It was only last week Chicago Blackhawks team President and CEO John McDonough was praising the stability within the organization as well as the working relationship between general manager Stan Bowman and assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
The tandem was broken up Wednesday when Cheveldayoff officially accepted the general manager’s position with the newly located Thrashers franchise in Winnipeg.
So who replaces Cheveldayoff in the increasingly important role of assistant general manager in the modern NHL? The Hawks are a tight-knit group so expect it to come from within the organization.
Here are some candidates:
Mark Bergevin: He might be at the top of the list as the current Director of Player Personnel. He has had a hand in the organization on several levels over the past half decade as well as being instrumental in bringing Joel Quenneville to Chicago. Many general managers come from the player ranks. Since Bowman did not play it can’t be a bad thing to have as his lieutenant a former player, so Bergevin fits the profile on several levels.
Al Macisaac: It might be a step down for the current assistant to McDonough but Macissac has been in the organization longer than anyone and has front office experience going back to the Norfolk Admirals when they were the Hawks minor league affiliate before moving to Rockford. He was promoted after the Hawks won the Stanley Cup last season, just completing his first year in his new role though he still has a hand in hockey operations.
Mark Kelley: This might be a sleeper pick, but the current director of amateur scouting is well respected within the organization and the hockey world. Most scouts would jump at the chance to join a front office, and Kelley may have paid enough dues to qualify for the position.
There is one more sleeper pick which could be the best one, if for no other reason it’s a voice within the organization but on the outside of the front office looking in -- Eddie Olczyk.
Yes, he has a great job as lead analyst for the Hawks and the NHL but anyone who knows Olczyk knows he has a competitive streak about him which broadcasting probably can never satisfy. He tried his hand at coaching so he knows that end of it, and his hockey knowledge has the respect of every team in the league.
He qualifies as that former player Bowman might want to have as his second in command and probably has as much information on players around the league as any pro scout. Would he consider it? They should ask.
As for Cheveldayoff, there is plenty of irony in him being named the general manager of the former Atlanta Thrashers. He spent 12 years with the Thrashers organization as general manager of its farm team, the Chicago Wolves. Atlanta never brought him to the NHL. The Hawks did that but he ends up going back to that franchise the moment it’s sold. His ties to the group, True North Sports & Entertainment, who bought the Thrashers, go back many years. He’s close with True North vice-president Craig Heisinger.
So the Hawks lose some continuity they were seeking and now Bowman has one more item to add to his to-do list this summer. Expect a hire sooner than later.