After a number of big changes this summer, expectations were that the Chicago Blackhawks would find their way back into playoffs in 2021-22. Unfortunately, their play has been nowhere near playoff-caliber all season long, as they sit seventh in the Central Division through 54 games with an ugly 19-27-8 record.
It has been a whirlwind of a season for the Blackhawks, who have been involved in plenty of controversy over the Kyle Beach situation, which resulted in Stan Bowman resigning as the team’s general manager. Shortly after the resignation, Jeremy Colliton was fired as head coach due to the Blackhawks’ poor start, though they have not improved much under interim coach Derek King. While their struggles in 2021-22 can be attributed to some questionable moves by Bowman in recent years, these three players, in particular, have not pulled their weight this season.
After missing the entire 2020-21 season due to health issues, no one was exactly sure what to expect from captain Jonathan Toews in 2021-22. Given his outstanding career, however, and his increased production in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, many were hopeful he would be able to quickly find his footing and get back to that level of play.
That hasn’t been the case for the 33-year-old, who has just four goals and 19 points through 44 games. It is shaping up to be by far and away his worst season as an NHLer, as he has never recorded less than 54 points in his previous 13 seasons. With the 2021-22 campaign being a wash, given how far back they are from a playoff spot, the Blackhawks will have to hope for a bounceback next season from Toews, who will be entering the final year of his contract that carries a massive $10.5 million cap hit.
After seemingly coming out of nowhere and scoring 30 goals in just 68 games as a rookie in the 2019-20 season, Dominik Kubalik has struggled to get anywhere near that level of play these past two years. After seeing his totals drop to 17 goals and 38 points last season, many chalked it up as an off-year and believed he could play a big part in the Blackhawks’ success in 2021-22.
Much like Toews, that has not happened for Kubalik, as he has just 11 goals and 20 points through 55 games. As a result of his poor play, there has been plenty of speculation that he could get dealt ahead of the trade deadline. Perhaps a change of scenery will prove to be what he needs to get his career back on track.
Since being the third overall pick back at the 2019 draft, expectations have been quite high for Kirby Dach, who had and still has all the potential in the world to become a top-end centerman in the NHL. He made the Blackhawks’ roster just months after being selected and showed signs of promise in his rookie season with eight goals and 23 points in 64 games.
Unfortunately, a wrist injury limited him to just 18 games during the 2020-21 campaign, but he appeared to have taken a step forward, posting 10 points over that span. With the impressive stint, it seemed like he was ready to become a high-impact player in 2021-22. Like many of his teammates this season, however, he has struggled, recording just eight goals and 21 points through 52 games. At just 21 years old, his future is still very bright, but this has been a disappointing season for him nonetheless.
Blackhawks Stuck in a Tough Spot
Like many successful teams, the Blackhawks are in a tough spot right now as a franchise. After a great era in the 2010s that saw them win three Stanley Cups in six years, they have struggled the past few years and may be heading for a rebuild, or at least a re-tool, as a result. General manager Kyle Davidson will have some big decisions to make with this roster this summer.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.