Analysis

The Unlikely Fourth Line is Working for Kirby Dach and the Blackhawks

By Michael Wagner
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 5: Zack Smith #15, Connor Murphy #5 and Ryan Carpenter #22 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate their goal against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on December 5, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 5: Zack Smith #15, Connor Murphy #5 and Ryan Carpenter #22 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate their goal against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on December 5, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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While Kirby Dach is looking for a bigger role with the Blackhawks, his current line mates play pivotal roles in his development.

Prior to the season most prognosticators thought that if Kirby Dach were to make the team it would need to be on one of the Blackhawks top line where he could find offensive success with the likes of Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews. Instead Dach has found himself at the bottom of the line up with Zach Smith and Ryan Carpenter, a decision that has completely caught Blackhawks fans off guard.

The question many are asking, why isn’t Dach getting a chance playing at the top of the line up where he projects to play during his career in the NHL and why is he only averaging 12 minutes of ice time over the course of this season?

I think the answer to this question is quite simple, they want to avoid burning out the best prospect they have had in years. Dach, a third overall pick, did not get training camp and even missed a good chunk to start the season so in my mind coach Jeremy Colliton wants to easy him into his NHL career rather than placing the expectations that comes from being a high pick.


Another reason that Dach has seen a good chunk of his time on the fourth line is his line mates. Early on, after sustaining a concussion during the prospects tournament, Dach was getting hit hard constantly and didn’t seem to be receiving the protection he needed in his young career. Players like Smith and Carpenter on his wings gives him the freedom to play his game and have the space that he needs to be successful.

Along with the protection angle Colliton might be using his positioning with Carpenter and Smith to help develop Dach’s game further and make him a more complete player as he progresses. While we wish Dach was on point per game pace with Kane and Alex DeBrincat on his wings he has be able to create more with less and learning the lesson that players like Smith and Carpenter can teach.

With Carpenter, Dach can see a player who has had to claw his way through the ranks to stick at the NHL level, willing to do anything that is asked of him and be a complete team player. With Smith, Dach can see a player who has endured a career of ups and downs, where he has had to use his physicality to continue to push forward as a player.

This combination of the three of them has actually paid dividends with Carpenter on a career pace in points, Dach able to still be an effective player with his limited ice time and Smith providing the line up with the hard-nosed edge they have lack over the past few seasons. While it isn’t a sexy line at all it is a line that is consistent, a line that drives play and a line that his helping teach one of their most important players how to be a professional hockey player.

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