The Blackhawks kicked off their 2022-23 season with general manager Kyle Davidson and head coach Luke Richardson meeting with the media on Wednesday.
This is a unique situation in Chicago. For the first time in a long time, the Blackhawks have rookies in both seats this year. Richardson has never been a head coach (permanently) in the NHL and Davidson took over as the interim GM last year during the season. So this was the first time either was meeting with media to begin a new NHL season.
As you might guess, both Richardson and Davidson talked about development a lot. Davidson said development is going to be a big part of training camp, for players who might be headed to juniors or Rockford and the NHL roster.
Richardson said he plans on partnering some of the younger prospects with veterans early in training camp so they can learn on the ice from players who have more experience. Of course having a head coach who has more than 1,000 games played on the blue line will help as well, but this seems to be part of the philosophy moving forward.
Davidson said the development route for each prospect will be unique and every timeline could be different based on how they grow on the ice. They do not have a defined plan for Lukas Reichel this season, but Davidson did note he’s had a strong summer.
When asked to define success this season, Richardson laughed that he’s going to make life hard for Davidson because his goal is to win games. Davidson jumped in and said he wants to win, too… he just happens to have a different perspective than the head coach who’s working on every day and every game and every shift.
What about 19 and 88?
Have any teams made a preliminary call about Patrick Kane and/or Jonathan Toews? Or have they had any conversations with the players about their no-move clauses? Nothing to report there, according to Davidson.
“Yeah, there haven’t been any conversations,” Davidson said. “We’re certainly not at that point. We’re focused on training camp and getting into the season. As far as any player movement or anything like that, we’re not anywhere near that point. We’re focused on Jonathan and Patrick being here and being part of the team and competing right from the opening day. That’s what we’re focused on and there’s been no discussion on that.”
From the new head coach’s perspective, Richardson said he’s talked to Toews and Kane “probably more than anyone else” since getting the job. When asked about the leadership and culture in the dressing room, he noted the benefit of having two future Hall of Famers with rings at home in the room. He doesn’t necessarily want them to be treated any differently than the other 20 guys in the room, but understands with their resumes they’ve earned the right to have a strong voice.
Who does what?
Richardson was asked about what his different coaches are going to work on this season and which assistants are going to be in charge of special teams.
Kevin Dean is going to run the defense and the penalty kill. He was in charge of that in Boston and Richardson noted how good the Bruins have been on the PK. So while Richardson had run the PK in some of his previous stops, he’ll let Dean be the man in charge of that in Chicago.
Derek Plante is going to be in charge of the power play. Richardson indicated he and Derek King are going to focus on 5-on-5 and some unique situations (6-on-5 for example) while Dean and Plante run the special teams this season. Both of those units left a lot to be desired last year, so we’ll see how the new coaches can help.
What about the kids?
After development camp in July — in the middle of which free agency opened — Davidson noted that he didn’t have as much time as he would have liked to watch the new batch of players on the ice as he would have liked.
But this past week he had plenty of opportunity to watch some of his new additions (via draft and free agency) and some older prospects work against each other in practice and the Minnesota Wild in two games.
So what did the general manager think of the kids?
“On the back end, I was really happy with the whole group, to be honest,” Davidson said. “Kevin [Korchinski] was what he thought he was. He showed great skating, skill, he’s a competitive kid, too. He’s not just a one-dimensional offensive defenseman, he can bring it on both side of the puck.
I really liked the games from Nolan Allan and Ethan Del Mastro and up front you had the two guys on the one line, Paul Ludwinski and Sam Savoie. They were fun to watch. You always knew when they were on the ice, which in a two-game set, sometimes it’s hard to get noticed and I think everyone noticed them. So they did their jobs.
But overall, what I really liked from the group was that pace, that compete. It was there every game, it was there every practice, and it was a very positive experience for us but they did themselves a lot of good in our eyes, opening our eyes into really fulfilling some of the traits that we want to bring into the organization, so it was very positive.
Get used to hearing words like “pace” and “compete” from this organization because they’re clearly the focus of players moving forward. Of course those are words we used to hear all the time from Joel Quenneville when he would vaguely describe a performance or a player over a period of time.
This is going to be a long season. Neither individual clearly defined what they view as “success” for the coming year, but clearly they’re balancing wanting to compete now with wanting to win bigger later. But the foundation is in place at the top of the organization to move forward with a purpose.