The strongest feeling that remains after Tuesday’s hiring of Kyle Davidson as general manager is one of relief.
For about four months now, this team has been floating around with no real stated direction or purpose, a symptom of both the head coach and GM operating under the “interim” label. But now the general manager is locked in and, no matter which way the team heads from this point, at least it will be going somewhere again. There are things to like and dislike about Davidson, countless reasons why he could fail and why he could succeed. But hockey is weird, and so are professional sports in general. It’s damn near impossible to predict the outcome of a game on a daily basis, let alone project the successes or failures of a just-hired GM, so that exercise won’t be pursued here.
But the trade deadline is inching closer and the person in charge of every move is now firmly entrenched in that seat. This ship is going somewhere again. We’ll find out where it’s going as that destination unknown becomes more known during Davidson’s tenure.
The Week That Was
Friday, Feb. 25: Blackhawks 8, Devils 5
Growing up, I recorded a ton of Blackhawks, Bears and White Sox games onto VHS tapes for re-watches during the offseason, something I learned was a family trait. One of my favorite Blackhawks games to revisit was the March 9, 2003 matinee against the Boston Bruins when two of the most beloved players of my youth Blackhawks fandom scored a hat trick in the same game. Thanks to technology, that game has since been transferred to a digital format, which came in handy after this bonkers-yet-entertaining game on Friday night. I mainly clicked to the goals in that 2003 game but I’m still laughing about this:
Also, Nick Boynton was on the Bruins in this game and Theo Fleury was on the Hawks, playing on the same day the team placed him on waivers. Fun times.
Sunday, Feb. 27: Blues 4, Blackhawks 0
The best summary I can offer for this game is that I left for a bike ride during the second intermission and never doubted that I was going to miss anything important.
With the news that John Wiedeman is reportedly going to have a lesser role on radio broadcasts in the future – combined with the talk around Pat Foley’s impending departure – Blackhawks games are going to sound extremely different next season.
Change is inevitable in the sports world. If Foley and Wiedeman were being forced out against their will, it’d be one thing. But it appears that both have been onboard with accepting a minimized role in the future – perhaps a result of changed perspectives after not traveling with the team last season due to the pandemic, as Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus of The Athletic discussed during a recent podcast.
Still, there’s been something missing on TV broadcasts with Foley absent this season and it could also apply to radio broadcasts without Wiedeman on the call. Some of this was explored in this SCH article from two months ago and related topics came up during my conversation over the summer with current Deadspin writer and former SCH writer Sam Fels.
The word that came up during the podcast is one that still feels applicable now: corporate. The broadcasts without Foley feel so corporate. They’re not bad, but there’s this subtle lack of passion, that lack of emotional investment that makes calls by Foley and Weideman so enjoyable. Much of this is of no fault of the fill-in broadcasters: when they swing by for a game or two, it’s hard for them to replicate the emotional investment of a guy like Foley who’s been with the team for decades. And perhaps it’s something they’d develop over the years of calling dozens of games while watching the same team.
But the Blackhawks have been so concerned with their public image of late – for obvious reasons – that they’ve opted for a more corporate-sounding approach in every aspect of the organization. It’s not just them, either: the entire professional sports world in the United States is heading in this direction.
But that corporate mentality sucks the soul out of what’s supposed to have some level of emotional investment. For regional broadcasts, there shouldnt be some level of emotional investment in the team, because the primary audience is that team’s fan base. That’s exactly why those in the Sox fan base – * pointing a finger at myself * – always defended Hawk Harrelson as his on-air antics careened off the rails because at the heart of Hawk’s persona was a person, just like you, who lived and died with what happened during the game.
It’s the same for any other fan base in this city, whether it’s Pat Hughes or Chuck Swerski or Adam Amin or Jeff Joniak or Jason Benetti. We’ve got a lot of good ones in this town.
Hopefully the person who ultimately replaces Foley on TV and Wiedeman on the radio brings that same emotional investment and isn’t just a corporate stooge who merely narrates the action, devoid of those moments where they’re getting as wrapped up in the action as you are at home.
The Week That Will Be
Thursday, March 3 vs. Edmonton Oilers
Duncan Keith returns to the UC for Niklas Hjalmarsson Heritage Night. Prepare for nostalgia overload.
Friday, March 5 at Philadelphia Flyers
A fair warning for all the sports bettors out there: look up the last time the Blackhawks won a regular-season game in Philadelphia and hedge your bets accordingly. The year won’t start with a 20.
Sunday, March 6 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
At least the Hawks didn’t have to face Tampa eight times this season!
Kitty chases Fiddy
Thanks to SCH users HockeyIsGood and devildog29 for helping find a name for this recurring segment because my mind was only drawing blanks.
Somehow the Blackhawks scored eight goals last Friday and DeBrincat didn’t have one of them. He did have three assists but THAT’S NOT HELPING THIS CAUSE.
Last Week: 2 games, 0 goals
Season Totals: 54 games, 29 goals
Current Pace: (29 goals / 54 games played) * 82 games = 44.04 goals
DeBrincat’s pretty much been on a downward trend since this bit started so direct all your complaints here.