Editorials

Opinion: Jeff Greenberg is a Stellar Hire for the Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks v Montreal Canadiens
Chicago Blackhawks v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
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I don't know about you, but I saw a lot of backlash over the hiring of Jeff Greenberg to be the new Associate General Manager for the Chicago Blackhawks. I understand the response. I really do. Greenberg comes from the Chicago Cubs baseball organization. What does he really know about hockey operations? Last time the Blackhawks hired someone away from the Cubs, it was John McDonough which, though he was in charge during the Stanley Cup Championship seasons, we learned last summer that his tenure was actually quite problematic. I've also seen plentiful concern over the idea that General Manager, Kyle Davidson, who is quite young, is hiring the runner up to his position.

I think it is completely fair and justifiable to have these concerns. But I also think these concerns are very surface level and don't consider the value Greenberg brings to the organization.

Yes, Jeff Greenberg comes from an entirely different sport. We're talking about the difference between America's past time and Canada's past time. But that should not be the focus. Greenberg is not being asked to coach the team. He is being asked to bring his vast experience in technology, software, and various metrics and apply them to the Chicago Blackhawks. Nobody is asking him to determine how highly he would rate Alex Vlasic as an up and coming defensemen based on a hunch. They are asking him to take the performance of the players on the team and align them with whatever magical algorithms they use in advanced metrics (I'm not at all a math guy) to produce a result that displays a mathematical quantifying of that player's abilities. Greenberg is evaluating players based on objective numbers, as opposed to a "gut feeling."

Additionally, Greenberg will be using these analytics to inform scouting. He will not have a dictator-like control over the Blackhawks roster construction. He is basically an informant. Greenberg will go up to Kyle Davidson or whomever on the scout team and say, "Hey, based on such-and-such metric, this player has these positives or concerns, etc. Based on my evaluation, I think he is a player worth pursuing or not pursuing." You get the point. Greenberg doesn't have final say. Davidson does.

Kyle Davidson is simply taking advantage of Greenberg's depth of knowledge when it comes to advanced metrics, which are still relatively new to the hockey world, and especially to the Blackhawks. Furthermore, Greenberg was the runner up for the Blackhawks position back in February when Davidson was hired. Though I understand the concern over a young guy picking his competition as an assistant, I actually think it's a display of strength. Instead of Davidson continuing to search far and wide for someone you're unfamiliar with, or who may be a step down, why not engage your competition and recruit them. Davidson almost lost the Blackhawks opportunity to Greenberg. If Greenberg was that good, then he is probably worth bringing along. Props to Davidson for realizing that, humbling himself, and hiring him in a leadership position.

To briefly address the suggestion that the last person the Blackhawks hired from the Cubs ended disastrously... The John McDonough era certainly holds a blemish on the history of the Blackhawks organization and a stain on the Stanley Cup runs. What happened with Kyle Beach and the fact that the Blackhawks swept the sexual misconduct under the rug is tragic. There is no better way to put it. But if you believe that John McDonough is an exception to the rule in terms of people hired by the Blackhawks who would willingly cover up a horrible crime, then I think we can cut Greenberg some major slack. Greenberg has done nothing to lead us to believe he would be capable of what McDonough did. Plus, after this horrid ordeal this past year, the organization is likely on high alert for questionable qualities in candidates for any position they are hiring. I really think this argument has little, if any, legs to stand on, making it a fanciful straw man.

Lastly, Jeff Greenberg actually does have strong ties to hockey. Greenberg played youth hockey while growing up in Pittsburgh, then, while he was attending the University of Pennsylvania, Greenberg played club hockey, and his father, Chuck, has attempted to be an owner of an NHL franchise multiple times. Hockey was clearly a major interest in the Greenberg household. No doubt Jeff latched onto this hockey interest and probably knows way more about the game than anybody has given him credit for, until now.

And now, Jeff Greenberg gets to flex his hockey and analytical muscles at the same time, helping one of the most legendary teams in hockey work through a rebuild and hopefully launch the organization into the future. Jeff Greenberg is a great hire. Believe it, Blackhawks fans.

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