Blackhawks’ next general manager, whoever it is, will be given immense power and freedom
No matter which reported candidate — be it Kyle Davidson, Scott Mellanby, Eric Tulsky, Peter Chiarelli or someone else — is eventually chosen, it’s clear that man will mold the Hawks’ team and hockey operations department exactly how he wishes.
Kyle Davidson, Eric Tulsky, Scott Mellanby and Peter Chiarelli have emerged as candidates in the Blackhawks’ ongoing search for a general manager.
But no matter whom the Hawks choose, it’s clear that man will be given an immense amount of power atop the team’s hockey-operations department.
CEO Danny Wirtz — explaining last week why he chose not to split the department leadership — spelled that out explicitly. From a workplace ethics and culture standpoint, the Hawks’ frequent use of the word ‘‘accountability’’ was undermined by chairman Rocky Wirtz’s recent meltdown. In terms of building a hockey team, however, it still should hold weight.
‘‘It’s clear we need a better-defined plan and a better path forward,’’ Danny Wirtz said. ‘‘A lot of the plan for this will be determined by the general manager.
‘‘We had a lot of conversations around structure: ‘Do you want to [hire] a president?’ And when it came down to it, it’s clearly about accountability and ensuring it’s very clear where that accountability sits, where the decision-making sits.’’
The Hawks’ GM will report directly to Danny Wirtz, who has virtually no expertise in hockey operations and seems to understand that.
He won’t report to any overseeing president — such as how the Hawks’ heads of revenue, marketing and communications do to business president Jaime Faulkner — because there won’t be one.
He’ll be able to pick his own people to fill many of the currently vacant (or nonexistent) higher-ranking roles in hockey operations.
And he’ll inherit a team that’s basically blowing in the wind, without any sort of preplanned strategy or momentum toward any trajectory. The job won’t be easy, but it will be open-ended.
‘‘If you’re going to hire someone in this position, you have to give them the freedom to do what they need to do,’’ Danny Wirtz said. ‘‘That’s really the mandate. There’s no preconceived expectations or things that are off the table [or] constraints that we’re going to give this leader.’’
Even interim coach Derek King, who has given his all to right the ship this season, seems to grasp that big-picture reality.
‘‘We’re limited to what we can do right now, so we have to deal with what we have,’’ King said late last month. ‘‘But you see what these top teams have, and then that shows you what we’re missing. Whether it’s another guy who can put the puck in the net or a playmaker and some bottom guys who can bring some energy and checking, there’s some work to do. Whoever comes in here is going to have a [big] job. There’s going to be some work.’’
There also will be a blank canvas, an almost-blank check and an immense supply of brushes — to continue the analogy — afforded to the GM. His fingerprints will be all over the Hawks immediately, for better or worse, and he’ll be given the control to paint the team and department however he likes.
That’s not to say there won’t be standards to meet eventually; Danny Wirtz might not be a hockey guru, but he can tell wins from losses. In the meantime, however, the GM will be given plenty of patience, resources and power.
Now it’s just a question of whom that GM will be. The Hawks on Friday interviewed Davidson, their interim GM and the front-runner for the job, and Tulsky, a Harvard graduate and former nanotechnology entrepreneur-turned-hockey analytics pioneer-turned-Hurricanes assistant GM.
They talked Saturday with Mellanby, a 1,400-game NHL veteran and former longtime Canadiens assistant GM, and Sunday with Chiarelli, a former Bruins and Oilers GM known for his unwise trades at the second stop. And there might be other candidates, too.
A decision is expected in the next month or so.