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Are expectations of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Dominik Kubalik too high?

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Dominik Kubalik #8, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Dominik Kubalik #8, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /
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Anytime a team has a new player that defies expectations in a good way, people get excited. That happened last year for the Blackhawks. The team’s European scouts and Stan Bowman were able to convince a top talent in Switzerland’s best men’s professional league to come to play in Chicago.

What an amazing first season Dominik Kubalik has had for the Chicago Blackhawks? In 2019-20 he scored 30 goals and tallied 16 assists in 68 games. He was in the running for the Calder as rookie of the year. He was playing on the top line with the team’s best players. It was a good year.

When the season ended though people started wondering if he’d be back. Chicago is a team in transition, and now they had this fairly dynamic player that might be able to fetch a pretty big salary on the open market.

He was due a new contract in the off-season, and there was more than a little hand-wringing about what that deal would look like, and when, or even if it would be done. In the end, he signed a two-year deal that NBC and others reported as being worth $3.7 million/year, for two years.

Once that was sorted, people began to wonder if he would be able could replicate last year’s performance. (Myself included.) The list of players in Chicago who have scored that much in a single season is a short one. For good reason, people had high expectations, even if they felt almost unrealistic.

However, when the players came back, Kubalik looked ready. John Dietz who covers the Blackhawks for the Daily Herald was able to take in the (very) short training camp and was impressed.

Dominik Kubalik of the Chicago Blackhawks seems to be holding his own 12 games into the season.

Here we are now 12 games into the season and Kubalik has 11 points. Is he underperforming? Definitely not. Is he not getting his fair chances, like some, including Dietz, said when Kubalik saw a dip in ice time when the first began? Whatever was going on in the first few games of the season was likely nothing at all.

While Kubalik was a proven scorer in Switzerland, that’s another league and a world away. Comparing one league to another feels like comparing apples to oranges. There are two NHL seasons now that can be placed side by side for the sake of comparison.  Is Kubalik missing a step?

Nope, he isn’t. If you look over the game logs, you can see how he was performing from one game to another last year, and this year.

2019-20

2020-21

As you can see, Kubalik’s point production in both season’s looks to be about the same. It was in January last year when he really blew up, scoring 14 points from January 2-19. Before and after that period his production was fairly consistent. How does that stack up to this year? About the same, actually.

Last year, after 12 games Kubalik had managed five points (3G, 2A). This year he has eleven points (3G, 8A). He’s actually improved from last year’s offensive numbers, although he could cool off at any time. He’s not without criticism, but his point production is steady.

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There are still 44 games to play in the 2020-21 campaign, but Kubalik looks to be off to a strong start. He has wasted no time picking back up where he was last year, even on a team that has lost a bit of depth. It remains to be seen if Kubalik can be a 30-goal scorer again, but so far he’s proving that last year wasn’t a fluke.

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