When the Chicago Blackhawks declared that they were rebuilding in 2020, it allowed them to evaluate which players were in their plans. But some players’ futures with a team are harder to assess. That is where Dylan Strome comes in. He is a player that could easily make a case for why he should be a part of the team’s future, but he can just as easily make a case for why he shouldn’t. The Blackhawks are walking a fine line with how they choose to utilize him, and right now, it’s not working out. Although it’s early in the season, the Blackhawks would be wise to cut ties with him earlier rather than later. Here’s a rundown on why.
Strome’s career in Chicago has come with a lot of ups and downs. When he was first acquired from the Arizona Coyotes back in 2018, it seemed like he fit the team like a glove. He scored during his first game as a Blackhawk, and went on to get 51 points in 58 games, was a plus-2, and had a faceoff percentage of 44.92%. He was fourth on the team in goals (17) and at the faceoff dot. He followed up the 2019-20 season at a similar pace notching 38 points in 58 games, was a plus-1, and had a FO% of 47.68%. He ranked fifth on the team in goals (12) and was third on the team at the faceoff dot. Last season, he had 17 points in 40 games, was a minus-16, and had a FO% of 47%. It ranked him sixth on the team in goals (9) and third on the team at the dot. Unfortunately, because of the Blackhawks’ lack of production last season, his struggles loomed largely.
It’s first important to acknowledge that Strome is a nice depth piece. He has shown that he can create plays and score pretty goals. But there are a couple of aspects to his game that are worrisome. First, he isn’t very versatile. He is very productive when he is playing center but isn’t when playing wing. He, himself, admitted that he isn’t as comfortable playing wing. But when you have a team like the Blackhawks that has struggled to find success, versatility is key. His shifts between center and wing have contributed to his major drop in points.
Secondly, his faceoffs are an issue. The Blackhawks have had problems at center for a while, and although he could help the team on the scoresheet, the lack of faceoff wins was hard to overcome. It’s a factor that he said he worked on this offseason. It seems to have worked. Although he has only played in one game this season, his FO% is 66.67%. Unfortunately, he may have figured it out too little, too late.
Jonathan Toews is back this season to reclaim his top-line center spot, Kirby Dach is still developing into his role, Ryan Carpenter is still a veteran presence in the middle, and the team has included new faces like Tyler Johnson, Henrik Borgstrom, and MacKenzie Entwistle to fill out their depth. That leaves Strome on the outside.
Strome’s Future is Written on the Wall
Something that keeps sticking out to me about Strome’s situation is that besides his early success in Chicago, it always seemed like he had one foot out the door with management. His first two seasons were solid, with 89 points in 116 games. General manager Stan Bowman rewarded that with a two-year, $6 million deal in January 2021. However, the team waited until the day before training camp opened to give him that contract. His free agency period was full of questions because the Blackhawks dragged their feet to get a deal done until they had no choice. Toews had to miss all of last season due to his health, and Dach fractured his wrist at the World Junior Championship, leaving him out for a substantial amount of time. The Hawks needed top-line centers and Strome was the best candidate to fill that role.
Strome hit a wall last season when he was healthy scratched four times in the previous nine games of the year because of his lack of production. With that, it seemed like he would definitely be moved in the offseason, especially when the Blackhawks acquired Johnson from the Tampa Bay Lightning in July. Instead, they decided to keep Strome’s healthy scratch streak alive as he was scratched for the first four games of this season. It seemed like the Blackhawks were willing to walk away from him more often than not, yet he is still on the team and it’s hurting both of them now.
It’s clear Strome is not in the team’s future. Head coach Jeremy Colliton‘s reluctance to play him speaks volumes. He had a poor showing last season. It may have contributed to the team not getting an enticing trade package for him during the offseason, but they will never get a substantial trade offer unless they let him play. It seems like he may have never entered the lineup this season had Mike Hardman not gotten injured against the New York Islanders on Oct. 19. Moreover, the Blackhawks placed Patrick Kane, Erik Gustafsson, and Carpenter in COVID-19 protocol. If Kane or Carpenter have to miss some time, Strome may get more playing opportunities. That should work well for both sides. Strome deserves the chance to audition for a job. I don’t think he is the difference-maker that Chicago needs at the moment to get out of their five-game losing streak, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be that for another team.
Strome is only 24-years-old. He shouldn’t be written off by any means. He still has a lot of potential. He started his career off in Chicago well and although he hasn’t been able to replicate his early success, The Blackhawks’ system may not be the best fit for him and his abilities. The Blackhawks could have parted ways sooner, but now they need to make it a priority. According to reports, the team is actively listening to potential trade offers for him. This is a good thing. Allowing both sides to get a fresh start will benefit everyone involved.
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Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.