Kyle Davidson encouraged, not upset, by Blackhawks’ competitiveness

Contrary to what most might figure, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson isn’t looking at the current NHL standings and cringing.

Sure, even he is slightly surprised to see the Hawks sitting third place in the Central Division entering Monday, having earned 10 points from their first nine games. But he stands by what he insisted at the start of training camp, that he actually does want them to win. Seeing them actually do that isn’t changing his mind.

“I feel really great for [coach Luke Richardson] and the staff,” Davidson told the Sun-Times. “They set out with a plan, based on the type of players we brought in, and it has been really impressive. The players have responded. They’re competing hard every night and playing a really strong team game.

“Having a coach that can deliver a message is extremely important, and that’s what we’re seeing. Winning helps him…build a culture, and that’s very positive. You take positives where you can find them, and this is a big one.”

It’s worth noting the Hawks have fallen back below actual .500 — with four wins and five losses — after squandering third-period leads in three straight outings. Their 42.9% team scoring-chance ratio at five-on-five, which ranks 29th in the league, isn’t great either.

Nonetheless, where it actually counts, they’re still playing at a 91-point pace. That entered Monday tied for 14th in the NHL; it would’ve been 19th last year.

They’ve scored 31 goals and allowed 30. They’ve suffered only one loss by multiple goals, and that was in the season opener; only the Golden Knights (with zero) have suffered fewer. Their special teams look legitimately dangerous: they rank fourth in net power-play conversion rate and 10th in net penalty-kill rate. And their goaltending has held up well: their .903 team save percentage ranks 15th.

These Hawks may not be world-beaters or even playoff contenders, but they are undeniably competitive. That competitiveness has been so consistent — on a nightly basis over a sizable nine-game sample — that it no longer seems fluky.

‘We’re at the point now where we’re pretty confident in our game,” Patrick Kane said Saturday. “[We] feel like we can go into any game and compete and win.”

That’s a dramatically different attitude than teams like the Sharks (3-8-0 with a minus-10 goal differential), Coyotes (2-5-1, minus-12) and Ducks (2-6-1, minus-19) are currently emanating. And that’s bad news for the Hawks’ unstated-yet-obvious initial objective to land a top-three pick in next summer’s draft, which will only be guaranteed if they finish dead last.

But Davidson maintains he’s unconcerned. Asked how he’d respond if the Hawks kept this up into the winter and spring — his options would range from jettisoning players (to undermine the success) to pivoting and bringing in more depth (leaning into the success) — he took the middle route.

“I don’t think we’re going to change our course at all,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at and go from there. How we handle it, we’ll see, but we’ll get there first.”

Thinking long-term, Richardson’s stellar first few months as an NHL head coach justify cheer without caveats.

The Hawks hired Richardson hoping he’d remain their coach not only through the rebuild but also into the next era of contention. If he can get this much out of a roster this weak, it’s exciting to imagine where he could take an actually talented, well-constructed team years from now.

“He has been phenomenal,” Davidson said. “Coming in new on the job, you don’t fully know what to expect, but I was very optimistic he would be able to do some positive things. Through the interview process, we had a really good feeling about him… It has come to fruition that our instincts were right.”

Read More

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *