I’ve said it for some time this season: Kirby Dach is not the answer at center.
He was billed as the next top center for the Blackhawks coming out of the 2019 NHL Draft. A big-bodied player who could do a little bit of everything at all ends of the ice. That’s not entirely been the case for the former third-overall pick. After a promising rookie campaign in 2019-20 and a decent showing in the bubble postseason, expectations were high for Dach going into last season and were made even higher when Dach was named the Captain of Team Canada for the 2021 World Junior Championships. But after breaking his wrist at a pre-tournament game, Dach has not been the same player.
One thing that I believe has been missing from his game is confidence. When Dach was playing with confidence in his rookie season, he showed the flashes of skill that made us excited to see what he could become in the NHL. He hasn’t had that confidence come back to him since returning from wrist surgery late last season, when he wasn’t 100% fully healed. Probably one of the biggest blows to his confidence on a game-to-game basis is his job at the faceoff dot.
Dach is one of 88 players in the league this season to take at least 400 faceoffs. He ranks 88th in win-percentage. His 33.8% faceoff win-rate matches his rookie season marker at the dot, but he only took 222 faceoffs in 2019-20. This season, he is up to 441. There have been 43 instances of a player taking at least 400 faceoffs in a season for the Blackhawks over the past decade and Dach’s 33.8% this season ranks 43rd.
Now it appears that, if/when Jonathan Toews returns to the lineup, Dach could be moving out of the center position.
Derek King said "it's a possibility" that the #Blackhawks could move Kirby Dach to wing once Jonathan Toews returns.
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) February 14, 2022
While this could make a lot of sense to help Dach’s game, it makes the depth at the center position worse for the Blackhawks, something we’ve covered before. Moving him to the wing, the hope is for Dach’s confidence to build by taking away one of the elements of his game that is holding him and the team back. You know, addition by subtraction.
This shift could be coming at a pivotal moment in the season for Dach, too. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, coming off of his rookie entry-level contract. While there hasn’t been much doubt that the Blackhawks will give Dach a contract extension, there has been some. There have been calls for Dach to be traded, or sent down to the Rockford IceHogs. At one point this season, I thought Dach would be due a sizable bridge-deal moving forward with him in the organization. That doesn’t appear to be the case now.
For Dach’s sake, the potential move to the wing could determine his future in Chicago and will definitely have the potential to determine his next contract value. In the immediate future, the movement of Dach to the wing will hopefully give him a bit of confidence back in his game, knowing he can just focus on retrieving pucks rather than having to win them from the start. For the Blackhawks’ sake, with Toews and Tyler Johnson’s pending returns to the lineup, a bit more flexibility on the wings can give more players, especially young players, a fair shot at proving they belong in the future plans of the organization. Including Kirby Dach.