It’s been a trying season for the Chicago Blackhawks, and no one knows that as well as Alex DeBrincat.
If he can stay healthy for just one more week, DeBrincat will be the only player on the Blackhawks roster to play in all 82 games this season. It will be the third (of five seasons) in which DeBrincat will have played in all 82 games. It’ll also be his fifth consecutive season in which he won’t get a taste of Stanley Cup Playoffs action (the real thing, anyway … I’m not counting the 2019-20 bubble experience).
DeBrincat is sitting on 41 goals (tied for his career-best after scoring in last night’s victory over the Flyers) and 36 assists (already a new career-best). It is undoubtedly his best season yet, even if he doesn’t score two more goals to set a new career mark, although that would be an excellent exclamation point on what’s been a bright spot in an otherwise dim season on Madison St.
“There [have been] some good parts of the year [and] some bad parts, obviously,” DeBrincat said. “Overall, I wish we would’ve had more success as a team. You can’t really be happy when you don’t make the playoffs. Whether you [individually] had a good year or not, it’s not fun.”
When DeBrincat was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks were just one summer removed from winning their third Stanley Cup Championship in six seasons. I would imagine that opening his NHL career by making one bubble postseason and nothing else wasn’t what he pictured when the Blackhawks called his name in Buffalo. Which brings the question, how much longer does DeBrincat want to spend missing the postseason?
“It’s definitely frustrating,” DeBrincat said. “But you’ve got to work for what you get. So hopefully, we can work these next couple [of] years, get a good roster, and win some games. Anytime you can win games, you have more fun in the locker room. … These next couple years, we can build that identity to get back to where we want to be, and hopefully, it’s sooner than later.”
The 24-year-old winger will be an RFA after next season, and he can negotiate with other teams. The Blackhawks could match the offer sheet and keep DeBrincat in town, but that’s where things get messy. The more likely scenario is that Kyle Davidson has a sit down with DeBrincat to lay out his vision for the rebuild (one he will have to have with guys like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) and determine whether or not DeBrincat wants to sign a long-term deal with the Blackhawks.
When asked about his future in Chicago after Monday’s morning skate, DeBrincat offered Blackhawks fans some optimism that his heart is in Chicago. For now, at least. DeBrincat told reporters that he’s “open to anything.” And went on to say: “we’ll see what they’re thinking. I think they have a lot of things to do probably before me. But I’m open to talking whenever they are, so we’ll see where it goes.”
As for whether or not DeBrincat can see himself being a part of the rebuild in Chicago, it sounds like he’s open to taking on a leadership role.
“We’ll talk [about that] maybe a little in the future, but that’s kind of their decision,” DeBrincat said. “It doesn’t really affect me. I’m still young. I want to help bring this team to the playoffs and win. I’m here to do whatever I can.”
It sounds like DeBrincat is at least open to sticking around in Chicago, but we’ll see how things pan out over the next few months when Kyle Davidson inevitably has these sit-downs with guys like DeBrincat, Toews, and Kane.
If DeBrincat stays, he’ll be the cornerstone of this franchise for the foreseeable future and possibly even the next to wear the “C” when Jonathan Toews relinquishes the captaincy he’s held for the last 14 years. It would be nice for Blackhawks fans to have something like that around through the light years of the rebuilding process. So, here’s to hoping.