When the Chicago Blackhawks fired coach Joel Quenneville and found themselves in the midst of a losing streak, all hope was lost. Blackhawks fans saw enough and Stan Bowman quickly became public enemy number one, until he made a last-ditch trade with Arizona.
Rewind to the beginning of this year, Nick Schmaltz was fresh off a 52-point season and looked to be the second line center the Chicago Blackhawks desperately needed. He had the speed and skill to be Patrick Kane’s trigger man, a 60-70 point season wasn’t out of the question.
The 2018-19 season was in full swing and the Schmaltz of last year was nowhere to be found. His playstyle wasn’t complementing the rest of the team. Puck battles were lost without much of a fight and he was always looking for a pass when the best option was to shoot. In 23 games with the Blackhawks, Schmaltz had 11 points with only 2 goals.
The Blackhawks found themselves in a free fall. The power play was still bad, depth scoring was non existent, defense was an after thought and a new coach was in charge. The most alarming thing was that Schmaltz wasn’t playing much as center, even though he was billed as the second line center of the future. Something needed to change.
Stan Bowman was in the hot seat, he needed to improve the team now and in the future. Bowman pulled the trigger and traded Nick Schmaltz to Arizona for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. Strome and Perlini were never able to develop properly in the desert, but in Chicago, they would have premium ice-time to show the rest of the NHL what they could do.
Strome was an immediate factor for the Chicago Blackhawks. In 51 games with the Blackhawks Strome has 14 goals and 44 points with 11 of those points on the powerplay. He’s really helped the Blackhawks on the power play serving as the pivot in front of the net. Strome and DeBrincat had great chemistry in the OHL, so it was no surprise that it continues with the Blackhawks.
Brendan Perlini took a little longer to find his place with the Blackhawks. Last year with Arizona Perlini scored 17 goals and 30 points, it was only a matter of time before he found that goal scoring touch with the Blackhawks. When Perlini found himself on a line with DeBrincat and Strome he finally found his stride, scoring 5 goals and 7 points along with his first career hat-trick and being named the NHL’s second star of the week.
The Blackhawks trade for Strome and Perlini is a big reason why they have even the slightest chance of getting into the playoffs. Bowman made the right move in realizing that the Blackhawks weren’t the best fit for Schmaltz. Schmaltz has benefited from the trade, scoring 5 goals and 14 points in 17 games with Arizona. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to injury.
Bowman was able to ease the pressure, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him. This trade alone saved his job for the time being, how he decides to approach the offseason will dictate how much longer Bowman is the GM for the Blackhawks.