GM Kyle Davidson on Toews and Kane, 'stark' gulf between Blackhawks and league's best

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • General manager Kyle Davidson is hoping to return the Chicago Blackhawks to being a dominant, winning franchise.

    General manager Kyle Davidson is hoping to return the Chicago Blackhawks to being a dominant, winning franchise. Chase Agnello-Dean/Chicago Blackhawks

 
 
Updated 5/3/2022 7:15 PM

Now that the Blackhawks have closed the book on a disappointing 2021-22 campaign, it's time for Kyle Davidson to begin writing his legacy as the team's general manager.

His hope is to return the Hawks to being a dominant, winning franchise -- to pen a narrative so impressive that the dark days of the past few years will be all but forgotten.

 

Despite the recent optimism expressed by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Seth Jones and Derek King, this figures to be a lengthy process. And the hard work starts now as Davidson gets set to:

• Search for a coach

• Prepare for the draft

• Watch Rockford in the Calder Cup playoffs

• Make plenty of roster/free-agent decisions.

Is it a daunting task? Yes.

But it's one that the 33-year-old is ready for -- and pumped about.

"I'm really excited," Davidson said Tuesday inside the United Center. "You're always thinking about the offseason and the different events and marks in the calendar that we have to undertake.

"But really digging into it the last few weeks has been really exciting because I think we're starting a journey that we can really all put our stamp on and get excited about with where we're heading. ... I'm pretty fired up about it."

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The Q&A with Davidson lasted 50 minutes and hit upon a wide variety of topics. While we'll expand on some of them in the coming days, here are my biggest take-aways:

• Davidson will be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs with an "extremely" critical eye. It is, after all, easy to see the gaping chasm in talent level between the Hawks and teams like Colorado, Toronto, Carolina, St. Louis, Florida and Calgary.

"It's very stark," Davidson said. "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."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the wall during Jonathan Toews' and Patrick Kane's exit interviews? I asked Davidson how those went, and although he didn't go into intense detail, he did say they were "very healthy" and "likely the first of many conversations as we move forward." Davidson picked their brains on the overall health of the team and what needs to be improved upon.

"They've achieved so much (and) know what it takes to win in this league," Davidson said.

As for whether the talks were difficult, Davidson said: "It wasn't a tough conversation. It was open, it was productive. I was pleased with how it went, but it's something we're going to continue on the road down and see where it leads.

• Sticking with Toews and Kane for a moment, Davidson was asked if he wants them around for the rebuild. Both players have one year remaining on contracts that carry identical $10.5 million cap hits.

"There's definitely a place for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane moving forward," Davidson said. "What their roles are and how they fit into things -- that's part of the dialogue that we're having and being very honest with how we see their role and what we need out of them moving forward. They're fully aware of what those are and there's going to be questions and further conversations to really firm that up because ... it's not solved with one conversation. ...

"Having them around is something we're never going to shy away from because they can show this next wave of players how it's done. And you never know -- maybe they could be part of it when we're back having success.

• Naming the Cubs' Jeff Greenberg as assistant general manager last Thursday was an interesting decision. Some might wonder: How does a baseball guy come in and help a hockey team?

Baseball has gone from looking at old-school stats such as a batter's average and slugging percentage to things like WAR, OPS, OPS+, BAPIP, LIPS, wOBA and exit velocity.

Should NHL execs be doing the same thing -- with still-unknown variables that may one day have their own acronyms?

More than likely, yes. And that's why Greenberg will join the Hawks on May 9.

"Who better to get us to that point than someone who's done it in another sport already?" Davidson said. "So that's a major part in bringing Jeff in. (But) let's be honest: We're probably not going to be able to get all of the predictive information that they can in baseball, just based on the nature of the sport. But if we can get a few, then that's huge value."

• Let's close with the coaching situation, which gained a bit more clarity when associate coach Marc Crawford and assistant coach Rob Cookson were relieved of their duties Sunday. The decision boiled down to the Hawks wanting more of a "clean slate" as the search for a head coach gets underway.

Davidson doesn't want to put a timeline on when a decision will be made, but he did say that "early July is a loose target. ... I don't think you want to get too far in the off-season without knowing who your head coach is."

The draft is July 7 and 8, and free agency opens July 13.

Interim coach Derek King is definitely a candidate. He went 27-33-10 after Jeremy Colliton was fired November 6.

Davidson has praised King before, and Tuesday was no different. Even if the Hawks go a different direction, don't be surprised if King is retained in some capacity.

"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 type of people in your organization," Davidson said. "We have to cross the head coaching bridge first and then we'll get to the rest. ...

"But those are the type of people you want around."

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