As the league gets set to return from its holiday pause, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to extend theirs. With the club’s first two games coming out of the break now officially postponed, the Blackhawks will have to wait until at least the weekend for their next scheduled match-up.
Nevertheless, team activities have resumed and there is also non-NHL hockey being played that remains of interest to the organization.
Covering that and more, this is the latest edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours.
DeBrincat Performing Among League’s Elite
Any skeptics who were unsure of how Alex DeBrincat would respond, following what could have been referred to as a slump in 2019-20, have been given more than enough evidence to change their line of questioning.
Not only did DeBrincat bounce back with 56 points through 52 games in 2020-21, but he’s now maintaining a goal-scoring pace in 2021-22 that would see him smash his previous career-high of 41. In fact, his ability to produce throughout 2021 placed him alongside the elite of the league. Not only a showcase of what DeBrincat is doing in the present, but a sign of things to come as he propels into his future.
Simply stated, the 24-year-old is just getting started as he continues to illustrate an elevation in his game. From managing increased ice time, to slotting into all scenarios, to producing regardless of who he’s lined up alongside, DeBrincat does it all.
Patrick Kane may lead the team in points at the moment, but the focal point of this franchise has already begun to shift in DeBrincat’s direction. And rightfully so.
Commesso Finally Gets to Shine at World Juniors
Drew Commesso, a second-round pick for the Blackhawks in 2020, was poised to play in his first-ever World Junior Championship in 2021. Until the goaltender was sidelined just prior to the tournament, making him ineligible to attend.
It’s a year later and Commesso has worked hard to earn his way back onto Team USA’s roster for the 2022 World Juniors. What’s more, he’s already making good on the opportunity. Starting USA’s first game of this year’s tournament, Commesso stopped 23 of 25 shots faced and was named player of the game for his efforts in helping his nation secure the 3-2 victoria over Slovakia.
Safe to say, seeing Commesso succeed only helps further Chicago’s confidence in what the 19-year-old can infuse into their lineup. Even if he is still a few years out from cracking their roster.
Dach Putting in the Work to Progress
There’s no denying that Kirby Dach, a former third overall pick, has been failing to meet expectations. Following a productive rookie campaign in 2018-19 as a 19-year-old, Dach missed most of 2020-21 due to an injury sustained at last year’s World Junior Championship. He actually found his way into 18 contests to close out the campaign, though, earning 10 points and an improved faceoff winning percentage from the year prior.
Although it was justifiable to assume a natural progression to his game heading into 2021-22, Dach has yet to elevate in that regard. His metrics actually suggest that he’s regressed. Having participated in all 30 of the Blackhawks contests so far this season, Dach has only accumulated five goals and eight assists, despite averaging over 19:00 per night – most of which has been in Chicago’s top-six.
What’s worse, Dach has only won 32.7 percent of his faceoffs. As part of the franchise’s future, as what many expected will be a top-line centre role, that’s simply not good enough. That said, the only way to progress is to put in the work and it seems that Dach is doing just that.
Watching Dach work on his faceoff presence is certainly a welcomed sight for anxious Blackhawks fans. His ability to dominate at the dot will undoubtedly align with improved production, as improvement in such an important area of his game will propel the same in other regards.
Learning from one of the league’s all-time greats in Jonathan Toews is exactly the type of edge Dach needs to take advantage of, if he hopes to turn into the player that many have always assumed he could become.
Taxi Squads Return to the NHL
In an effort to help the remainder of the season run more smoothly than it has in recent weeks, the league has re-introduced taxi squads. Basically, the hope is that it mitigates the impact on respective rosters when their players are forced to the sidelines.
This consistent fixture throughout 2020-21 was brought back as a temporary one in 2021-22, as it’s only currently slotted to remain until the 2022 All-Star Break. The actual composition of the squads differs from last season’s, as well.
Clubs will be permitted to assign a maximum of six (6) Players to their Taxi Squad. All such assignments will be subject to Waiver requirements as applicable. No individual Player may spend more than twenty (20) cumulative days on the Taxi Squad during the temporary formation period.
In addition, numerous modifications to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) are now in effect for the remainder of the campaign. All of which are designed to make it easier for clubs to insert call ups if and when necessary, with a more flexible approach and process in place.
It will be interesting to see how effective these strategies prove to be, relative to what the NHL’s 2021-22 schedule has faced in recent weeks. That said, the priority needs to remain on the well-being of all involved. Health comes first, hockey comes second – always.
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