Over the last few years, many fans of the Chicago Blackhawks have lamented about Coach Quenneville’s supposed bias against playing young players. The argument has been that the kids need a chance to play if they are to develop and be NHL ready when the salary cap (or injuries) really hits the team. There is no doubt that time is now. So which rookies laced them up against Minnesota on Friday night? Ryan Hartman, Viktor Svedberg, Erik Gustaffson, Tanner Kero and Artemi Panarin were all in the line up.
Erik Gustafsson will be the fifth #Blackhawks player to make his NHL debut this season. That's a lot for October.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 30, 2015
Yep, that is five Blackhawks with little to no time in NHL last year. Now, add Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Teuvo Teravainen, who split time last year between Rockford and Chicago, and well that’s a lot of youngsters with less than one full year of NHL experience under their belt. Sure, Duncan Keith is out hurt, but all saw over 10 minutes of ice time in a game the Blackhawks lost 5-4.
Furthermore, you cannot blame the loss on their play. Sure, the defense was sloppy at times and the team out of sync, but the guys need time to get used to each other on the ice. They all played with composure and didn’t panic, which is more than I can say for some of our fan base. Seriously, please relax, I worry about your ability to survive another 3 on 3 overtime let alone another season.
Because Quenneville and the Organization, couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t want/allow these guys to play more either last year or the year before, this is what happens. But before some say “see I told you so, this is Coach Q’s fault”, consider this: In 2014, the Blackhawks had Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, Kimmo Timonon, Antoinette Vermette and Kris Versteeg. It’s hard to argue they shouldn’t have played ahead of the new class. In fact, don’t even dare say it less you forget their contributions to winning Lord Stanley last June. Now they are gone and it’s time for next man up.
I recognize and understand that fans expect a defending championship team to start out better than 6 up and 5 down. But really, have we become so spoiled that we freak out when only 13.4% of the season is complete and they sit a mere 3 points out of a playoff spot? You want reason to panic? Check out the records of Columbus and Anaheim. Seriously folks, please try and relax. No, things aren’t great, but the team has been resilient. This has been proven time, after time after time. See what I did there?
I am personally not going to question the coaches, scouts or management of a team that has won three Cups in Six years and literally built it from the ground up. No, this obviously isn’t a re-build time either. Not with the core still intact.
Besides, between college and the minors, the Blackhawks seem to have great depth, especially within the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. We just need to be patient people. More importantly, we need to have faith and trust in an organization, and specifically a Coach, who has rarely let us down before.
Rick is fortunate to live off the I-90 hockey corridor where both his beloved Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs (aka Baby Hawks) call home. Hockey has been in his blood since the early 1970’s when he saw his first Blackhawks game at the “Old Barn”. His favorite player is Keith Magnuson followed closely by Bobby Hull (old school!). When not covering the greatest sport, he enjoys watching live music and has even been known to join his beloved bands on stage for a song or two. Follow Rick on Twitter via @HawksStrength