By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) — Last Tuesday, when Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville told McNeil and Spiegel that the team expects to give Teuvo Teravainen a look this season, Hawks fans everywhere rejoiced. Teravainen is regarded as one of the game’s top prospects. He’s the Blackhawks’ second line center of the future, and, if things go well, he could be the second line center of the present.
The 2C position has been a scourge in the Blackhawks organization since long before they became relevant in 2009. They’ve gotten by with guys like Michal Handzus, John Madden, Dave Bolland, Colin Fraser, Ryan Johnson, Brendan Morrison, Brandon Pirri… I could go on, but you get the point. Their last legitimate second line center was Alex Zhamnov. Unfortunately, the Hawks used him as their top center during his time in Chicago.
With Teravainen’s season with Jokerit (Finland) ending earlier this week, the Blackhawks have a chance to solve this problem now and for the foreseeable future. They’ll call Teravainen up, he’ll take the 2C spot, and everything will be perfect, right? Well, there’s a slight catch. If the Hawks play Teravainen in 10 or more games (playoff or regular season), it will count as a full year on his three-year rookie contract.
Some argue that the Blackhawks are good enough to win the Stanley Cup without Teuvo. That may be true, but isn’t it the responsibility of the organization to put the best possible team on the ice for the playoffs? Despite what the Hawks have shown in the last handful of years, the Stanley Cup is not easy to win. Before 2010, the Blackhawks hadn’t captured hockey’s ultimate prize since 1961. They’d been close many times, but always fell short.
The Blackhawks are a team designed to win right now. Marian Hossa is playing with a bad back and bad shoulder. Brent Seabrook has shown signs of age and regression. Jonathan Toews already has a long history of concussions and could be a Raffi Torres headshot away from never playing again. There’s no time to waste. If Teravainen, when he is eventually called up, shows he fits in his brief “rehearsal” before the playoffs, the Hawks owe it to themselves, their players and their fans to put the best team on the ice. Stan Bowman has shown a mastery for cap management throughout his tenure as the Hawks GM, and as long as Dale Tallon is generally managing in the league, there’s a home for those players with bad contracts.
Contract years be damned. If Teravainen performs, start the clock on his deal and worry about the money later. Now is the time for the Blackhawks to stack championships and hang banners at the United Center.
Jay Zawaski covers the Blackhawks for CBSChicago.com and 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.