General Manager Kyle Davidson sat down with the Chicago Blackhawks beat writers to put finishing touches on a disastrous season and give updates as to, what we all hope, will be a promising future for the team. He started by thanking the beat writers for their work, continued by praising the hires of Norm MacIver and Jeff Greenberg, noting his working relationship with them in the past and the strengths they bring to scouting and analytics respectively. He seems very confident in the hires and I think the organization will be all the better for it. I broke down the importance of the hire in an article from earlier this week. It was a press conference that covered myriad topics, but I was able to pick out the three most important nuggets for you below.
1. The Head Coach
Kyle Davidson was asked early on about the firing of Rob Cookson and Marc Crawford and how their firings may affect Derek King's candidacy as permanent head coach of the Blackhawks. I discussed what those firings might mean yesterday. Davidson had an immediate and direct response:
"First of all, it doesn't impact Derek at all. He's going to be a candidate in the head coaching search, and so that's where that sits. With respect to Marc and Rob, just we want to have a bit of a clean slate here as we go into the next head coaching and coaching regime...It was really great to have them around, but just felt like new voices were needed..."- GM Kyle Davidson, via Blackhawks
So that is great news for Derek King, that he will still be one of the candidates for the position. One would think it would be foolish to get rid of a coach that entered in a lose-lose situation and got the team to at least turn their mood around. He also had some success in developing young players. I was just happy to hear he was getting a shot, because I've always felt that the further the team goes into the offseason, the less likely it is that King would be a serious candidate. I felt that if they were confident in him, they would have hired him by now. Maybe they do feel that way, but Davidson has stated before he doesn't plan to "string Derek along." I'm not sure, but definitely some good news off the top for Derek King.
After that exchange, Davidson was then asked if he had a specific timeline for a coaching search, to which he stated:
"We don't have a firm, firm timeline. We want to be nimble with it. You know there's just so much going on at the same time right now. We've got the preparing for the draft, we've got the coaching search, we're building the front office. They're all kind of running in parallel, so we don't want to be unrealistic and say by this day we're going to have this step...I think early July, you know, is a loose target, I think, for having a good idea of where we want to go with...selecting a candidate."- GM Kyle Davidson, via Blackhawks
So July is our time frame. Sometime around the draft. Perfect. Seems like a reasonable amount of time to evaluate various candidates, including those that are in the midst of Stanley Cup Playoff runs. It is also a reasonable time frame for the players to become acclimated to their new staff. More than anything, I am just thrilled with how much Davidson "shoots from the hip" with these comments. We are so used to secretive and coy executives in Chicago sports, and of course with the Blackhawks having had Stan Bowman at the helm, that it makes Davidson's straight-forwardness quite refreshing.
2. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane
What the Blackhawks should and will do with their two superstars of the past 15 seasons has been a topic of debate. Does it make sense to trade Towes and Kane to dump salary and pick up draft picks and young prospects? Does it benefit the team to hold on to them? What does the new general manager think, since he has hinted at "cleaning house" as part of this rebuild? Davidson graciously shed some light on his feelings towards the two future hall of famers during the press conference when asked about his plans by Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times.
"There's definitely a place for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane moving forward. I don't think there's any question about that. What their roles are and how they fit into things, that's part of the dialogue that we're having. [We're] 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 [views] are, and there's going to be questions and further conversations to really firm that up because it is something that isn't solved with one conversation or understood in one conversation. "- GM Kyle Davidson, via Blackhawks
This was maybe the vaguest Davidson was during his presser. It is clear that there is major respect being paid to both Kane and Toews, and Davidson is, by no means, looking to just cast them off for the sake of freeing up cap space or acquiring picks. It seems like this is a very serious consideration for him, which it should be. Any deal involving superstars should not be taken flippantly. *cough cough* Stan Bowman *cough cough*. It sounds to me that as long as Toews and Kane can accept the reality of the situation and are content with it, then they have a very welcome place on the team. They didn't build Rome in a day, and it isn't going to be just a year or two to get the Blackhawks contending again. Will 19 and 88 be along for the ride when they are 39 or 40? If they are willing to accept the roles Davidson wants for them (leadership) and the reality of the situation (rebuild), then I think they might be on the team for several years more.
Kyle Davidson's vision of Toews and Kane being mentors for the next generation of hockey players were made very clear in the continuation of his quote:
"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 a part of [this] when we're back having success. "- GM Kyle Davidson, via Blackhawks
3. Who is at goalie?
It's easy to say the Blackhawks should stick to the rebuild and commit to tanking for better picks in the future. But it's another task entirely to be able to develop your players and give them some confidence. In doing so, having a competent goalie will be necessary. I don't know if Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia fit what the Blackhawks are looking for anymore. Both have been given plenty of fair shakes at being a starting NHL goalie, and both have been just fine at times, but are they really the answer?
"We definitely need to bring some NHL contracts in. [Lankinen and Delia] are part of that discussion...but there's some players that we'll look at in free agency and see which direction we want to go. Not ruling out the trade market either. "- GM Kyle Davidson, via Blackhawks
Well, bye. Based on those comments I don't think Lankinen or Delia are the answer Davidson is looking for. Maybe they can be a part of the answer, in a minimal backup role, but they cannot be the main two goalies. I strongly feel that Davidson will bring in an experienced veteran with upside to be the Blackhawks primary goalie. Hopefully, a goalie who has been through a rebuild before or who has won a title before, or maybe both so he can make a significant difference in the young players and goalies coming down the pipeline.
Sounds like there is optimism for the up-and-coming goalies, but they are not ready presently. But that's fine. Bring in a solid starter, show the young guys the ropes as they come up. I think that will help development tremendously as opposed to coming up and playing behind the likes of Lankinen and Delia.
In conclusion, offseason press conferences always seem to be very telling of the direction of the team, especially the direction for a team like the Chicago Blackhawks, who are in the midst of this rebuild. Kyle Davidson is likable, direct, and determined. I think the Blackhawks got a good one in him. Now we wait to see how the rest of the offseason shakes out.