It’s been an up-and-down season so far for the Blackhawks, though not many can say they didn’t see it coming.
After a Monday night meltdown in Arizona, the Blackhawks returned to Chicago with a record of 3-6-0, good for last in the Central Division. It isn’t a record they’ll put too much stock in, as they had the pleasure of facing practically every one of the projected best teams in hockey to open the season. There were plenty of bright spots, including significant veteran contributions and Connor Bedard’s team-leading six points.
One Blackhawks skater who didn’t enjoy such bright spots, however, is forward Lukas Reichel. The 21-year-old faced high expectations to develop into a cornerstone of this young team. After spending his entire young career on the wing, the decision was made this summer to try the youngster out at center in hopes that he could offer the team long-term depth down the middle.
Instead, he’s stumbled out of the gate in historically bad fashion. Through nine games, Reichel has yet to log a point and has only gotten 19 shots on the net. In his time on the ice, which is a number that has dropped nearly two minutes per game from last season, he’s clearly been uncomfortable in his new role. Reichel is more frustrated than anyone with his lack of production, as he expressed after Wednesday’s practice:
“Of course I’m pissed. I’m frustrated. I want to score. It’s more fun if you score, that’s why I’m a forward. But I try to stay positive and keep working.”– Lukas Reichel
Blackhawks fans and reporters alike began to call for the “Reichel at center” experiment to end, including myself. Every minute that he spent at center seemed to hamper both his development and confidence, and a change was certainly needed.
If Wednesday’s practice was any indication, Reichel’s ongoing nightmare might be finally coming to an end. Scott Powers of The Athletic reported the apparent switch during the session, which was then confirmed by Charlie Roumeliotis.
While one day of practice (especially with three days before the team’s next game) isn’t a completely accurate depiction of Saturday’s lineup, it’s certainly promising that Reichel has been holding down the wing. He’s much more comfortable in that spot, getting to open areas and keeping his offense moving. Reichel is also a good fit next to Andreas Athanasiou on the second line, as that combination yielded terrific success at the end of last season.
The move isn’t set in stone just yet, but it’s a small sigh of relief for all of us. With Reichel back on the wing where he belongs, his game should be able to improve more quickly, setting him up for massive long-term success.