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On a bright, sunny Monday where the temperature reached well into the 80’s in Chicago, the Blackhawks hosted members of the local media and select season-ticket members at an event in the tunnels of the United Center.
That sounds way more dark and secretive than it actually was.
Take Two: In the well-lit and air-conditioned Concert Club, the Blackhawks officially introduced the Executive Hockey Operations department made up of GM Kyle Davidson and his two associate GM’s, Norm Maciver and Jeff Greenberg. The trio were met with a scripted Q&A to begin, with the three individually being made available to talk to the media afterward.
A wide range of topics were covered both in the Q&A and the media scrums each with Davidson, Maciver, and Greenberg. Among the many questions that the Blackhawks face this offseason is what is going to happen with the head coaching position.
Jeremy Colliton started the 2021-22 season, went 1-9-2, and was replaced by Derek King the rest of the way. King did an admirable job, given the circumstances in which he took over the Blackhawks.
The interim tag was never taken away from King and he was never fully given the job. Now an open search begins for the new trio leading the Hockey Operations department in Chicago, who will be the ones leading the search along with the addition of former Blackhawks defenseman and Kyle Davidson’s right-hand man Brian Campbell.
Derek King will be interviewed in the process. He earned that right with the job he did this season and the Blackhawks view him as a respected member of the organization. Whether or not King will stay with the organization if he is ultimately not picked to be the permanent head coach in Chicago is still to be determined.
“How it shakes out is how it shakes out,” Maciver said about King’s role in the coaching search in Chicago. “Derek did a great job last year in a very difficult situation. He also did a real good job for the organization in Rockford, so he’s someone the organization really values.”
The timing of the discussion regarding the coaching search for Chicago couldn’t have been more appropriate, given that Lane Lambert had just been named the new head coach of the New York Islanders and Peter DeBoer had just been fired by the Vegas Golden Knights within the same hour. But for Davidson, he does not plan to have what happens outside of 1901 West Madison Street influence the club’s plans for finding their new head coach.
“Next couple of weeks, we will get to identifying our candidate list and get into the interview process,” Davidson said to open his media availability. “In terms of having someone named, probably not until July. That’s more of a realistic target.”
The Blackhawks did not end up with a first-round pick in this summer’s upcoming NHL Draft, which takes place in Montreal on July 7-8. If the club doesn’t have a coach in place by that first week of July, it will be interesting to see how, or if, what the team does in their first draft under new management influences their hiring decisions or if it influences how potential candidates feel about the position.
If it were me interviewing, I would want to have a say in the first draft class that would be under my name because whoever is going to be the next head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks is signing up for a rebuild. A rebuild that would hopefully see that head coach have a few of those players from the 2022 draft class in the lineup in the next three, four, five years.
As far as who the team is going to be looking for, there are no names already tied to the interviewing process, and according to Davidson, they are still putting together the “checklist,” so to say, of what they are looking for in the next head coach of the Blackhawks. “We’re not married to one style over another. Before we get into building a true candidate list, we’re creating that profile and list of criteria that we want to see in our next head coach.”
Notable names have already been swirling around the coaching openings in the league including the recently unemployed Barry Trotz, and the usual suspects from those former coaches who are in television gigs like John Tortorella and Rick Tocchet. Of course, the ill-advised suggestions of Joel Quenneville and Mike Babcock have made the rounds of the NHL as well, because we just can’t get out of our own way in hockey.
For the Blackhawks, it feels like an opportunity to work with a blank slate when it comes to finding the right coach. It also feels like the club will not just be looking for a stopgap coach, but rather a coach who could not only guide a rebuilding team, but also be ready to lead the team when they are ready to be true contenders once again.
As stated before, the to-do list this summer in Chicago is long, but finding the right person behind the bench for what will likely be a new-look, younger, greener Blackhawks team for the next few years needs to be near the top of that list. Davidson and company have a plan and an organizational commitment to it. Now we’ll start to see the first steps of that plan, and what kind of commitment the Blackhawks fanbase will have to it.
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