Chicago Blackhawks’ DeBrincat Making His Case To Stay In NHL

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 27: Alex DeBrincat
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 27: Alex DeBrincat /

With some gloom hanging around the start of the Chicago Blackhawks’ season, there are a couple shining stars for the Blackhawks, and one of those is Alex DeBrincat

As the Chicago Blackhawks have gotten off to one of the worst starts in the Joel Quenneville era at 8-8-2, there are questions circling about Quenneville losing his job, and when we might see a call-up.

At the moment, we have seen no call-ups, and Quenneville may be on the hot seat but we have no real confirmation of that. When looking at the roster right now, there are some names that need to step up their game, and there are some that have already started improving. As the season moves on it seems that Alex DeBrincat keeps getting better.

In the start of the season, DeBrincat had a slow start, as he did not register many points and was blown up with some heavy hits. Of late, watching DeBrincat play has brought some excitement and hope to the lineup.

Difference in linemates

Early on, we saw him play on a line with Artem Anisimov, who also had an extremely slow start, and Patrick Sharp, who at this point is far from the top of his game. While DeBrincat had some exciting plays and was OK on the ice, it looked as if he was dragging around some cinder blocks with this line.

In the first 12 games, there was speculation that maybe the young forward needed some time in the AHL to develop and find some confidence. He had only one goal and four assists, and had a minus-5 rating. The problem with sending DeBrincat down was that even though his numbers were less than stellar, he generally had good positioning and all year he has had quite a few good shots that hit the post.

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Then November rolled around and we saw almost a completely different player. DeBrincat has looked more confident and has gotten the chance to play on lines with players who are a bit quicker and more skilled.

So far in November, the Blackhawks have played six games and DeBrincat’s numbers look far different in a positive way. In these six games, he has scored five goals and one assist and is carrying a plus-2 rating.

One of the big changes have been the linemates he has had. While still primarily on the third line, he is getting shifts with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz. It is clear to see when he is on the ice with these players this is where he belongs.

Whether it’s quick plays with Schmaltz or long cross-ice passes that he finishes from Toews, he is finding the net more consistently. The kid is holding the puck longer, making quick movements and getting away from defenders. And most importantly, he is shooting the puck more.

As he continues to improve, maybe the fire and speed the Blackhawks need is already there. Seeing him play with more top-six talent is a must. He has shown, when put with these players, he can create more opportunities and be a threat.

For and against a certain line

One line combination that many fans have looked for is DeBrincat, Schmaltz and Kane. As fun as this line seems it would be, I would still be hesitant to put that on the ice for a couple of reasons.

No. 1 is Schmaltz. While he is having a resurgence from his injuries and regaining speed, his faceoff numbers are still a concern. By having faceoff issues, it forces this line to play more defense. None of these three players stick out as amazing in the two-way game, and the Blackhawks’ blue line is lacking to say the least.

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The second issue I have with this line would be size and grit. If these three are on the ice together, who will be winning board battles? We have already seen Quenneville put out bangers and agitators around Kane to protect him when things get rough.

DeBrincat’s size is his only disadvantage. He plays a gritty style but against some bigger teams, he really has no chance, and Schmaltz having injuries going to the boards may not be exactly what the Blackhawks want.

The last issue I have is getting to the front of the net. As we may not be seeing the barrage of goals we did in the first game, the more we see Anisimov and other players close to the blue paint, the more goals we have seen. Having three perimeter shooters is great, but with no traffic in front the ability to score becomes harder.

The counter to my argument is cycling the puck and speed. One thing the ‘Hawks have not been doing enough lately is cycling the puck. When you watch other teams and the Blackhawks in the past, one thing they always do/did is/was cycle the puck.

When you make quick and crisp passes and cycle, you pull defenders out of position to free up open ice and shooting lanes. If these three can cycle the puck and get defenders out of position, it may be a key to success. That coupled with two defenders who can play the body a bit and know when to pinch and jump in the rush could be key.

Next: For Blackhawks, Questions Remain Ahead Of Tough Stretch

While there may have been arguments about if he should be sent to the AHL or stay in the NHL, if DeBrincat continues to improve at this level there is no reason we should see him sent down.