Kyle Davidson is building a new front office in Chicago, one that Davidson hopes is both smart and forward-thinking. He’s also hoping to keep his promise to the fans that he made when he was introduced as the permanent GM that things will be different — specifically, transparent. Scorned Blackhawks fans have tried to draw parallels between the old guard and Davidson’s vision for the Blackhawks. At some point, they’re going to realize that claim doesn’t hold merit.
Whether or not Kyle Davidson has success as the head of the Blackhawks hockey ops department is a question that can’t be answered today, but whether or not he’s simply a Stan Bowman redux is a question that can be answered. The answer is no.
I remember one particular comment here at BN from last week when it was announced that Davidson hired former Cubs assistant GM Jeff Greenberg to join what Davidson and the Blackhawks are calling the “core brain trust.” That comment insinuated that Greenberg’s hiring was an attempt to recreate the John McDonough hiring. McDonough, of course, spent 25 years in the Chicago Cubs front office before coming to the Blackhawks in 2007. McDonough was not a “hockey guy,” though, McDonough was a marketing guy, and he served in that type of role with the Blackhawks for over a decade before he was dismissed in 2020 and then deemed a primary culprit in the egregious cover-up of the Kyle Beach sexual assault incident.
Jeff Greenberg isn’t a “hockey guy” either, but he’s not a marketing guy and he’s not John McDonough. Instead, Greenberg is a baseball guy, and Kyle Davidson sees plenty of value in bringing a baseball guy into his core brain trust. Davidson wants to borrow baseball’s love for quantification through advanced analytics. From Statcast to Rapsodo and Edgertroic cameras, baseball has figured out how to quantify many things that have happened – or might happen – on a baseball field. Davidson sees value in that type of knowledge for the Blackhawks, and Greenberg will help him make that possible.
“It’s not necessarily about baseball versus hockey or what he’s gonna see on the ice versus anyone else in hockey. It’s more how do they make decisions in baseball? And those systems that they use that they’re mainly proprietary systems that were built. They’re just much more efficient in gathering information in how to synthesize and use that information based on player evaluation on how to enhance player development.
So those are the types of things we want to bring into hockey that we don’t have right now … and hopefully build to the point that they’re comparable to what’s going on in other sports. What he brings is an improvement to our decision-making process and a sophistication to our information gathering that we just don’t have right now. It’s just rounding out that decision-making/leadership team that’s really gonna serve us well moving forward.”
That’s precisely how the relationship between Davidson and Greenberg – two men who competed head to head for Davidson’s current job – came to be, the mutual interest they shared in translating baseball’s success in the advanced analytics department to the ice.
“It was a really sort of organic way that it came about where right after I got named the GM, Jeff reached out and congratulated me. As someone that’s generally a sports fan and curious about what’s going on in other sports, we just kind of started talking about what they do in baseball and what we do in hockey. Our relationship just grew to the point that the stuff he was talking about and the things they were dealing in were just things we didn’t have internally,” Davidson said.
“The systems and processes they have set up – specifically the Cubs in Jeff’s case – were things that really appealed to me, and I saw great, a great value in. Coming where he’s come through in seeing the ground-up build with those systems and those processes in baseball, it’s just something I wanted to add. And obviously, he went far in our GM search, and so it spoke to what Jaime and Danny thought of him. But this was completely driven on my end through our relationship shortly after I got named.”
One thing to mind special attention to is what Davidson said last, that the hire of Greenberg was driven entirely from his side based on their mutual vision of bringing baseball-like analytics and systems to the Blackhawks and the NHL. This wasn’t a hire that came from above. This is a hire that Davidson forced as he continues to try and live up to his promise of a forward-thinking hockey operations department in Chicago.
Davidson and Greenberg’s project will be one that former Blackhawk Brian Campbell will play a significant role in, even though Davidson hasn’t hashed out Campbell’s title. Campbell played 18 seasons in the NHL and then worked in the Blackhawks’ player development department. Campbell surfaced in the seats of the United Center during morning skates and the box at Fifth Third Arena during practices accompanying Davidson after the latter was named the interim GM of the Blackhawks.
Davidson calls Campbell his right-hand man and speaks glowingly about him.
“He’s [Campbell] been just an awesome voice for me, and he brings such a great perspective. He’s always got that playing background and very significant playing background,” Davidson said. He’s a uniquely intellectually curious guy as well. He’s really into the new methods of evaluation and really excited to dig in with Jeff and learn what he’s going to bring to the table. So, he’s going to be involved in hammering that out and what that looks like, but probably more of an advisory role.
“The other thing too with on the ice, we’re developing a lot of people, and we’re going to be developing management as well, and Brian’s pretty new to the front office. Obviously, he played, and then he came in as a player development coach, and then this year, he’s been my right-hand man all year while I was interim GM. He’s learned a lot, and I think he’s going to continue to develop, and he’s got a really bright future in hockey operations. We’re lucky to have him.”
Regardless of what Campbell’s role with the Blackhawks is, he’s here to stay because, as Davidson says, he’s an extremely bright hockey mind with a playing career in tow and a thirst for finding new and better ways to evaluate hockey players. That’s the theme with Davidson’s early hires in his front office. Experienced, but not stuck and ornery. Intelligent but forward-thinking and passionate about bringing the Blackhawks into the future.
Marian Hossa is another name that may very well end up a part of a group that already includes Davidson, Norm Maciver, Jeff Greenberg, and Brian Campbell. Marian Hossa is one of the greatest hockey players ever to lace up a set of skates. He recently said that Chicago is his second home, and he’s looking forward to being a part of the Blackhawks organization. Davidson said on Tuesday that while there’s no update on that front (as of now), there’s a mutual interest to make something happen.
I think there’s mutual interest in having someone of his experience and intellect and perspective around the team, so definitely something that we’re discussing and finding the right fit for moving forward.”
This summer will be a huge one for Kyle Davidson and his growing hockey ops department, and more change is undoubtedly in the hopper. Still, Davidson is excited about the challenge ahead and ready to make his own mark on the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I think we’re starting a journey here that we can really all put our stamp on and get excited about where we’re heading.”