The Blackhawks finally give an update on their GM search and there are some eyebrow-raising comments from Danny Wirtz

From CEO and Owner Danny Wirtz

“As we recently reached the halfway point of the 2021-22 season, I am pleased to provide an update on our search for the next Chicago Blackhawks general manager.

Over the past six weeks, our leaders have participated in a discovery and research process that has explored all of the functions and structure of our hockey operations department. This top-down exercise revealed an incredible amount of internal talent while highlighting areas for growth and opportunities to become more competitive. We plan to create a next-generation hockey operations department with a path to lasting success for the Chicago Blackhawks. Our next step is to find the right leader, and we’ll start contacting potential candidates this week for an interview for the CEO position. This position will be the most senior officer of hockey operations and will report directly to me. We expect to make a final decision before the National Hockey League trade deadline.

We seek to hire the best strategic mind who can build and develop a hockey operations management team that will be best in class in professional sports. This new leader will create a team environment that brings together top experts to guide decision-making on the future of the Blackhawks while ensuring they share the overall organizational goals of consistent competition at the championship level. And without a doubt, he or she must be someone who displays our organizational values.

The current interim general manager, Kyle Davidson, is a candidate and will interview for the position of general manager. He remains in his position as interim general manager and will continue to have full autonomy in hockey decisions in the meantime.

I will lead the interview process alongside President of Business Operations Jaime Faulkner, with the support and guidance of an advisory group that will provide perspective on the role and interviewees. This advisory board will be made up of leaders from the sports industry as well as our research partners and will be announced in the coming days.

We will be as transparent as possible throughout this process; however, since we will be interviewing candidates inside and outside of hockey, we will need to respect the confidentiality of the process and of those candidates. Additionally, we plan to hold a town hall-type meeting next week with our fans, partners, staff and media to further explain the larger vision of the Chicago Blackhawks. Details on this will follow.

We look forward to bringing in our club’s team operations manager who will help write the next chapter of the hockey championship for this franchise. »

It has been 92 days since Stan Bowman stepped down as general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. After 3 months of no update, and seemingly no questions asked about the GM position, Danny Wirtz has issued a statement on the status of the process. I have bolded the text that I found interesting from the statement.

They’ve been doing an internal exam for six weeks. That’s a good amount of time for a fact-finding mission on your own hockey operations department. This is something I wish Danny had done in April 2020 when John McDonough was fired (I sort of think all of the leadership positions related to McDonough should have been swept right behind him and they really didn’t removed only one person quickly and I liked that person, but whatever). Maybe now that Stan and Al are no longer able to hide what they did or didn’t do, the Blackhawks have become one of the worst products on ice with virtually no talent in the prospect pool. and limited draft capital. It’s a bad situation. I hope that during this investigation, people in hockey operations have spoken openly about their frustrations. I believe there are good assessors and teachers in this department who were too scared to do anything or speak. Actually…I know because a few of them have told me. The Blackhawks have been rotten for a LONG TIME. Everyone who was raised under John McDonough did so. Winning by an incredible core and coaching staff served as a shiny coat of paint on an absolute disaster.

–“We expect to make a final decision before the National Hockey League trade deadline.”

Well… that’s something. The trade deadline is 54 days away and the Blackhawks have yet to interview anyone for the job. I like that they have taken their time with this process so far. Maybe they’ll find the right person quickly and that person will have a deep understanding of the Blackhawks organization AND the league as a whole, which will allow the Blackhawks to successfully make it through the trade deadline… or maybe they won’t. Personally, I don’t think getting someone in before the trade deadline matters. I find it hard to believe that this deadline will shape the future of the organization in any meaningful way.

Kyle Davidson or the new GM has a few things to play with. Fleury, Cal de Haan, and Kubalik appear to be the most plausible trade tokens at Deadline. They should be able to get a handful of draft picks for those three. Davidson can certainly handle the delay in my opinion which is based on very little. We’ll see how it goes. This deadline seemed a bit arbitrary to me. I prefer to take my time and hire the best candidate and maybe the best candidate will not be available until the end of the season.

— Current interim general manager Kyle Davidson is a candidate and will be interviewing for the position of general manager. He remains in his position as interim general manager and will continue to have full autonomy in hockey decisions in the meantime.

I don’t know Davidson at all. I asked the interviewer…no response. Tried to channel a meeting for a beer through a mutual friend…nothing.

That said… he said he was his own man when he was introduced and he wasn’t Stan Bowman. It turned out to be true. He fired Colliton when Stan certainly wouldn’t have. He traded one of Stan’s guys when Nylander was sent to Pittsburgh for Lafferty and I think Lafferty has been good. Everything I’ve heard about Davidson is positive. A brilliant guy. A good boy. He understands how shitty things have been with the Hawks for a long time. He was a guy who was under Norm MacIver’s wing and not Stan and Al’s bullshit school. Whatever happens I hope Kyle Davidson stays in the organization in some kind of senior role . I guess his phone will ring teams all over the league if he doesn’t get the big job.

–(Danny Wirtz) will lead the interview process alongside President of Business Operations Jaime Faulkner

I don’t really understand why Jaime Faulkner would be involved in the process. She’s not a hockey person. Danny says in the letter that the General Manager will NOT report to Jaime and that person will report directly to Danny. It’s kind of crazy that she’s been in this position for a LONG TIME and no one has heard of her yet.

–…since we will be interviewing candidates inside and outside of hockey, we will need to respect the confidentiality of the process and those candidates

What exactly does this mean? How do you hire a candidate to run hockey operations that don’t work in hockey? I guess we should define what constitutes “being inside and outside of hockey”. Is an agent “outside of hockey”? Zito was an agent and he seems to know what he’s doing in Florida. He had previously shut down hockey operations at CBJ. Is a member of the media outside?

If they hired a president of Hockey Ops, I don’t think I would care whether the person was in hockey or not. Ask this person to be a problem solver. A person who can set up an organizational chart. Be a department manager, then delegate hockey decisions to a general manager. Reading that the head of hockey operations and hockey decisions may not have hockey experience scares me. That’s thinking a little too hard. No unturned stone, I suppose, but if you turn over a stone and find someone with no real relevant experience in hockey operations, take that stone and throw it to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

This organization is at a MAJOR crossroads right now. Their past is only a year away from their deals and their future is… well, their future is currently in the organization. They have practically nothing and they are about to have less. Now is not the time to get cute with a major rental like this. Find someone who has vision, leadership, experience and a track record of NHL success. Everything else is an error.

We talked a lot about GM searches and hiring today on Redline Radio. The episode is here

Amanda J. Marsh