Chicago Blackhawks drop interim tag for general manager Kyle Davidson

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CHICAGO (AP) — The more Chicago Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz considered the possibilities of opening the team up as general manager, the more he felt he had what he needed in his own organization — even with the recent difficulties of the club.

The Blackhawks hired Kyle Davidson on Tuesday, dropping his interim tag instead of stepping out of the struggling franchise for new leadership.

“I think if you know Kyle…you’ll realize he’s his own person,” Wirtz said. “He has his own philosophies. … (It’s) quite an advantage, to be both a fresh thinker and an open-minded thinker, but also to understand our starting point very expertly. So you kind of get the best of both worlds in that sense.

The general manager job is another step on a rapid rise for Davidson, 33, who joined the Blackhawks as a hockey operations intern in 2010. The Sudbury, Ont., native has held several different titles with the organization over the years, including working as a video analyst, director of hockey operations and assistant general manager. He oversaw the management of the team’s salary cap before being promoted to interim general manager.

But the franchise has only made one playoff appearance in the past five years. After starting this season with playoff aspirations, he’s seventh in the Central Division with a 19-27-8 record.

Davidson was in the team’s front office throughout the crisis, working for Stan Bowman. But he almost gave the impression that he was a newcomer while discussing his plans for the organization.

“It’s going to be a very broad philosophy change because I’m a new person coming in with strong beliefs about how we should move forward,” Davidson said.

Davidson, who was born with a congenital heart defect resulting in three open-heart surgeries, also didn’t mince words when it came to leading the team.

“We’re going to look more at a rebuild here,” he said. “I think there are things that we really need to sort out and that will take time. That will take time.

Davidson was among six known candidates for the position. The team said it interviewed Carolina Hurricanes assistant general manager Eric Tulsky, former NHL forward Scott Mellanby, longtime NHL executive Peter Chiarelli, Tampa Bay Lightning executive Mathieu Darche and Chicago Cubs manager Jeff Greenberg.

Former Blackhawks forwards Eddie Olczyk, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp assisted Wirtz and president of business operations Jaime Faulkner in the search for the team. Mike Forde, executive chairman of Sportsology and a former Chelsea FC executive, also played an advisory role.

In the end, the organization settled on a familiar figure.

“I’ve already told people about it. When I leave a meeting with Kyle, I feel better,” Wirtz said. “I feel more assured. I feel more confident, and I think that’s a feeling that everyone here and the fans can start to feel that they really understand Kyle’s plan for the future.

Davidson was elevated to the acting role after Bowman resigned in October following a report from an outside law firm that found the organization mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player. in the team’s Stanley Cup in 2010.

The report also played a role in the departure of Al MacIsaac, another of Chicago’s top hockey executives, and the NHL fined the team $2 million for “inadequate internal procedures of the organization and its inadequate and untimely response”.

Two lawsuits related to Kyle Beach’s allegations that he was assaulted by then-video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 were resolved in December.

Davidson made his first big move on November 6, firing coach Jeremy Colliton and giving the job to Derek King on an interim basis. Davidson said King did a fantastic job and the former NHL forward would be considered for the opener.

“He gets a hands-on, first-hand interview, just like me in my role,” Davidson said, “and so that’s an advantage, and I think he does very well in that position.”

The next big task for Davidson is to make the most of the March 21 trade deadline. The Blackhawks traded their 2022 first-round pick to Columbus as part of the Seth Jones deal in July, and they’d like to recoup that lost draft capital.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, defenseman Calvin de Haan and forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik are among the Blackhawks who could be on the move.

“We’re just going to assess what’s available to us,” Davidson said. “I don’t think it’s a secret where we stand in the rankings, and therefore if there is an opportunity to acquire future talent and increase what we have in our prospect pool or our preliminary asset pool, so we’ll explore that.”

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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