After exploding onto the scene with 41 goals in 2018-19, DeBrincat struggled this season, posting career-lows in both goals and points.
Young Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat did not have the sophomore slump many were expecting in 2018-19 following his 28-goal rookie campaign. Instead, DeBrincat did the exact opposite, as he followed up his strong first season with an impressive 41-goal outpour along with 35 assists for 76 points as a 21-year-old. His 41 goals were tied for sixth-most in the NHL with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Columbus’ Cam Atkinson, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Not bad company.
But the 2019-20 regular season did not go nearly as well for DeBrincat, as he finished with just 18 tallies and 27 assists en route to a career-low 45 points. Not only is that a 23-goal drop off (!!) from last year, but DeBrincat also saw his points-per-game average fall from 0.92 to 0.64 while nearly receiving the same amount of ice time (17:42 in 2018-19, as to 17:30 in 2019-20). One of the only positive takeaways from the season for DeBrincat was that his iron-man streak continued, as the 2017 second-round pick (39th overall) still has yet to miss a game in his three years in the NHL.
One possible reason why DeBrincat failed to find the back of the net so much this season could be due to his rapid decline in shooting percentage. Last year, he recorded an absurd 18.6 shooting percentage with 220 total shots on goal. Fast forward to this year, and DeBrincat saw his shooting percentage fall to 8.7% with 207 shots on goal in 12 fewer games. So, DeBrincat was actually shooting the puck MORE this season, but he was either not shooting as much from the same high-danger areas, or just not getting the same luck as he did in 2018-19.
Another potential reason for Brinksy’s struggles could be because of his inability to strike at even strength this year. Last season, DeBrincat’s 28 even-strength goals were good for 13th in the entire league. But in 2019-20, he finished with a mere eight goals at five-on-five, which was seventh on the Blackhawks alone. DeBrincat did lead the team with 10 power-play goals, but he and Kane did not come close to establishing the same chemistry they found together last year, and the team’s man-advantage struggled as a whole throughout the season.
Taking a look at DeBrincat’s possession metrics, they were surprisingly strong despite his lack of consistent production. For the third year in a row, DeBrincat finished with a Corsi percentage above the 50% mark (barely, with a 50.1 CF%), and he was on the ice for a career-low 46 goals against at even strength as well. The problem was that he was only on for 41 goals for, which is 35 (!!!!) fewer than he was in 2018-19. Yikes.
After racking up four hat tricks in his first two NHL seasons, DeBrincat failed to hit the trifecta in a game this year. In fact, he only had two contests with multiple goals in his 70 games played, with both coming in the final 10 contests before the NHL placed the regular season on pause. DeBrincat’s top performance was probably his two-goal game against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 21, as he scored both the Blackhawks’ goals in the 2-1 OT victory and led the team with eight shots on goal, which was tied for a season-high.
Overall, DeBrincat’s 2019-20 regular season certainly was disappointing, as he undeniably took a step back offensively. On the bright side, the majority of DeBrincat’s underlying numbers suggest that he could be due for a bounce-back during the potential 24-team postseason or in the 2020-21 campaign. Some of DeBrincat’s troubles could also be blamed on Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton, who indisputably made some questionable decisions with the line combinations this year. If the NHL’s 24-team postseason does take place on Aug. 1 as scheduled, Colliton would be wise to put DeBrincat on the team’s second line along with Dylan Strome and Patrick Kane in an attempt to match the high-powered Edmonton Oilers offense.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@TalkinHawkey) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Locked On Blackhawks, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@LO_Blackhawks).