Kyle Davidson shifting focus to restructuring Blackhawks front office

Kyle Davidson traveled with the Blackhawks on their Florida trip, taking advantage of a few sunny days now that his “phone has settled down” post-trade deadline.

But upon returning to Chicago –with a stretch of five straight home games over a two-week span, starting Sunday against the Coyotes — the general manager planned to begin working on rebuilding the Hawks’ front office.

“[We’ll] really start road-mapping, white-boarding it out,” he said Friday in Tampa. “[We’ll start] just bouncingideas around and maybe talking about structures and different departments and builds we want to look at.”

So far, Davidson’s only front-office changes have been high-level personnel switches. He parted ways with longtime amateur scouting director Mark Kelley and longtime assistant GM Ryan Stewart but brought back former longtime executive Norm Maciver (as associate GM overseeing scouting) and elevated former player Brian Campbell into a yet-to-be-titled large role.

On the Campbell front, Davidson said officially designating his role has not been a “hot-button topic” because Campbell “knows he’ll be involved.”

And on the Maciver front, Davidson said he recognized the criticism about bringing in a man with extensive history with the Hawks. Objectively, Maciver is the opposite of an outsider. But Davidson yet again distanced himself and Maciver from previous GM Stan Bowman’s approach.

“While we’ve been here a long time, have very different opinions on how we would like to do things and how things have been done in the past,” he said.

Maciver was brought in first partly because of he and Davidson’s preexisting trust in and familiarity with each other; during the chaos leading up to the trade deadline, there wasn’t time for a thorough search. And Maciver’s personality is such that he’ll “say basically whatever the heck he wants” and tell Davidson if he’s “barking up the wrong tree.”

Now that Davidson finally has some time on his hands, though, he needs to make quite a few new hires to flesh out all areas of the front office, even if most of those newcomers will slot into less prominent roles than Maciver and Campbell.

Indeed, the front office not only needs significantly more people — from a sheer manpower standpoint — but also a significantly wider range of voices. That latter aspect will be a priority.

“Norm is just going to be one person in this much larger build that’s going to involve many different perspectives, many of which will be completely new to the Blackhawks and maybe hockey as well,” he added.

The analytics department Davidson created last summer is one area especially likely to receive an influx of hires.

Prospect plans

The Hawks have not yet used any of their four allotted non-emergency post-deadline AHL call-ups, but Davidson said one will definitely be used on top prospect Lukas Reichel at some point this month.

That brings up the issue of Reichel’s entry-level contract slide, since five more NHL appearances this season will burn the first of his three years. Davidson once again insisted he isn’t bothered by that.

“You can’t really game-plan it that much,” he said. “If he gets 10 games, that’s fine. I’m not too concerned with it, to be honest. Once we’re looking at really spending to that [salary] cap and utilizing every dollar, he’s probably going to be in a different contract anyway, out of his entry level. If we burn it, we burn it.”

Meanwhile, prospect defenseman Alex Vlasic –who played just seven minutes Friday after being healthy-scratched five consecutive games — may be sent down fairly soon.

“The plan is to get him a couple more games, get him some more experience,” Davidson said. “That’s going to give him great insight into what he needs to work on.”

“And then at some point…we’ll get him playing some games with the IceHogs, too.”

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