-making power here? If it’s Jaime Faulkner, I might lean towards Eric Tulsky. If it’s Danny Wirtz, I’d lean towards someone else.
EF: I had someone mention to me that they thought Mellanby was the best candidate…They think he’s a guy who has been around for a long time. He played for 20 years. Who survives for 20 years in the NHL? He had a lot of players, young and old, who swore by him. He worked as an executive for a long time. If you believe in working your way up and doing every job to get to this point, he’s done it.
With the consideration and interviews of candidates like Cubs Assistant GM Jeff Greenberg and Raptors VP of Basketball Operations Teresa Resch, Friedman does believe that the Blackhawks are doing something right (strategically progressive?) in this process, which is heartening. But at the same time, he also notes that there is skepticism around the NHL whether those candidates are real contenders or if they are just for show.
For the longest time, it has been the understanding of many that interim GM Kyle Davidson would remain in his position. He was told he would be in that position through the rest of the season when he took over for Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks might be best served to keep him in charge as the calendar gets closer to one of the most important trade deadlines in recent years for Chicago.
Either way, time is running short for the Blackhawks to get this right. So much of the future of the organization can, and does, hinge on whatever decision is made in the next few days or weeks. What the GM in power does at this year’s trade deadline could be the beginning of a new chapter of hockey in Chicago, or could continue to write the slow march to the absolute bottom of the NHL for the Blackhawks. One would think there isn’t much more room for them to go lower, but if they do not get this GM hire right, we will see just how much further down rock bottom could actually be.