The Chicago Blackhawks are currently in the second half of their season. So far, it’s been a disappointing year, as they have a 16-23-7 record. With this, they are expected to be sellers at the trade deadline and may even be leaning toward embarking on a rebuild. However, even with this being the case, there are still some important storylines fans should keep a close eye on as we finish the year. This is especially true when it comes to specific players.
For one reason or another, all four of the players I will be discussing have reasons why they are worth watching from here. Whether it be that they are looking to bounce back or could be traded, they each will be fun to pay attention to as the year continues. Alas, let’s take a gander at each of them now.
In my opinion, Kirby Dach is the player who fans need to be paying most attention to moving forward. The 2019 third-overall pick is having a year to forget, and it’s led to some sourness amongst fans. In 43 games, he has six goals, nine assists, and a minus-5 rating. Expectations were understandably higher for the 21-year-old, as he had just recorded 10 points in 18 games the previous year. This is his third NHL season, so many believed he would take that next big step and become a legitimate top-six center. However, at his juncture, it’s as if he has regressed instead.
The beauty of the second half is that it offers a player a clean slate from here. If Dach can have a stretch of games where he heats up, it likely will lead to the criticism following him to decrease. He is still just in the beginning stages of his career, and he has plenty of time to inch closer to his potential. Perhaps we will see just that as we head into springtime.
Dylan Strome’s name has been in the rumor mill all season. This, of course, started after he was healthy scratched numerous times at the beginning of the year. Although he had a slow start to the campaign, he has been excellent since and even has been promoted to the first line. Over his last 11 games, he has four goals to go along with seven assists. That is more of the vintage Strome the Blackhawks had when they first acquired him from the Arizona Coyotes.
As the season continues, it will be interesting to see if Strome can keep this marvelous play up. If so, it seems far more possible that they could elect to keep him around. There’s an argument to be had for them to do so, as he not only is playing very well but is still just 24 years old. We will have to see what ends up happening with him from here, but it’s clear he is one of the most interesting Blackhawks moving forward.
Marc-Andre Fleury is a player to pay attention to for more reasons than one. First, the 37-year-old goaltender has been in the rumor mill, and it’s understandable. The Blackhawks are very likely not going to be a playoff team and the future Hall of Famer has an expiring contract. Thus, he could net them a nice return as a rental. However, a move is not necessarily definite, as they could elect to keep him there out of respect if he prefers to stay.
No matter where Fleury finishes the year, all hockey fans should truly embrace still having him around. After almost retiring last offseason, it feels very possible that this could be his last season in the NHL. He has accomplished enough to hang up the skates at any time and not have a single ounce of regret. Due to all of this, it feels fair to say he’s a player to watch very closely during this second half.
Can Jonathan Toews find his previous scoring touch as the year continues? After missing the entirety of the 2020-21 season due to chronic immune response syndrome, the 33-year-old has looked a bit rusty thus far. In 43 games on the year, he has four goals, 15 assists, and a minus-11 rating. Although those numbers aren’t bad by any means, they are still low for his standards. Keep in mind, he did have a 60-point campaign in 70 games during the 2019-20 season.
As the season passes by, it will be interesting to see if Toews can improve upon his rate of production. Although the Blackhawks’ playoff hopes are virtually nonexistent at this juncture, it still would be nice for the veteran personally. Time will tell what occurs on that front.
It’s fair to say that you could make a sound argument to pay attention to each player on the Blackhawks’ roster from here. However, these are the four who stand out to me personally. It will be fun to watch how they finish this season. Here’s to hoping they each thrive instead of struggle.
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Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHL Trade Rumors.