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Tyler Motte’s reassignment to Rockford makes sense for Blackhawks

Despite a strong start, Motte has been one of the least effective forwards on the Blackhawks this season.

2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Practice Day & Family Skate Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks reassigned forward Tyler Motte to the AHL on Tuesday, and it’s hard to argue with the decision. Motte began his rookie season in strong fashion, even finding himself on the Jonathan Toews line at times, but the wheels have come off since then.

In 33 games this season, Motte has recorded four goals and three assists, which is just a 17-point pace over an 82-game season. He’s been especially cold since early November, with just one point in his past 21 games.

There are other ways for a bottom-six winger to contribute beyond points, but pretty much anywhere you look, Motte has been one of the Blackhawks’ least effective forwards. He started gaining a reputation as a strong defensive player early in the season, partially because he got a shot on the penalty kill, yet the numbers don’t bear that out at all.

Motte’s possession and shot suppression statistics are among the worst on the team. He’s second-to-last among Blackhawks in 5-on-5 Corsi at 43.2 percent, ahead of only Andrew Desjardins, per Natural Stat Trick.

And while you’d expect a strong defensive player to be good at suppressing shot attempts, Motte isn’t great there, either. He allows 61.1 shot attempts per 60 minutes of 5-of-5 play (CA/60), which is third-worst on the team. He performs slightly better if you focus on shots on goal allowed per 60 (SA/60) instead of just shot attempts, but either way, there’s little evidence that Motte has been good defensively.

Part of this could stem from his injury in early November. Motte had six points in 13 games before missing two weeks with an injury suffered against Dallas. Since then, he hasn’t been remotely as good:

Motte ATOI PPG 5v5 CF 5v5 CA 5v5 Corsi
Motte ATOI PPG 5v5 CF 5v5 CA 5v5 Corsi
Before injury 12:37 0.46 118 133 47.01
After injury 10:35 0.05 137 203 40.29

Part of that can simply be attributed to Motte’s role. He was getting big chances before the injury, but by the time he came back later in November, Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza started to emerge and quality opportunities higher in the lineup became less plentiful. Part of it could also be that he hasn’t been 100 percent healthy.

Either way, over the past few weeks, Motte hasn’t played like an NHL-caliber player, so it makes sense that he’s now being sent to the AHL. He needs the time to polish his game, especially if the Blackhawks expect to lean on those rookies in a meaningful way come playoff time.