Bold decisions made, GM Kyle Davidson now on the clock for Blackhawks’ successes and failures
Cleaning up Stan Bowman’s mess was the easy part. Now Davidson will have to be accountable for his own inevitable mistakes — and handle the unpopularity of being a general manager through a rebuild.
Now it gets real for Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson.
The young, bold, unproven Davidson has committed to his plan: tearing down the Hawks and building them back from scratch with a long-term approach.
But picking a plan is the easy part. Committing to it is a bit tougher, and Davidson deserves credit for at least doing that — a sharp contrast to predecessor Stan Bowman. Making it work will be difficult, and Davidson understands that. But making it popular will be practically impossible.
A huge segment of the Hawks’ fan base is already furious about the trade of Alex DeBrincat. Seven Twitter users so far have used the hashtag ‘‘Fire Kyle Davidson.’’ Hundreds, if not thousands, more will join them during the coming years of inevitable pain.
Outside Chicago, a huge segment of the hockey world is eyeing the Hawks with serious skepticism. A significant portion of that segment is making fun of their state of disarray.
The confusion and doubt only will increase Monday, when it becomes official that Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik won’t be tendered qualifying offers and will be allowed to walk away for nothing as free agents.
That will leave the Hawks without five of the seven forwards who scored more than 25 points for them last season, and the futures of the other two — Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — are hardly more secure.
If he is re-signed, Philipp Kurashev would be the Hawks’ third-highest returning scorer among forwards, and he had only six goals and 21 points. It’s truly a mystery at this point who will make up the Hawks’ first and second lines next season.
Davidson, from all outward indications, firmly believes this drastic rebuilding plan is the proper one. He comes across as secure, confident and assertive, despite acknowledging this is ‘‘not fun’’ for anyone.
And why wouldn’t he be confident? He has the full support of management and ownership. He has reached the pinnacle of his career, having achieved a lifelong dream. He has no baggage weighing on his decision-making, no past mistakes smudging his track record.
That clean slate has come in handy several times already. He wasn’t the one who hired Jeremy Colliton, so firing him didn’t reflect poorly on him. He wasn’t the one who drafted Kirby Dach third overall, so it wasn’t an admission of error to trade him for the 13th pick. He wasn’t the one who traded Henri Jokiharju for Alex Nylander, so he could flip Nylander for Sam Lafferty guilt-free.
If a time comes when the Hawks need to jettison Seth Jones’ enormous contract and use sweeteners to persuade someone else to take it, that colossal mistake won’t be blamed on him, either.
As time passes, however, the Hawks will become more and more Davidson’s team. His acquisitions, draft picks and signings will be his responsibilities. Their failures will be his to own, just as their successes will be, but there might be a lot more failures than successes for a while.
Davidson and his regime already are on the clock for how 2022 first-round picks Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar and Sam Rinzel pan out — and for how DeBrincat, Strome, Kubalik, Dach and Brandon Hagel fare with their new teams. That list only will increase in size as more players come and go over the years.
There’s no chance all of Davidson’s decisions will work out well. That’s an impossible standard for any GM.
But what will his hit rate be? Will he be able to admit and fix mistakes when they occur? Will he stick to this plan long enough? Will he know when the right time comes to pivot toward trying to contend? Will he be able to orchestrate the buildup as thoroughly as the teardown?
His actions will answer those questions.