Blackhawks mailbag: Who should be the next coach, GM? Should Kirby Dach move to wing?

Blackhawks beat reporter Ben Pope answers questions from fans on Twitter.

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Kirby Dach (No. 77) doesn’t win faceoffs as often as a center should.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With the Blackhawks’ holiday break in full swing, causing a lull in the team’s news cycle, now seems like an apt time for a mailbag. 

Here, Hawks beat reporter Ben Pope answers questions from fans on Twitter.

Who would you pick as the next general manager and coach?

There’s no better first question than the most pressing issue facing the Hawks right now. 

Kyle Davidson is worthy of the full-time GM role. Even at the age of 33, he already has proved to be assertive and bold, but in a reasoned — rather than brash — way. He can objectively analyze the team’s strengths and weaknesses without preexisting loyalties or interests in self-affirmation. CEO Danny Wirtz’s willingness to give him complete control as interim GM indicates the organization’s trust.

But the Hawks might be well-served to bring in an hockey operations president above Davidson, not only to match the leadership structure they created with business president Jaime Faulkner but to provide some much-needed experience.

I’d argue the Hawks should hire another first-time NHL head coach, although that might be controversial. The league is dominated by retreads who, by definition, failed somewhere else. The bitter Jeremy Colliton taste aside, an up-and-coming NCAA or European coach offers more upside — and a greater chance of being a smashing success — than a well-traveled veteran NHL boss. With the entire franchise undergoing a reset, now is the time to take that risk.

What was the real issue with Jeremy Colliton?

His stubbornness was his downfall. He remained firmly convinced his chosen approach — his system, his messaging, his perceptions of his players — were indisputably correct until his final day, even when it all clearly wasn’t working. 

But he never lost the locker room — the supposed distrust players held with him, at least after his first season, was purely imagined by fans — and he’s very intelligent. He’ll succeed as an assistant coach somewhere.

What are your thoughts on Seth Jones’ play?

The Hawks overpaid dramatically in the trade to acquire, and then sign, Jones this past summer. He is a good hockey player who has dramatically bounced back this season. 

Forgiving a few unlucky bounces for own-goals and his poor analytics with zone-entry defense, Jones has been terrific in just about every other aspect. His point total (23 in 30 games) will only get more impressive as the Hawks’ offense improves. His willingness to critique himself is admirable, too.

Is it time to move Kirby Dach to wing?

This question is being asked because of Dach’s horrendous faceoff results. He has won only 32.7% of his 294 faceoffs this season, last among 158 NHL forwards with 100-plus faceoffs. That’s down from a still-awful 36.8% the last two seasons combined.

But Dach’s other skills — his length, strength, skating stride — are perfectly suited to make him a good center. And while his finishing struggles loom large, his analytics on offensive-zone entries and creating chances for teammates are strong. Ideally, he just needs a wing who can handle faceoffs for him. Keep him at center.

Who’s the top Hawks prospect to watch at the World Junior Championships?

The Hawks have four prospects — Landon Slaggert (U.S. forward), Wyatt Kaiser (U.S. defenseman), Michael Krutil (Czech Republic defenseman) and Drew Commesso (U.S. goalie) — participating in this year’s tournament, which begins Sunday.

Commesso is the most interesting. If he pans out, he’s the Hawks’ goalie of the future. He’s the only goalie the Hawks have picked in the first two rounds of the draft since Corey Crawford. Commesso is the starting goalie for Boston University as a sophomore, and he’s the U.S. starter for the world juniors. But he has struggled in college this season, and goalie development is notoriously unpredictable. This tournament could foreshadow his trajectory.

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