I’ve written multiple times about how Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has stifled development of the team’s prospects, but recent revelations that the team is not concerned with the contract status of Teuvo Teravainen is promising. While Brandon Pirri is a waste of good talent who got away, it seems as if Quenneville is willing to give his new kid a much looser leash. If in fact all of the Blackhawks’ prospects were given slack, then there could be fewer concerns about the future of the team.
Because of the team’s mishandling of their prospects, they’ve been stuck with aging veterans. Some of these guys are good. But Michal Handzus is on his last legs. If the Hawks are smart, they should thank him for his service and honorably discharge him at the end of the season. If looked at a certain way, the stubborn reliance on Handzus is what led to Pirri’s departure. But what’s past is past and we can’t do much about it. But Handzus’s time is done. This over-reliance on Handzus lead to the “#FreePirri” hashtag on Twitter.
Jeremy Morin is the latest in the “#Free___” hashtag series. His production with the AHL‘s Rockford IceHogs has made a few fans eager to see him in action. When Patrick Kane got injured, Morin got his chance again. He hasn’t disappointed. While he hasn’t scored yet, he looks like he’s happy to be with the big-league team. However, this is actually his fourth stint with the team. With the Hawks likely to have to deal some players in the offseason, Morin could become a permanent member of the pro team if he plays his cards right.
But there are also other prospects waiting in the wings. The Hawks have a number of players currently participating in the NCAA Division-I hockey tournament, including Kevin Hayes of Boston College. Hayes is one of the top scorers in the NCAA with a good work ethic and some Kane-like playmaking ability. He’ll likely go to Rockford after he’s finished, but if given a window to join the big-league team, general manager Stan Bowman should not hesitate to call him up.
But there’s more. Hawks prospects, when given the right opportunity, have grown. Look at Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig. Before this year, both players yo-yo’d between Rockford and Chicago before finally settling in Chicago. Both players appeared in last year’s Stanley Cup Final, and have had breakout seasons this year. This is what happens when you give prospects what they need. It’s the same with Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, Kane and Jonathan Toews. Yes, they all were prospects at some point.
At some point, the veterans on the team will be gone. If the Hawks don’t want to end up like the Detroit Red Wings — over-reliance on veterans has severely hampered development of their prospects — then they need to give their prospects some wiggle room. Whether it’s in the minors, NCAA, CHL or on their own team, the Hawks have an abundance of young talent. If they use it right, they can stay competitive for years to come.