When the Chicago Blackhawks signed Collin Delia to a three-year contract extension in 2019, the thought process was he was a development goalie for the future. Now, it appears his future with the Hawks is over.
After being an undrafted free agent, Delia signed a two-year deal with the Blackhawks in 2017. That season, Delia started 10 games with the Indy Fuel, 17 games with the Rockford IceHogs and two games with the Blackhawks. Delia was the first player since the Fuel began as a Blackhawks affiliate in 2014 to make the NHL roster after having played at Indy.
His two starts with Blackhawks in that season were not great, but it warranted a return to Rockford in 2018–19. In Rockford, he posted a 7–5–4 record with a 2.34 goals against average and .933 save percentage in 17 AHL games before being recalled by the Blackhawks. He would go onto win his first three starts that season, posting save percentages of .972 against Colorado, .958 against Minnesota and .938 against Colorado. He would go 6–4–3 with a .909 save percentage before being sent down, as longtime Hawks great netminder Corey Crawford returned from a concussion. Delia finished in Rockford with a .922 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average.
Former head coach Jeremy Colliton was quoted in a Jimmy Greenfield Chicago Tribune article saying Delia had played well and deserved to be in the picture moving forward.
“He had another real successful season so far, and it’s not over yet,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Earned himself a contract, and everyone knows and feels he’s going to be a big part of our future here.
To start the 2019–20 season, the Blackhawks were going to have an open competition in net between Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban.
Delia drew the first time in net against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He surrender five goals on 37 shots behind a putrid defensive effort against the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
In Delia’s next start, the Blackhawks’ second game of the season, he again surrendered five goals on 36 shots behind another poor defensive showing. The Panthers finished seventh in goals for for on the season with 118 goals and a GF% of 54.03.
Subban was the next goalie to be trotted out by the Blackhawks, and he did not fair much better than Delia. In his first start against Tampa Bay, Subban yield five goals on 33 shots for a Blackhawks loss. Subban would fare better in his second start, allowing only three goals on 39 shots in an overtime loss to Nashville. Nashville ranked 20th in goals for with 104 and a GF% 53.61.
The third man in the goalie competition was Lankinen. In his first outing, he allowed five goals to Florida on 30 shots. In his next start, he faced the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings ranked last in the NHL with 87 goals for and of GF% of 43.72. He allowed one goal on 31 shots.
After two starts against two top offenses behind miserable defensive performances from his team in front of him, Delia was benched indefinitely despite having similar numbers to the other goalies in the three-man competition. Lankien would become the Blackhawks’ starting goalie with Subban as the backup. Delia was relegated to the team’s taxi squad and did not appear in a game until being sent down to Rockford on a conditioning assignment on Feb. 26. He appeared in four games with the IceHogs, recording a 5.16 goals against average and .858 save percentage. Clearly, his AHL numbers were skewed having not played in almost any game action that season. Delia appeared in four more games that season, one relief appearance and three starts at the end of the year. In his final start of the season, he recorded 45 saves on 50 shots in an overtime loss to Dallas.
The Colliton effect
Since Delia fared the exact same way as Subban and Lankinen against Florida and Tampa, one could surmise that his lack of playing time was due a coaching preference. As Ben Pope of the Chicago SunTimes revealed recently, when Colliton did not like a player, he stopped communicating with them and did not play them. One could surmise that two starts is not enough time to evaluate a player, especially a player who had received such glowing remarks from the same coach just a year earlier. However, this was a theme of the former head coach: He was quick to judge a player, and once his judgement was made, there was no changing it. Another examples of this was Colliton’s handling of Dylan Strome this season prior to being relieved of his duties.
When the Blackhawks acquired Marc-Andre Fleury for literally nothing from the Vegas Golden Knights (okay, technically Mikael Hakkarainen, but Vegas assigned him back to the Hawks’ organization after the deal), the assumption was that both Delia and Subban would be sent down to Rockford or traded, while Lankinen would serve as Fleury’s backup. Indeed, both Delia and Subban were waived at the end of training camp and assigned to the IceHogs.
With the focus of the IceHogs being on developing Arvid Soderblom, Delia appears to be the odd man out yet again. He has seen just one start in the first nine IceHogs contests this season.
Ironically enough, this Friday, the IceHogs are holding Collin Delia Designer Hat Night. It will be interesting to see if the organization actually has the audacity to not play Delia for the game, or if he will rightfully play on his own night as seemingly a last hurrah, so to speak.
It is obvious that the once-promising goalie in the Blackhawks organization does not have place with them anymore. It is time for the organization to do Delia a favor and part ways with him. It is time for both sides to move on and for Delia to have a fair shot as establishing himself as an NHL goaltender, as that opportunity will clearly not present itself in Chicago.