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Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome still deserves better

Strome was underutilized by Colliton and could get better play under Derek King

Arizona Coyotes v Chicago Blackhawks
Dylan Strome of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after scoring his first goal of the season in the third period against the Arizona Coyotes
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Dylan Strome was vastly underutilized by Jeremy Colliton, to the point that Strome was being shopped around despite solid production in his first two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.

When he was first traded to the team early in the 2018-19 season, Strome had 17 goals and 51 points in 58 games (0.88 points per game). In the ‘19-20 season, Strome had 12 goals and 38 points in 58 games (0.66 PPG).

Strome has continued to make some of the best passes on the team and makes a positive impact on the team’s offensive shot generation when he’s on the ice, as indicated by the charts below. The red sections in the top row of charts show where there’s an increase in offensive activity when Strome is on the ice. Also note the annual increases in expected goal shares (xGF%) when Strome is on the ice:

A visualization of Strome’s on ice impact at 5-on-5 both offensively and defensively.
Micah Blake McCurdy | HockeyViz

When put with the correct linemates — like Henrik Borgstrom, Adam Gaudette and Alex DeBrinat — Strome can contribute as a playmaker and as someone who can get to the front of the net, while not being a complete waste of space defensively.

So far this season, Strome has put up positives in terms of both even-strength offense and even-strength defense, with 0.2 expected goals above replacement in both categories. Strome has also been a 0.3 xGAR player on the power play, all despite limited time. With Kirby Dach briefly sidelined after a high hit on Friday against the Arizona Coyotes, Strome took Dach’s spot on the top power-play unit and this happened:

Chicago is driving offense with Strome on ice at 5-on-5, with Strome being on ice for 28.27 shots per 60 (fifth on the team) and 1.98 expected goals per 60 (ninth, just behind DeBrincat).

Strome’s 47.78 percent 5-on-5 shot share is fifth-best on the team and his 44.89 percent expected goals share xG share is sixth-best. On a team that has been one of the worst at driving possession — the Blackhawks have a league-worst 41.23 share of expected goals — solutions need to be found where they can be and Strome may be one of those solutions.

While Strome has remained in trade rumors despite the regime change in Chicago, his value has arguably never been lower. This is the same player that the Blackhawks sent Nick Schmaltz to Arizona to acquire, and Schmaltz has actually been given opportunities to succeed.

Even if Kyle Davidson still wants to trade Strome, it would be in the team’s best interest to put Strome in similar positions to succeed. Despite the adversity the last two years have thrown in Strome’s path, he’s still finding ways to make a positive impact, scoring the game-winning goal referenced above.

Strome can be a very useful middle-six forward or center, especially if he’s given stability in both time on ice and in linemates. With a team nearing full health — perhaps for the first time this season — putting Strome on the third line with Gaudette and Borgstrom or, when he’s healthy, Brandon Hagel could allow for more scoring depth and the opportunity for the Blackhawks to get back on the right foot offensively.

Strome is a better player than how he was used under Colliton. If Derek King can give Strome a chance to prove it, that will be better for the team in the long run, no matter how long, or short, Strome’s tenure with the team may be.