Blackhawks’ GM finalists bring different backgrounds to franchise-altering decision
Interim GM Kyle Davidson, Lightning executive Mathieu Darche and Cubs executive Jeff Greenberg are the finalists for the role.
The Blackhawks soon will have a permanent general manager to initiate and shape their rebuild.
The team finished the interview phase of its GM search Thursday, announcing the advisory committee involved in the search had ‘‘concluded its evaluation’’ and ‘‘provided input to leadership’’ before ‘‘moving to the next step of the process.’’
Three finalists remain, according to sources and numerous reports. They are Hawks interim GM Kyle Davidson, Lightning director of hockey operations Mathieu Darche and Cubs assistant GM Jeff Greenberg.
The three other candidates the Hawks interviewed — Hurricanes assistant GM Eric Tulsky, former Bruins and Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and former Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby — are out of the running. Teresa Resch, the Raptors’ vice president of basketball operations who also reportedly was considered for the job, never received an official interview.
A final decision is expected in the next week or so. That would give the GM time to settle in and ramp up conversations ahead of the trade deadline March 21. CEO Danny Wirtz has said the GM will report directly to him, so as to concentrate authority and accountability for all decisions, and it seems clear the GM will be a powerful man.
The finalists offer different backgrounds and perspectives, presenting the Hawks with three potentially divergent long-term paths from which to choose.
Greenberg, whose previous experience as a sports executive has been entirely in baseball, is the wild-card candidate who has risen rapidly up the Hawks’ board.
After short stints with the Pirates, the Diamondbacks and the Major League Baseball office, he joined the Cubs in 2012 and emerged as a high-ranking decision-maker there in 2018. He’s a respected and well-liked figure in Cubs circles.
He does have a few hockey connections — he played college club hockey at Penn, and his father, Chuck, previously was involved with the Penguins’ and Hurricanes’ ownership groups — but it would be rather unprecedented for him to jump straight into the Hawks’ GM role.
It’s a possibility the Hawks seriously are considering, however. Greenberg made a great impression during his interviews, prompting the Hawks to discuss how they might be able to make it work, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Thursday.
The Hawks and Cubs have some close ties. Former Hawks president John McDonough made a similar jump in 2007, business president Jaime Faulkner’s husband, Colin, is a Cubs executive on the sales and marketing side and Cubs president Jed Hoyer reportedly was consulted during the December stage of the GM search.
If a fresh perspective is the Hawks’ greatest desire — and that would be on-brand for Faulkner — Greenberg would check that box in bold ink.
As a former NHL player-turned-executive, Darche is the most conventional candidate of the three. He played 12 years as a pro — appearing in 250 NHL games (experiencing the most success with his hometown Canadiens), 552 American Hockey League games and 52 games in Germany — before retiring to a corporate job, then jumping back into hockey in 2019 as a Lightning executive.
The 45-year-old is a relatively well-known name in NHL circles — he also recently interviewed for the Canadiens’ and Canucks’ GM jobs — and he would bring experience from arguably the NHL’s best-run front office.
The Hawks wouldn’t have to work hard to sell him to fans, either, because they already seem to like him. In a Twitter poll Friday asking fans which finalist they would pick, Darche won with 55% of the vote.
Davidson, meanwhile, is the hybrid option on the experience-versus-fresh-perspective spectrum.
The Hawks have invested a lot of resources and time to groom him from an intern straight out of college in 2010 to an assistant GM by 2020 and an interim GM for the last four months. He, in turn, has developed familiarity and experience with many branches of the organization, from the salary cap (one of his biggest areas of expertise) to negotiations, analytics and scouting.
Nonetheless, Davidson would bring a different approach than predecessor Stan Bowman did. And he also would be the NHL’s youngest GM at 33.
He has lain low publicly this winter because of his interim status, but he’s an open-minded and bold thinker who made a point to mention in November that he’s not ‘‘beholden to anything that’s happened in the past.’’ The Alex Nylander-for-Sam Lafferty trade in January helped prove that.
‘‘My general approach is not necessarily [concentrated in] any one area, whether it be advanced statistics or old-school scouting methods,’’ Davidson said in November. ‘‘My philosophy is to get the decision right.’’