The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Wednesday that the organization has a new leadership structure. Danny Wirtz assumed the role of CEO, Jaime Faulkner was hired as President of Business Operations, and Stan Bowman retained his position as General Manager while also being named President of Hockey Operations.
Now that the organization has found its top executives, what does this mean for the Blackhawks moving forward?
After John McDonough’s departure back in late April, Wirtz was named the President and CEO of the club, the same role McDonough occupied since 2011. It came with little surprise considering Danny’s father, Rocky, owns the club.
However, Wirtz brought a new sense of openness to the Blackhawks that fans had never experienced before. Included in this shifting tide was the release of a public letter, being more open with fans, and giving a new sense of transparency to an organization that has lacked in that department for decades.
Retaining Wirtz as CEO is not an awful move; he’ll ultimately be in charge and make sure everything runs smoothly. Aside from that, there isn’t much downside to this move unless he becomes too power-hungry for control of the on-ice product.
Jaime Faulkner is the freshest name of the group. However, she is the name that is creating the most positive buzz among these announcements.
Faulkner spent the last seven years as CEO of E15, an organization she helped found. E15 specializes in strategy and analytics and has been an industry leader in aiding Fortune 500 companies, sports teams, restaurants, hotels, and other entities to maximize their revenues and consumer experience using consumer behavior analytics.
Faulkner brings another level of skills to the table for the Blackhawks to maximize the fan experience and create new revenue streams for the team. From a business standpoint, this move is a slam dunk. Faulkner is incredibly accomplished and also has experience working with sports teams.
The former CEO was named one of Sports Business Journal’s Women Game Changers in Sports in 2015, as well as their 40 Under 40 list in 2016. Prior to that, she spent time with KPMG, LLP as well as Arthur Andersen.
Faulkner not only brings a different set of experiences and skillsets to the organization, but she brings a model that consistently worked for many years to enhance the business operations of numerous major companies. She’s a welcomed addition to the Blackhawks front office.
Here is where feelings of confusion and outrage for Blackhawks fans creep in… Stan Bowman has been given more responsibility after five years without a postseason victory.
Why does this come as a surprise? Bowman was at the helm for three Stanley Cups in six years, however, many fans believe he was the architect for the dynasty. That statement is false.
The majority of the core was either drafted by Mike Smith or Dale Tallon when they assumed the role of General Manager. Some can say Hossa was a Stan Bowman signing, but numerous reports after Hossa signed indicated that Scotty Bowman, Stan’s father, was responsible for the connection.
Sure, Bowman has drafted the likes of Brandon Saad, only to trade him twice, Andrew Shaw, Alex DeBrincat, and Kirby Dach, but a majority of the players that carried the Blackhawks to meaningful success did not have Stan’s fingerprint on it.
However, to be fair and examine this move from both sides, fans do not know how much of Stan’s follies were possibly a result of McDonough dipping his hand into the hockey side of the house. This promotion gives Bowman the chance to prove himself without old Uncle John breathing down his shoulder telling him what to do. If he can succeed, great. If not, there needs to be accountability and the right move needs to be made by CEO Danny Wirtz.
As a fan, the Faulkner hire is a slam dunk. Not only from the social aspect of it, but her experience screams that she’s ready to take on this challenge and make the Blackhawks a better run and more profitable organization.
However, the Bowman move concerns me, especially after the reports surfaced that there is no plan to hire a General Manager under Bowman, meaning he will assume both roles. He has not proven to anyone that he is the man to rebuild this team and draft competently. Yes, he’s hit on some prospects, but a majority of Stan’s high draft picks have become busts or were traded away.
A lot remains to be seen for many Blackhawks fans with these announcements, but the Bowman news aside, Faulkner is an excellent addition, so let’s hope that Wirtz is right on giving Bowman a second chance. However, if he continues to disappoint, he needs to be canned immediately.