Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Long Read, Patrick Kane

Chicago Blackhawks’ Player Comparisons: 2019 vs. 2020

During this NHL pause due to COVID-19, I thought it would be a fun exercise to compare some of the numbers and statistics of the Chicago Blackhawks from this season compared to last season.

Yeah, well it turns out this wasn’t so much fun after all. The Blackhawks had a record of 31-30-9 (71 points) through 70 games last season. In this 2019-20 season, they were 32-30-8 (72 points) in the 70 games before the pause. Overall, that’s pretty comparable. But if you look more closely at individual numbers, things aren’t as encouraging.

While I was doing my research, I was surprised how few players were actually around for both seasons. The youth movement has certainly arrived, and this exercise was a blatant reminder of that. Here are my findings.

Blackhawks’ Recurring Contributors From Both Seasons

Jonathan Toews

  • First 70 games in 2018-19: 30 goals, 41 assists, 71 points
  • Through 70 games in 2019-20: 18 goals, 42 assists, 60 points

The Verdict: Last Season Wins

Toews just wasn’t scoring the goals this season. His number of assists were right there, which is a positive. And of course we can’t forget about the captain’s two-way play and his stellar 57.3 faceoff percentage.

Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews
Chicago Blackhawks’ center Jonathan Toews is struggling to maintain his overall contributions for the team. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

One must also
remember Toews had a career-high season in 2018-19. This season’s numbers are
much more comparable (a little better actually) to the three seasons previous
to 2018-19, where everyone was complaining the captain was washed up. Which way
he takes it from here remains to be seen.

Patrick Kane

  • First 70 games in 2018-19: 41G, 58A, 99 points
  • Through 70 games in 2019-20: 33G, 51A, 84 points

The Verdict: Last Season Wins

Similar to Toews, Kane had a career-high campaign in assists and points last season. It just goes to show even if your superstars perform at their best, it takes depth and the efforts of the entire team to get to the playoffs and beyond.   

Patrick Kane, Blackhawks
Patrick Kane didn’t have the same success this season as he found last season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

One can’t really fault Kane; per usual he leads the team in goals, assists and points. He’s had very little consistency with linemates, and has been leaned on tremendously by Colliton with heavy ice time.

Related – Blackhawks Showdown: Hull vs. Kane

The goal is to give Kane the right tools to succeed. But that also must be done with the best interest of the rest of the team in mind. It’s tough to balance, and Kane has paid the price this season.

Alex DeBrincat

  • First 70 games in 2018-19: 38G, 31A, 69 points
  • Through 70 games in 2019-20: 18G, 27A, 45 points

The Verdict: Last Season Wins

It’s been well documented DeBrincat is in a slump this season. And he also had a spectacular showing last season with 41 goals. It’s hard to live up to that.

Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
Can Alex DeBrincat break out of his slump? (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

The good news is the chances are still there, but the goals just aren’t coming. At some point this will even out. Let’s hope the hockey gods are kind to the “Cat” in 2020-21.

Dylan Strome

  • 58 games in 2018-19: 17G, 34A, 51 points
  • 58 games in 2019-20: 12G, 26A, 38 points

The Verdict: Last Season Wins

Strome conveniently played in 58 games after he was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in 2018-19, and 58 games in 2019-20 due to injuries. Lots of pundits didn’t expect Strome to sustain his extremely successful stint from 2018-19, and they were correct.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
Dylan Strome hasn’t fared as well in his second season with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While playing mostly the second line center position and alongside buddy DeBrincat most of last season, this season he’s had trouble finding his place. Strome has found himself playing wing instead. It appears the youngster Kirby Dach might be his predecessor as the second center behind Toews. And now there are trade rumors circulating. Strome’s future with the Blackhawks remains unclear.

Brandon Saad

  • Through 58 games in 2018-19: 20G, 16A, 36 points
  • Through 58 games 2019-20: 21G, 12A, 33 points

The Verdict: Last Season Wins (Slightly)

Saad suited up in only 58 games in the 2019-20 season due to injuries. So I compared this to his first 58 games in the 2018-19 season. As you can see, he only had three more total points in this span last season.

Chicago Blackhawks Brandon Saad
Left winger Brandon Saad has maintained his consistency with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

This two-way power forward has been incredibly consistent throughout his career. I think it’s safe to call this a wash. Saad continues to be a huge all-around asset for the team.

Corey Crawford

  • In 39 games during 2018-19: .908 save percentage, 2.93 goals against average
  • In 40 games during 2019-20: .919 SV%, 2.77 GAA

The Verdict: This Season Wins

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Finally someone who performed better this season than last season! Crawford struggled with concussion issues last season, and backup Cam Ward was therefore forced into more action. That didn’t go so well.

Corey Crawford Chicago Blackhawks
Corey Crawford has defied the odds with a resurgence this season. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Which is the
main reason the Blackhawks acquired Robin Lehner this season. Crawford remained
healthy and enjoyed a resurgence, and Lehner was stellar in net as well. This
tandem is arguably the main reason the Blackhawks’ overall 2019-20 record was
comparable to the 2018-19 season.

