Dylan Strome was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season before finally breaking into the Blackhawks lineup on Thursday night. The 24-year-old forward, and former third-overall pick, has been the subject of trade rumors for the past few weeks after seemingly falling out of favor with head coach Jeremy Colliton.
After scoring just six points in 20 games with the Coyotes during the 2018-19 season, Strome initially flourished in Chicago after the trade, racking up 51 points in 58 games for the Blackhawks. In fact, after the change of scenery, he looked like the future number two center behind Jonathan Toews. The problem is, Strome hasn’t been able to replicate his 2018-19 success with the Blackhawks in the years since. During the shortened 2019-20 season, Strome tallied 38 points in 58 games with the Blackhawks, and then last season, he recorded just nine goals and 17 points in 40 games.
By Jeremy Colliton’s admission, Strome looked good in camp and played well during the preseason for the Blackhawks this year. Still, he was frozen out of the lineup for the first four games. After the loss to the Canucks on Thursday night, when asked what the communication was like with Colliton on his benching, Strome said there hadn’t been much since Colliton told him that he was out of the lineup for opening night in Colorado (Quotes via the post-game presser aired on NBC Sports Chicago):
“It’s a weird situation because usually when you get scratched, it’s because you played bad or there’s a reason,” Dylan Strome said after Thursday night’s loss to Vancouver. “Like Jeremy said a couple of times, I thought I had a pretty good preseason.”
Strome didn’t record a point on Thursday night, but he did look like he and Alex DeBrincat shared some chemistry when they were on the ice together. A bad penalty in the second period that eventually led to a five-on-three after a Connor Murphy slash shortly after was the sore spot of the night for Strome. Still, Colliton acknowledged after the game that he thought Strome plated well aside from that mental lapse in the second period.
“For him, not playing for a while, I thought he was solid,” Jeremy Colliton said. “Obviously the penalty in the second was a tough one, but overall, he made some plays and worked hard.”
Despite Colliton’s comments after the loss to Vancouver, Strome lost ice time after the penalty, and we can only imagine that he’s anything but a lock to break into the lineup for the second time this season when the Blackhawks host the Red Wings on Sunday night.
Which brings me to the point of this post and the headline, itself: It’s time for the Blackhawks to either commit to playing Strome regularly or trade him and let him start fresh somewhere he’s wanted. It’s the right thing to do. The Blackhawks’ handling of Strome the last two weeks hasn’t been in the team’s best interest or the player’s, and they need to resolve this situation sooner than later. Moreover, if the presence of opposing scouts at the United Center on Thursday night was any indication, there’s no shortage of interested teams looking to acquire Strome.
Dylan Strome, the subject of trade rumors is in the lineup tonight. Half the league has scouts in the building. https://t.co/2zPvrSexb7
— Patrick K. Flowers (@PatrickKFlowers) October 21, 2021
When you have nearly half the league in attendance looking at Strome, you can’t pretend that there’s no deal to be made. Is this deal to the likening of Stan Bowman? Who knows. But, if the Blackhawks asking price isn’t being met yet, what makes it sense to keep Strome in the press box? Put him on the ice, and let him try and help a team that has been putrid on the offensive attack this season, outscored overwhelmingly (17-3) in five-on-five situations.
Dylan Strome has made the best of a pretty stinky situation the last few weeks by all indications, including Colliton’s. He’s been exiled from his teammates by Colliton and the Blackhawks, and he spoke about that feeling after the Vancouver loss on Thursday.
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) October 22, 2021
If you watch the reports out of practices and morning skates, Strome has often been the first skater on the ice and the last off the ice despite not being in the lineup. He’s also still taking time to make memories with the fans despite his situation.
— Jennifer Kaufman (@jnkaufman) October 21, 2021
Honestly, I don’t get it. I don’t understand the angst towards Strome from the Blackhawks and even from some of the fanbase. In 157 games with Chicago, Strome has scored 106 points. As Ben Pope of the Sun-Times pointed out in his column on Wednesday, Strome has averaged 2.29 points per 60 even-strength minutes the last three seasons, fifth-best on the team.
So, why the heck is he in street clothes watching this team flounder in the offensive zone, struggling to put together any semblance of a competent scoring attack? If you’re going to trade him, then trade him. If not — even if that’s simply not yet — then play the kid. It’s the logical decision and the right decision.