Regardless of trade fate, Dylan Strome can take pride in having proved doubters wrong

Strome has re-established himself as an excellent complementary weapon with 23 points in his last 23 games for the Blackhawks.

SHARE Regardless of trade fate, Dylan Strome can take pride in having proved doubters wrong
Dylan Strome has enjoyed a fantastic winter with the Blackhawks.

Dylan Strome has enjoyed a fantastic winter with the Blackhawks.

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

During the last two-plus months, Dylan Strome has become the player the Blackhawks thought he wasn’t anymore — and the player he believed he could rediscover.

It can no longer be dismissed as a fluky hot streak or lumped in as further proof of his inconsistency. Strome has proved that he can be an excellent complementary offensive weapon.

No matter what happens between now and the March 21 trade deadline — or whether general manager Kyle Davidson views Strome’s resurgence as a reason to keep him or trade him for a bigger return — Strome can take pride in that.

“I said it . . . early on when I wasn’t in the lineup the first game: ‘It’s a long season,’ ’’ Strome said Tuesday. “Lots can change in a season, and lots has changed.”

Since Jan. 4, Strome has 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 23 games despite six consecutive pointless games in the middle of that stretch. Those 23 points are one shy of his total from last season and this season before Jan. 4 combined.

At even strength, he ranks second on the Hawks with a 51.9% scoring-chance ratio and first with a 55.9% shot-on-goal ratio. On the power play, he has become a versatile playmaker in the net-front role with eight points.

He has two hat tricks — Jan. 26 in Detroit and Tuesday against the Ducks — and four other multipoint games. And he has nine points in his last four games, as his line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat has caught fire.

“He’s just playing with confidence,” interim coach Derek King said. “He’s working when he doesn’t have the puck. That’s the stuff we worked on at the start of the year when I had him in the bottom six, making sure he’s working without the puck and playing the right way, and he has been.”

Of course, that’s what Strome’s ideal role has always been: as a multiplier for star teammates.

Whether because of his poor skating ability, lack of versatility or something else, he’s practically invisible when not in the right role. He can’t create chances on his own. He can’t move to the wing. Bury Strome in those kinds of situations or try to change how he plays, and the results will be disappointing.

That’s what ruined former coach Jeremy Colliton’s impression of Strome — and why he scratched him in five of the Hawks’ first 10 games — and what King took a couple of months to figure out.

But put Strome around talented wingers such as Kane, DeBrincat and Brandon Hagel, and he’ll make them even more productive. His personality breeds chemistry, his elite hockey sense opens passing lanes and his soft hands facilitate playmaking.

And the argument that anyone can do what Strome is doing in this situation doesn’t hold up when considering how many centers have flunked the playing-with-Kane test over the years.

“He has been fun to play with,” Kane said. “Really noticeable lately is his ability to drive to the net and create even more space for himself or his linemates. He’s finding ways to get open, too, and he’s been finishing. . . . He has been great. It’s good to have him here. Hopefully it stays that way.”

That previous sentence, however, hints at the uncertainty that lingers for Strome.

If Davidson is truly launching a full-scale rebuild, he’d be wise to promptly sell high on Strome, who’s in his prime at 25 and realistically won’t be as good three or five years down the road.

A trade next week, right as he nears the top of the mountain, would be a fitting yet unsatisfying end to Strome’s chaotic four-year stint in Chicago.

On the other hand, it would be equally tempting to hold on to him and see how high his ascent takes him.

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