Jeff Greenberg

How Blackhawks' Jeff Greenberg Hopes to Close Gap Between Hockey, Baseball

How Jeff Greenberg hopes to make impact with Hawks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Jeff Greenberg may have started his management career in baseball, but hockey was his first true love. He always kept it in the back of his mind that he could be reconnected with the sport at some point down the road, and now that dream is a reality after being hired by the Blackhawks as an associate general manager.

"I fell in love with the game at a very young age," Greenberg said during a Blackhawks hockey operations executive team introduction on Monday at the United Center. "I watched it as much as I could, even working in baseball. It was probably somewhere in the back of my head just cause I loved the game and that never really left. It wasn't something that I was actively looking to do, so this opportunity, in particular, I think it was right place, right time."

Greenberg was one of the three finalists for Chicago's permanent general manager position that ultimately went to Kyle Davidson, who had the interim tag removed on March 1. The two of them quickly hit it off after the hire was made and bonded over their similar backgrounds, with Greenberg starting as an intern for the Chicago Cubs and eventually working his way up to assistant GM.

It didn't take long for Davidson to realize why Greenberg made it so far in the Blackhawks' GM search and the potential value he could bring to the organization. He's got a bright mind and is an innovative thinker, which are two of the many reasons why Davidson added Greenberg to his management group.

But perhaps the primary reason why Greenberg made the transition is to help the Blackhawks implement some of the systems and processes that baseball uses, because hockey seems to be significantly behind in many areas.

"I had a pretty good sense that baseball was pretty far ahead," Greenberg said. "I mean, I didn't know all the details but that was one of the reasons why the opportunity initially was pretty interesting. My sense was there was opportunity to move the needle and kind of close that gap between where hockey is now and where baseball has gone over the last 10 years."

Greenberg acknowledges there's been an "explosion" of information, technology and data in baseball that has really accelerated over the last three or four years. The use of that collective information is critical when it comes to player evaluation, development and even in-game strategy, but it's what you do with all of that information that's most important.

"What we've seen in baseball is having the information, having the systems like that in itself isn't enough, right?" Greenberg said. "It comes down to how are you using those things, how are you leveraging those things effectively, how are you getting them onto the field to make your players better, whether that's in the context of player development, in-game strategy, player evaluation, it's that integration to really impact what you're doing and that's ultimately what we're trying to do.

"We're not trying to build systems or good processes for the sake of building good systems and good process. We want it to really help drive what we're doing and how we're acquiring players, how we're developing our players, what we're doing in-game. I think there are principles and lessons in baseball we can apply in hockey."

The second part of the equation is funneling all of that data and information into one system, and we're not just talking about analytics. It's daily reports, whether it's from the scouting department, conversations with a coach, etc.

Think of the system as a "central housing unit," Davidson described it. And that's going to take some time.

"We want to get to a point where all of our information, whether it be player development, scouting, any analytics information that we might create and any other evaluation information or data or tools are housed in one system," Davidson said. "That's a big build, that's a big step that we have to take and get to, that down the road hopefully our decision-making process is really streamlined where all the information is in one spot, rather than pulling from a bunch of different areas to make a decision. It's just much more efficient."

Greenberg's first day on the job was last Monday, which means he's just getting his sleeves rolled up as he prepares to help Davidson and the Blackhawks embark on a rebuild.

"I don't want to speak for all 32 teams, obviously, my sense is, I think baseball, most — if not all — teams have put in place pretty modern, sophisticated systems to process that information and then leverage it to actually drive their decision-making, whether that's in player acquisition, player development, in-game strategy," Greenberg said. "I think that's something that hockey is probably behind in right now and I'm here in part because we want to try to fill that gap."

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