Although it’s now indisputable that the 2021-22 Chicago Blackhawks will conclude their campaign with more failure than initially anticipated, they could still force some optimism by season’s end. While team achievements are ideal, the Blackhawks will have to settle for success from individual perspectives for that to become their reality.
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This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours will highlight storylines that centre around their brightest stars, which should help ease the anxieties of nervous fans.
Strome Nominated for 2022 Masterton Trophy
After what was a less than stellar 2020-21 campaign, Dylan Strome was looking to rebound through 2021-22. Despite the continuous rumblings that presumed Chicago would find a way to trade the former third overall pick, Strome has remained with the Blackhawks all season long.
That said, with his current term set to expire this upcoming offseason, it was in Strome’s best interest to put in the work and perform with any and every opportunity granted. And it’s safe to say he’s done just that.
Averaging a pace of only 0.43 points per game and a lacklustre faceoff win percentage of 47.0 last season, expectations weren’t high for the centreman. Nevertheless, he turned things around in the best of ways this year, having already accumulated 47 points through 67 contests and winning more than half of his draws.
Strome has shown the type of perseverance that has made him the most deserving Blackhawk to be nominated for the 2022 Masterton Trophy.
On Monday, the PHWA announced the 32 nominees for the 2021-22 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The award is given to the players “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
While it may not be typical to see this type of comeback story take home the Masterton, the fact that Strome has been recognized in this manner should do wonders for his confidence and the outlook of his next contract. Perhaps the Blackhawks have seen enough to justify finding a way to keep him around a little while longer, after all.
DeBrincat Set to Beat Career-High in Goal Totals
Scoring his 41st goal of the season in Chicago’s 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on April 25, Alex DeBrincat has officially tied his career-high in that column.
It should come as no surprise that DeBrincat has progressed in this manner. He’s positioning himself to be even more impactful in the years to come, as a key contributor during Chicago’s rebuild. So much so that it’s just a matter of time before he leapfrogs Patrick Kane to become the most productive player on the team.
In the meantime, as Kane continues to find ways to add to his point totals, DeBrincat should still be recognized as this lineup’s most important player. Goals win games and DeBrincat has nearly doubled Kane in that respect in 2021-22. All he needs is one more through Chicago’s final two contests to set a new benchmark of personal success.
Kane Continues Accumulating Assists
As the new generation of stars continue to make their case for why they deserve more of Chicago’s spotlight these days, Kane is clearly far from willing to accept a takeover. His 92 points lead the team, a statement that has become the norm throughout his career. Most impressive, though, is that the 15-year veteran is still finding ways to achieve new heights all the while.
Currently sitting on 66 assists this season, Kane only needs one more to reach a new career-high. Averaging nearly one helper per contest, and with two games remaining this season, he should accomplish the feat with ease.
What would make the story even more special, for the best American-born player ever, is if he wrote it in his hometown. The Blackhawks visit the Buffalo Sabres on April 29, to conclude their 2021-22 campaign.
Dach Out for Remainder of 2021-22
It would be an understatement to proclaim 2021-22 as a disappointment for Kirby Dach. One of the most anticipated Blackhawks these past few years, Dach has been looked to as their next No. 1 centre. However, he’s yet to live up to being a third overall pick.
After what was a steady start to his professional career in 2019-20, collecting 23 points through 64 games and playing just over 14:00 per night, his development hit a standstill before 2020-21 was even underway. Out with injury for much of last season, 2021-22 was poised to be a breakout year for the young star. Unfortunately, it’s been anything but so far.
One of the more disappointing Blackhawks this season, given his anticipated potential, Dach has only accumulated nine goals and 17 assists. He’s not going to get a chance to add to those totals, either.
Sidelined with a shoulder injury since April 15, it’s now being reported that Dach will miss the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign. Given the way his season has gone to this point, sitting out the rest of the way may be what’s best for the 21-year-old, knowing a fresh start awaits him with 2022-23’s first puck drop. The question that remains, though, is whether or not he’ll still be suiting up as a Blackhawk.
Entering this offseason, Dach is due for his next contract negotiation. Timing that could work to Chicago’s advantage. Despite failing to justify an aggressive pay raise to this point in his career, it’s far too early to assume that he’s incapable of turning into one of the game’s best talents.
Giving him a chance to prove that in Chicago, especially if they can craft a deal that works best from the team’s perspective, could also work to prove them right for drafting him so high in the first place. It would be a win-win for all involved, especially if Dach can help lead the Blackhawks beyond a rebuild.
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Even though it feels like a reach to associate any success with what the Blackhawks have displayed this season, it’s certainly warranted to sense at least some optimism for the club as they look forward to what’s ahead.