The 2021-22 season has not been the best for the Chicago Blackhawks. After a horrendous start to the season, they have not been able to go on a much-needed winning streak and currently sport an 11-15-4 record. With this, it appears that the playoffs are out of the question and that they will be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. However, even with this being so, it would be fantastic to see these five players finish the campaign in a stronger manner. As we enter 2022, it’s clear that they are the team’s biggest bounce-back candidates.
Calvin de Haan
It’s fair to say that defenseman Calvin de Haan has struggled mightily this campaign. In 26 games so far, he has yet to record a point and sports a minus-12 rating. Keep in mind, this is a player who had 10 points in 44 games just last season, so in theory, he should be capable of producing more. Going almost 30 games without getting on the scoresheet once is concerning but thankfully for the 30-year-old, the new year offers a clean slate.
Both de Haan and the Blackhawks would benefit immensely if he rebounds from here. For the veteran, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be in need of new a contract next season. If he continues to struggle, he will have trouble finding one. Yet, if he plays like his old self, there will surely be a market there. As for Chicago, he would net them a better return at the trade deadline if he improves from here.
Kevin Lankinen was a feel-good story for the Blackhawks last season. As a 25-year-old rookie, he surprisingly became the team’s starter due to his strong play. On the year, he had a 17-14-5 record, along with a 3.01 goals-against average (GAA) and a .909 save percentage. However, this campaign has been the opposite for him, as he currently holds a 2-5-3 record, 3.43 GAA and .884 save percentage.
Like de Haan, Lankinen is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and could be a rental candidate for the Blackhawks. Yet, if he continues to play like this, there may not be much of a market for him if the Blackhawks opt to be sellers. Given how well he played last season, though, one has to wonder if he is capable of bouncing back. If so, he should make a solid backup option for a playoff team.
This season has been a hard one for Dylan Strome. The 24-year-old has been healthy scratched on numerous occasions. With that, his offensive numbers have taken a hit, as he only has three goals and seven points in 20 contests. Like many players on the Blackhawks, he has found himself in the trade rumor mill because of all of this. At this juncture of time, a trade may be the best thing for the former first-round pick.
Yet, whether he’s with the Blackhawks or another team, it’s fair to say that Strome has the potential to bounce back. This is a forward who recorded 38 points in 58 games during the 2019-20 season. He also had a whopping 51 points in 58 games after being acquired by the Arizona Coyotes during the 2018-19 campaign. Things also have slowly been looking more promising for him as of late, too. Over his last six games, he scored a goal and added three assists. Perhaps this is a preview of what’s next to come.
When Dominik Kubalik entered the NHL during the 2019-20 season, he was immediately on fire. In 68 games, he scored an impressive 30 goals and recorded 46 total points. He then followed that up with another solid year, as he recorded 38 points in 56 contests. However, during this season, he has noticeably struggled. In 30 games, he only has six goals and 12 points. With that, he also carries a minus-11 rating.
Once viewed as a potential long-term top-six option for Chicago, Kubalik’s future with the team may be in jeopardy if he continues to play this way. The 26-year-old is a restricted free agent over the summer, so the Blackhawks will still have control of his rights. However, one has to wonder if they could look to move him or even go against sending him a qualifying offer over the summer. Keep in mind, they did the same to Pius Suter last offseason, and that was after a solid rookie campaign.
When the Blackhawks acquired Henrik Borgstrom in April of this year, there certainly was excitement following him. The 2016 first-round pick had just completed a 21-point campaign in 30 games with HIFK of Liiga. With that, he showed previous offensive success with the Florida Panthers during the 2018-19 season, too, as he had eight goals and 18 points in 50 games. Now, as a 24-year-old, it seemed that he was ready to cement himself a permanent spot in the NHL with Chicago.
Yet, things just aren’t working out for Borgstrom during his first season with the Blackhawks. In 17 games, he has two goals, one assist, and a minus-3 rating. With that, Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff recently reported that the Blackhawks are open to moving him already. Ultimately, if the youngster continues to struggle, this could end up being the most beneficial move for both parties. Still, though, it would be nice to see him find his previous offensive production as the season progresses.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how these five perform as the season carries on. It’s clear that they all are capable of doing more, especially when looking at the past success they have each had in the league. It will be very entertaining to see which of them successfully turn things around.
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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.