The Blackhawks are building a front office, preparing for the offseason and roster construction, and dealing with the delicate discussions surrounding the futures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. All while working on identifying and hiring a permanent head coach. To say that Kyle Davidson has a lot on his plate would be an understatement, and that’s why Blackhawks fans can expect the search for the next head coach to leak into the summer.
“That’s been something we’ve been working on for a little while. When we get there – or when we feel comfortable using that list of criteria to create a candidate list – we’ll do that. But we don’t have a firm, firm timelines. We want to be pretty nimble with it. So much going on at the same time right now. Preparing for the draft, the coaching search, we’re building the front office, and they’re all kind of running in parallel.
“We’ve got ideas. Early July is a loose target for having a good idea of where we want to go with selecting a candidate. I don’t want to say we want to have someone in place by the draft, but shortly thereafter. I don’t think you want to get too far in the off-season without knowing who your head coach is. The middle of July is a good timeframe.”
So, circle early July as a timeframe for when the Blackhawks’ search for their next head coach might conclude—having a permanent fixture behind the bench before free agency and the draft, events that will finally return to their natural (pre-COVID) timeline. For now, enjoy watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs; that’s what Kyle Davidson will be doing with a heavy-duty magnifying glass.
Davidson said in his Tuesday end-of-season media availability that he’d be watching the playoffs “intensely” to evaluate where the Blackhawks are compared to the cream of the crop in the NHL.
“I believe it’s very, very important to understand the standard that the game is being played at and the style that’s being played elsewhere. It’s all great information. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and copy the team that wins this year, but there are elements you can take from every team in the playoffs because they’re at a level that they’ve got a chance to win the Cup.
You’re always learning and always adapting to new trends and new styles that will serve us best moving forward because that’s where you want to have success. You don’t want to top out at a team just fighting for the playoffs. You want to be a real player in that push to the Cup. So you’re always learning, you’re always watching, and this is the best time of year to understand what’s working in our sport. Watching a team like Toronto – like WOW. We are WAY BEHIND.“
Of course, according to Davidson, Derek King is still very much a candidate for that job who insisted that the dismissal of assistant coaches Marc Crawford and Rob Cookson had no bearing on King’s future with the club.
“It doesn’t impact Derek at all. He’s gonna be a candidate in the coaching search,” Davidson said. “With respect to Marc and Rob, just we want to have a bit of a clean slate as we go into the next head-coaching and coaching regime. They did some really great work for us. It was a tough year. Rob came in in a pinch halfway through. It was really great to have them around, but I just felt like new voices were needed. Not much more than that.”
Davidson called King a great hockey mind and someone who has endeared himself to many in the organization this season, making it clear that there is a legitimate interest in King when it comes to the search for a permanent solution.
“That’s something we might cross once we get to our head coaching decision. I think the world of Derek. He’s got a great hockey mind, he’s got a great way to the players, he’s endeared himself to a lot of people this year, and so you want those types of people in your organization. We have to cross the head coaching bridge first, and then we’ll get to the rest because he is a candidate for the head coaching position. But in general, those are the type of people you want around. They’re a benefit and a positive influence on your organization.”
To be fair, King did inject life into this team when he took over for Jeremy Colliton in November. The Blackhawks were never good this season, but they looked like a team that could give you a competitive effort night in and night out in the immediacy of King’s arrival. After King took over a group that he called broken and lost in early November, Marc-André Fleury began to play like the reigning Vezina winner; Seth Jones stopped trying to save the Blackhawks on his own and played much better. Jonathan Toews began contributing after going 25 games without a goal to start the season. Patrick Kane turned his season around, Dylan Strome found his groove, and the list goes on.
While I’m not saying that Derek King is the guy, he’s a guy who has earned a fair shake in this coaching search for the things he accomplished with the team that he inherited in November. King also fits the mold of the type of head coach that Kyle Davidson said he is looking for:
“We want the coaches that are able to communicate, able to drive a message and create a positive culture and get players to want to come to the rink and compete every single night. And that’s based on track record, and that’s also based on how they deliver a message, so we’ll learn that based on what they’ve done in the past but also through the interview process.”
Still, we’re in the infancy of this coaching search, and I wouldn’t expect to start hearing candidates until we get deeper into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Be patient, Blackhawks fans, Davidson doesn’t seem like a person eager to decide without fully fleshing it out with his new leadership team, and that’s a good thing. This will be the first head coaching search for the Blackhawks in a long time; there’s no reason to rush it.