Kyle Davidson’s promotion on Tuesday was met with more than a fair amount of underwhelming responses across social media and in the comment section here on BN.
Many feel like the Blackhawks’ decision to elevate Davidson – who has been with the team since 2010 – was just another chapter in the same old book of moves from the Wirtz family. Sure, the Blackhawks interviewed a bevy of external candidates — even going as far as interviewing front office executives from MLB (Chicago Cubs AGM Jeff Greenberg) and the NBA (Raptors VP of Basketball Ops Teresa Resch). But in the end, they went with Davidson, a candidate who has worked only for the Chicago Blackhawks throughout his hockey executive career.
I get it. I understand why we, as Blackhawks fans, have become skeptical—even borderline cynical. The Jenner & Block Report rocked the fan base, making the most devout Blackhawks fans question whether or not they could ever love a team involved in such disgusting behavior ever again.
Rocky Wirtz’s blow-up at a recent “Town Hall” surely didn’t help us feel any better. This franchise hasn’t been genuinely competitive in more than a half-decade, and they’ve grown stagnant and frustrating to the fan base.
But Stan Bowman is gone, and the Blackhawks, primarily Danny Wirtz, Jaime Faulkner, and Kyle Davidson, appear to be working hard to create a new day and age for one of the NHL’s oldest franchises. While Stan Bowman’s name was never actually mentioned by Danny or Kyle on Tuesday, the two did everything they could to make one thing clear; Kyle Davidson is nothing like Stan Bowman, and despite him coming up in Bowman’s front office for the last decade, Davidson was the clear-cut best candidate for the job.
Davidson’s opening remarks made it clear from the jump on Tuesday that the stale, one-dimensional philosophies that have plagued the Blackhawks for years are dead and gone.
“It’s clear that we need to be better. The standings tell us that every day.” Davidson told the assembled media during his introductory press conference at the United Center. “We’re a long way from where we want to be and where we need to be as a team, and we intend to rebuild this both on and off the ice—no matter if it takes three years, five years, to get the level of success that we’re looking to achieve. When we get there, it’s our mission to stay there.
“We need to be both honest with ourselves and the fan base, and it’s extremely important that once we lay out a plan that we stick to it, and we don’t deviate. Everything has been under review during my time here since I started as interim general manager, and we’ll continue to review how we operate to improve how we function off the ice as well. In the front office, we will never stop trying to improve and to innovate, and I promise that stagnation will never be accepted while I’m the general manager here.”
Pay extra to some of these remarks;
“We need to be honest with ourselves and the fan base.”
Stan Bowman (and John McDonough before him) was hardly ever honest with the fan base. Rocky Wirtz’s blow-up at the town hall was a painful reminder that, at one point, this franchise did not value transparency with their fans. Davidson is looking to eradicate that toxic trait.
“Everything has been under review during my time here since I started as interim general manager, and we’ll continue to review how we operate to improve how we function off the ice as well.”
Self-awareness? Accountability on and off the ice? What a refreshing concept, eh.
“We will never stop trying to improve and to innovate, and I promise that stagnation will never be accepted while I’m the general manager here.”
In Davidson’s eyes, a constant desire to improve, innovate, and stay ahead of the curve is the expectation and not the exception.
Kyle Davidson is a bright and energetic 33-year-old in a role usually reserved for old and stale hockey minds, minds that care more about being gatekeepers than innovators. Davidson might have cut his teeth in an archaic and toxic front office, but he’s always known that he wasn’t them. He’s always known that he could be the change that would help erase them. His passion for hockey and being the change is cathartic.
“I think it’s just a burning passion for the game,” Davidson said. “I just love hockey so much, and I love the Chicago Blackhawks. I had a strong belief that I could make an impact, I could be the difference in an organization, and so the three of those combined just kept pushing me along and driving me. I’m someone who always wants to learn and always wants to grow as a person. Hockey is a never-ending education, learning different ways to do things, different ways of seeing the game. So that pursuit is something that really keeps me pushing forward and keeps my ambition burning. That’s something that will not change about me and will continue in this new role.”
Still, to think that Davidson took away nothing from his time working under Stan Bowman and previous Blackhawks’ hockey ops executives would be naive. During a discussion with Joe Brand of Blackhawks Live! on WGN 720-AM on Tuesday evening, Davidson shared what he’ll take away from his time with Stan Bowman.
“I think it’s giving people opportunities as he did for me,” Davidson said. “He afforded me the opportunity to understand different parts of the hockey operations and allow me to grow and fulfill my potential. That’s definitely something I’ll take moving forward in that I think that this is a people business. We have to help grow people’s ambition and skillsets so they can be in the best position to fulfill themselves personally and professionally and contribute to the hockey operations department.”
One person who it appears that Davidson will be giving a shot is former Blackhawk Brian Campbell. Campbell has been working with the Blackhawks in a player development role, which has allowed Campbell and Davidson to become friends over the years, but now it seems that Davidson will be making Campbell a part of his front office.
Because Campbell tells Davidson how it is.
“What I like most about Brian is that he doesn’t tell me what I want to hear, he tells me what he thinks, and he brings a completely different perspective on how he watches the game. He sees it as a player and someone who has considerable experience playing in the NHL, which I do not have. I think as a general rule, that’s the type of person I want to surround myself with, in that I want people around me that are going to bring expertise and experience to the table that I don’t possess myself.”
Kyle Davidson has a lot to prove in his new role, and while he said all the right things, these things are easier said than done. Whether or not Davidson will be able to keep his word or not will only be told over time, but one thing I’m sure of today is this; Davidson is no Stan Bowman.
Scandal, stagnation, and sorrow. That’s what the Blackhawks have become in recent years in one of the most rapid heel turns in professional sports history. But, if you’ll give Kyle Davidson the benefit of the doubt, he wants you to know that those days are over, and this is a new day for the Chicago Blackhawks. These are Kyle Davidson’s Blackhawks. Hopefully, one day soon, they can be our Blackhawks once again too.