As we carry on with the offseason, Chicago Blackhawks fans find themselves with some extra time on their hands. Of course there are the NHL playoffs to watch, which have been highly entertaining for sure. But we won’t get to see the Blackhawks suit up again until the start of preseason in September, and the regular season in October. This gives us time to reflect on the 2020-21 campaign and the strides the Blackhawks took individually and as a team.
Today, we look at forward Dylan Strome’s season and his corresponding player grade.
Strome’s Overall Statistics
-9 goals, 8 assists, 17 points, minus-16 in 40 games played. Average TOI of 15:31 minutes
-46.5 CF%, 19 blocked shots, 8 hits, 17 takeaways, 20 giveaways, 14 penalty minutes, FO%: 47
Looking back at the 2020-21 campaign as a whole, Strome’s season can be split into three separate segments.
In his first 19 games Strome registered four goals and four assists, which leaves a bit to be desired. Remember, the Blackhawks’ top two centers in Jonathan Toews (illness) and Kirby Dach (wrist) were both out of the lineup. That left Strome with a huge opportunity to step up. It didn’t exactly work out that way.
Head coach Jeremy Colliton decided to test his youth, or perhaps he didn’t trust Strome’s skating ability or defensive game enough to give him that top line center role. Needless to say, Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev were placed ahead of him on the depth chart. These two rotated centering the top line.
Strome fortified the second line, but this left him without the benefit of Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane as linemates. But one can’t just be effective with your long-time OHL linemate and one of the best playmakers in the game. Besides, while the third member of the trio varied, Strome regularly lined up alongside Dominik Kubalik. I think we can all agree Kubalik is no slouch to have as a linemate. Strome arguably should have provided more production than he did.
But some players might take a little time to find their groove, right? Not the case with Strome. He went six straight contests without a point before unfortunately missing 11 games with a concussion in late February and early March. No one can prevent a concussion, but it didn’t do Strome any favors to be out of the lineup. Other players established themselves in his absence, and the Ontario native never really got his footing back with the team.
The Final Stretch
When Strome did return to the lineup on Mar. 18, he was relegated to the right wing on the third line. Nevertheless, he started things off right with a big power play goal and a strong come-back game.
But he just couldn’t sustain this success. In his final 21 games, he managed five goals and four assists; not much more than his first segment of his season. Coaching decisions certainly didn’t help his cause.
Winging It and Sitting
Strome was deployed in this third line wing position for the majority of the Blackhawks final stretch of the season. He played a lot with Mattias Janmark on the left wing and Suter at center. There was even a stretch where he was elevated to the second line playing with his buddy DeBrincat and being centered by Dach, who returned from his wrist injury on Mar. 27.
But this didn’t last long. No matter where he played, Strome just couldn’t seem to get anything going. He’s admitted he’s much more comfortable playing center, but Colliton wanted to stick with Suter, Dach and Kurashev over him.
Then, he was a surprise healthy scratch on Apr. 21 and 23, two pivotal games against the Nashville Predators when the playoffs were still within reach. Colliton chose to go with seven defensemen and 11 forwards instead of playing Strome. The Blackhawks did win one of those games, but lost the other. Nevertheless, it was a questionable decision to go with 11 forwards and have Strome be the odd man out both times.
Interestingly enough, Strome did get a handful of games at center after his scratches. But the head coach obviously wasn’t impressed, because he scratched him again on May 6 and May 9. All in all, Strome sat out four times in the final 10 games of the season. This is not a good sign for the 24-year-old and his future with the team.
One positive thing Strome has going for him is his success at the faceoff circle. Besides fourth line defensive center David Kampf, Strome was second on the team with a 47% success rate in this area. He was also third on the team behind Kampf and Suter in number of draws taken, at 421. Even while he was playing wing at the end of the season, he was taking and winning draws.
As a matter of fact, Strome was elevated from the second power play unit to the top unit when the Blackhawks were having a huge power play scoring drought. Dach couldn’t win a faceoff on the man advantage, which obviously puts you at a disadvantage when you shouldn’t be. Strome was able to remedy that situation.
Strome’s Overall Grade: C
It was obviously a disappointing campaign for this young center. He didn’t take advantage of his opportunities, but he also wasn’t utilized in the way that would give him the best chance to succeed. This was arguably a combination of him not producing, along with the makeup of the rest of the roster. Does he have a fit with the Blackhawks moving forward? He’s been the subject of trade discussion, but he’s not very marketable after his very mediocre season. The Blackhawks might be best served to keep him around and give him another shot. Strome certainly feels this way.
I tried my best to create chances and find a way to be good on the wing. Obviously I’m not as comfortable there, but we’ve got some good centers on this team…I feel I can be one of those centers and hopefully I can prove it.(from ‘What will Dylan Strome’s role be next season’, The Daily Herald – 5/17/21)
We shall see if Strome returns to the Blackhawks next season. And if he does, where he will fit into the lineup. I’m sure he’ll be the first to tell you he’s shooting for a much higher grade.
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Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Quote to live by, “Follow your dreams, and good things will happen.” Wait, maybe it’s “Good things happen when you shoot the puck!” You get the idea.
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