We Have to Talk About the Kirby Dach Trade

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We Have to Talk About the Kirby Dach Trade

Chicago Blackhawks

Last night, Kirby Dach scored two goals to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-2 victory over the Canucks. He’s now up to 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in just 14 games with the Habs this season, and tweets like the one(s) below are flowing frequently out of Montreal.

Dach, 21, was traded to the Canadiens over the summer by general manager Kyle Davidson in one of his blockbuster moves to add picks in the 2022 NHL Draft. He wanted to add fuel to the rebuild and change the dynamics on the roster, and did precisely that.

In exchange for Dach, Davidson brought in the 13th and 66th overall picks in this past summer’s draft. He used those selections on forwards Frank Nazar and Gavin Hayes.

Let me be absolutely crystal clear about two thoughts on Dach’s early season success:

  1. Good for Kirby.
  2. Davidson did the right thing.

There will be some in the Chicago media and among the fans that will disagree with my second point because, like Dumont, they understandably and rightfully tend to believe Dach was young enough that he could have been a part of the rebuild. And there’s some truth to that school of thought. I don’t deny it.

But here’s the rub: Kirby Dach and the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t a great marriage. I say this fully owning that I was that guy — basically the only guy, as I recall it — who predicted the Blackhawks would take the big center third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. I liked his game and saw the fit then.

But once Brent Seabrook (aka Kirby’s landlord during his rookie season) was out of the picture, Dach’s play tailed off. He was terrible in the faceoff circle and showed zero signs of becoming a top-line center — the position he was drafted to play.

If we dig into the underlying factors fueling Dach’s early-season numbers this year, you’ll find that many of them are things fans (like me) were begging for while he was in Chicago.

He’s still terrible in the faceoff circle, so the Habs moved him to the wing. Dach has won 36.7 percent of his faceoffs this year for the Canadiens… but he’s only taken 49 draws in 14 games (which ranks fifth on their roster and there’s a gap of 108 faceoffs between fourth and Dach).

And instead of skating better than 18 minutes per night like he did with the Blackhawks, Dach is averaging 15:34 per night this year in Montreal.

The biggest difference: Dach’s shooting percentage (16.7) is more than double any of the three broken seasons he played in Chicago, none of which cracked eight percent.

Asking if Dach can sustain this level of play — especially the shooting percentage — is fair. But how he’s being used in Montreal and his acceptance of that role would lead me to believe it’s possible.

Seeing the maturity he’s displaying in accepting his new role and playing with new linemates also leads me to believe that the trade may have been a trigger for Dach to find another level in his game. When the trade happened I also noted that the work Martin St. Louis did with Cole Caufield to unlock his game down the stretch last year could translate to helping Dach tap into his potential better this year — and that appears to have happened.

So… did Davidson sell low on Dach? Perhaps.

More importantly, would Dach have done this well if he had stayed in Chicago? We’ll never know.

Sometimes a player needs a change of scenery to find something he had lost. The best example of this right now might be Valeri Nichushkin, who infamously scored zero (0) goals in 57 games in his final season with the Dallas Stars, moved on to Colorado as a long-shot and became one of the most important players on their Stanley Cup team.

Obviously Luke Richardson has been the right breath of fresh air as the new head coach of the Blackhawks. He’s asking a lot of his players and they’re responding incredibly well.

Veterans like Patrick Kane have noted that the depth success the Blackhawks have enjoyed is partially because there is no longer a reliance on known stars to carry the load when the going gets tough. The roles players had become comfortable in over the past few years are gone, and that’s helped the Blackhawks exceed expectations and beat teams that might be taking them for granted.

I hate to break it to Blackhawks fans, but we can be happy for a former player’s success somewhere else and acknowledge that moving on from the player may have been the right decision in the context in which it was made.

It’s great to see Kirby Dach having a good start in Montreal. I wish him luck there; I did when the trade was announced. But I also understand why Davidson made the move and still look forward to the impact Nazar and Hayes might have in Chicago — and how the rebuild will continue developing in the months to come.



Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab