On Friday, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson was a featured guest on the Daily Faceoff podcast with Frank Seravalli and Jason Gregor. He talked about a number of topics, including his journey to becoming the general manager of the Hawks. But his comments about how that path contributed to his overall hockey philosophy — and view of player development — were interesting.
Davidson spoke about his first role with the Hawks, which he arrived at in a fairly unique way. He originally agreed to take an internship with the Rockford IceHogs after graduating from Laurentian University in Sudbury, but visa issues kept that from working out. At the same time, an intern in the hockey ops department with the Blackhawks left and he was able to jump from the AHL affiliate to the NHL club for his internship.
As Davidson describes his first role with the club, he was breaking down tape. He was watching and analyzing passing sequencing and building a scientific explanation for performance. Of course, as he is quick to point out, doing that with the team in 2010 was fun because that team was special.
“The most beneficial part of watching all of those games and tracking at the time I did was the team was really, really good at that time and I got to see tendencies of really great players that are not natural tendencies that you’ll see or probably ever teach. Like some of the things you see Duncan Keith does on the ice whether it’s with the puck or in defending in 2010 you wouldn’t tell people to do that but his skating and his instincts were so elite that he would do it and he would be able to pull it off.”
In that role, Davidson started to develop a critical eye for performance. He told Seravalli and Gregor that data can be utilized to make a strong confirmation of an established belief, or support a change in rationale.
“You always have to be analyzing critically and not necessarily making too hard of a judgement on any one direction based on any one piece of information,” he said. “It’s always asking questions always being critical of what you’re eyes are seeing or you’re reading and going back to another way of evaluation to round out whatever conclusion you’re trying to make.”
Davidson’s later roles included serving as a liaison of sorts between Rockford and Chicago. Over the span of a few years, Davidson describes traveling with the IceHogs and getting to know how players were developing, what was beneficial for the players to work on and how the coaching staff should communicate with both the players and Chicago management.
His personal development route informs us to how he has spoken about his own plan for developing prospects now that he’s the general manager of the NHL club.
Davidson has spoken about the addition of Jeff Greenberg from the Cubs to his inner circle to enhance how the organization uses analytics. He has also openly preached patience with the development cycle of young players in the organization like Lukas Reichel, Ian Mitchell and, more recently, Nolan Allan and Colton Dach (a patience, ironically, that Colton’s older brother wasn’t afforded by the previous regime).
“Rockford is going to be critical in the role that they play in the development process and for the Blackhawks in general,” Davidson said emphatically when asked about how he views the IceHogs impact on his rebuild strategy. But he went into much greater detail in this conversation.
“We’ve already made a couple moves that have given us some good draft capital in this year’s draft and the years moving forward and we’ll look to capitalize on that. We’re also going to explore every avenue to enhance our prospect pool and strengthen that draft capital and bring in potentially some young players. We’re not ruling anything out one way or the other I think it’s really important to stay nimble and stay agile and take what comes and not force anything because once we start forcing things you start making mistakes. We want to be very intentional with what we do in the summer.”
Fans should take everything that Davidson is saying with the grace that he is not the general manager he reported to before taking the seat. He has navigated one trade deadline thus far and is heading into a critical offseason for the short and long-term future of the organization. This will be the narrative that Davidson lives within for the coming months. But he continues to be transparent about how he is going to try to shift the course of the Chicago Blackhawks as the general manager.
You can listen to the entire podcast here (the conversation with Davidson begins about 25 minutes into the episode):