Related – Blackhawks’ Roundtable: Management, Crawford & the Power Play

For the
following players it’s a little more difficult to make season comparisons due
to different numbers of games played. But I’ll give it my best shot.

Blackhawks’ Indirect Player Comparisons

David Kampf

  • Through 54 games in 2018-19: 4G, 14A, 18 points
  • Through 70 games in 2019-20: 8G, 8A, 16 points

The Verdict: Last Season Wins

This bottom six center scored more goals this season, but he had more overall points in 16 less games last season. It’s not specifically Kampf’s job to score, but it’s always nice when your depth players can contribute with some production.

David Kampf Chicago Blackhawks
Center David Kampf needs to figure out how to contribute more offensively for the Chicago Blackhawks. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

One positive is his faceoff wins improved from 45.3% last season to 52.3% this season.

Drake Caggiula

  • Through 26 games in 2018-19: 5G, 7A, 12 points
  • Through 40 games in 2019-20: 9G, 6A, 15 points

The Verdict: Last Season Wins

Caggiula was acquired by the Blackhawks in Dec. 2018. In 26 games he contributed just three less points than he did through 40 games this season.

Chicago Blackhawks Drake Caggiula
Chicago Blackhawks center Drake Caggiula. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Caggiula also dealt with ongoing concussion problems all season, making his future even more unclear.

Duncan Keith

  • Through 70 games in 2018-19: 5G, 29A, 34 points
  • Through 61 games in 2019-20: 3G, 24A, 27 points

The Verdict: Even

Keith was hit with the injury bug this season, so he missed out on nine games. He averaged .49 points per game in 2018-19 and .44 points per game in 2019-20. That’s pretty darn close. And he was picking up steam in March, with a goal and four assists in the last five games. It’s definitely not out of the question he would have made up those seven points with nine more games to work with.

Duncan Keith Blackhawks
Duncan Keith continues to be a driving force on the back end for the Chicago Blackhawks. Nov. 9, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At 36 years
of age, the blueliner is the oldest member of the team. But he’s not showing
any signs of slowing down, and he’s still one of the most consistent contributors.
Oh, and did I mention he leads the team with an average of 24:23 minutes of time
on the ice per game?

Connor Murphy

  • Through 52 games in 2018-19: 5G, 8A, 13 points
  • Through 58 games in 2019-20 season: 5G, 14A, 19 points

The Verdict: This Season Wins

Another improved performance as we go along! Injuries kept Murphy out of some action during both campaigns. But in six more games this season the Blackhawks’ defenseman also managed six more points, in this case assists.

Connor Murphy Chicago Blackhawks
Connor Murphy is one of the few Chicago Blackhawks to show improvement from last season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Murphy has developed a lovely knack for ripping a shot from the point that gets re-directed into the net by a teammate.  

Slater Koekkoek

  • Through 22 games in 2018-19: 1G, 4A, 5 points
  • Through 42 games in 2019-20: 1G, 9A, 10 points

The Verdict: Even

Double the production in just about twice as many games. This is good.

Slater Koekkoek Chicago Blackhawks
Slater Koekkoek has taken advantage of more ice time with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Koekkoek came from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline last season, and has mostly served as the seventh defenseman ever since. But with all the injuries on the back end this season, he had a chance to establish himself as a regular player in February and March. We shall see if the restricted free agent is part of the plans for next season.

Final Thoughts

Surprisingly, only 11 players are constants from both of the last two seasons. I did not include Brent Seabrook (season-ending injury), Erik Gustafsson (no longer with the team), or Dylan Sikura (didn’t play enough). But all three of these guys fared better in 2018-19 as well.

Crawford and Murphy were the standouts as the only players to show marked improvement. Saad, Keith, and Koekkoek are chugging along with consistent play from one season to the next. Everyone else regressed.

Related – Chicago Blackhawks’ Top-20 Goal Scorers All-Time

When I look at the last two seasons from this perspective, I too start to wonder if Jeremy Colliton is the right coach for the job. Where is the support for Toews and Kane to do their thing? Why aren’t players such as DeBrincat, Strome, and Kampf improving?

Sure, there’s promise with some of the newbies. Dominik Kubalik scored 30 goals in his shortened rookie campaign. Alex Nylander had his ups and downs, but 10 goals and 16 assists is certainly respectable. The ceiling appears extremely high for Dach and Adam Boqvist. Here’s hoping these players can all take on bigger roles next season.

Dominik Kubalik Chicago Blackhawks
Dominik Kubalik has been the best rookie for the Chicago Blackhawks this season. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

And the
Blackhawks dealt with numerous injuries this past season. Losing Seabrook,
Calvin de Haan, Andrew Shaw, and Caggiula all for about half the season
certainly didn’t help matters.

So perhaps this
is what happens when you’re dealing with a soft rebuild. Maybe things will come
together better next season. But this analysis is certainly sobering.  

Love it or hate it, Colliton and crew will be back for the 2020-21 season. Can they right the ship? Or will there be even more regression before things turn around? Let’s hope it’s better than this past season’s results.

*All statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and the (Chicago Blackhawks’ site)

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