As Blackhawks’ permanent general manager, Kyle Davidson’s big ideas will meet a big challenge

Davidson, the Hawks’ interim GM since October, was named permanent GM on Tuesday.

SHARE As Blackhawks’ permanent general manager, Kyle Davidson’s big ideas will meet a big challenge
Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson.

Blackhawks interim general manager Kyle Davidson became the team’s permanent GM on Tuesday.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks named Kyle Davidson their permanent general manager Tuesday.

Davidson — the Hawks’ interim GM since Stan Bowman’s exit in October — will become the 10th GM in franchise history and, at 33, the youngest GM in the NHL.

After a year of scandal, disgrace and exodus that decimated the Hawks’ off-ice reputation, dropping it to a level below even that of the poor on-ice product, Tuesday should represent the first major positive step forward into the next era of the franchise.

But one step forward reveals just how long and difficult the climb back to the mountaintop will be.

Davidson is a bold thinker who well might be equipped to handle the challenge, but he arguably will be more tested in his first couple of years on the job than any of his nine predecessors as the Hawks’ GM. Even with business president Jaime Faulkner and CEO Danny Wirtz taking the reins on the off-ice side, the team and hockey-operations department Davidson inherits need almost as much of a makeover.

A former intern with the Hawks right out of college in 2010, Davidson — a native of Sudbury, Ontario, and a graduate of Laurentian University in Ottawa — has worked his way all the way up the hockey-operations ladder in the last decade, eventually ascending to assistant GM in 2020.

His wide-ranging experience on the way up — from contract negotiations to salary-cap management to player scouting to analytics — made him qualified for the interim GM job, and the experience he gained in the last four months makes him qualified for the permanent GM job.

But those things also make him technically an internal candidate — something that will make large portions of the Hawks’ fan base, which is already frustrated and jaded, even more skeptical of him. The same can be said about his relative youth, considering how disastrously the Hawks’ ‘‘young coach’’ experiment with Jeremy Colliton fared.

Davidson’s first challenge will be to win over the fan base, and he’ll need to walk a delicate line to do so.

He simultaneously will have to establish his legitimacy and respectability by making fans believe in his ability to stand up to the other 31 GMs and successfully execute a vision for the team, while also showing off his personable side by relating to fans who felt ignored or demeaned by Bowman, former president John McDonough and their signature stubbornness and secrecy.

Behind the scenes, Davidson is a different person with different ideologies and traits than Bowman, but it’ll be important for him to demonstrate that publicly.

He also will have to show why he was the best choice for the job over the six external candidates the Hawks interviewed during their lengthy search. The Hawks ultimately rejected Cubs executive Jeff Greenberg, who would have been the most outside-the-box (perhaps excessively so) choice possible, and Lightning executive Mathieu Darche, who would have brought experience from the NHL’s model franchise, to keep him.

Davidson’s second challenge, starting perhaps as soon as Tuesday afternoon, will be to intensify trade negotiations in earnest ahead of the deadline March 21. The coming three weeks are a vital time for the Hawks to jump-start their rebuild as quickly and aggressively as possible because they can’t afford to waste time when the timeline back to contention already looks so lengthy.

In the short term, Davidson will have to get as much value as possible for virtually anyone on the roster, starting with pending free agents Marc-Andre Fleury, Calvin de Haan and Dominik Kubalik.

In the long term, he’ll need to reconstruct the team from scratch with only a few core players, an extremely defense-heavy prospect pipeline and no 2022 first-round draft pick with which to work.

Kirby Dach will need a new contract this summer, and Alex DeBrincat will need a new one in 2023. Patrick Kane’s and Jonathan Toews’ contracts coming off the books in 2023 — whether or not they’ll be re-signed — will free up tons of cap space, but responsibly converting that financial flexibility into equivalent talent will be no easy task.

And Davidson’s third challenge, starting not much later than Tuesday, will be to restructure and restaff the front office. It has lost a great deal of experience — for better and worse — in the last couple of years. And it’s not yet clear how he’ll want it to operate and whom he’ll want advising him. At his one previous news conference in November, he hinted that he privately holds some ideas.

‘‘As I continue to evaluate and I get exposed to the different aspects of the organization, there’s definitely going to be some changes,’’ Davidson said then. ‘‘I have strong opinions on how certain things should run, how certain things should operate. So we’ll get into making those changes over time.’’

Former Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who has bounced among several front-office roles the last few years but currently is listed as a player-development coach, presumably will take on one of the biggest roles beneath Davidson. The two have been inseparable around the United Center, Fifth Third Arena and on road trips this winter.

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