By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) Ned Braden once said, “It’s always good to have choices.” Typically, that’s true, but in the world of coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks, too many choices could be a bad thing.READ MORE: Mayor Lightfoot Delays General Iron Permit To Move To South Side Over EPA Concerns
When general manager Stan Bowman traded enforcer/plugger/average player Brandon Bollig to the Calgary Flames this summer, some of us saw it as a move to save Quenneville from himself. Far too often last season, Quenneville played Bollig and Michal Handzus over more skilled and more deserving players. Quenneville has always leaned on the known commodity over the unproven kid. Well, Handzus wasn’t invited back, and Bollig is gone. Now, Quenneville will be forced to play kids like Jeremy Morin, Adam Clendening or Klas Dahlbeck, right?
Acknowledging that I’m almost certainly overreacting to one preseason game, I can’t shake the itchy feeling I felt seeing players like Cody Bass, Brandon Mashinter and Kyle Cumiskey in the lineup Tuesday night in Chicago’s 2-1 overtime win against Detroit.
Let’s start with Cumiskey, a 27-year-old defenseman who played under Quenneville when he was with the Colorado Avalanche. After a bright start to his career, Cumiskey stalled out a bit and decided to take his talents to Modo of the Swedish Elite League. Now, he’s returned to the states looking for a shot with an NHL team.READ MORE: Chicago Night Clubs Gear Up For Looser COVID-19 Restrictions As State Prepares To Enter Bridge Phase
With the Hawks almost certainly moving a defenseman before the start of the regular season (they’re $2.2 million over the cap), the sixth defenseman spot will be open. Clendening and Dahlbeck seemed to be the front-runners. Enter Cumiskey, who played 18:00 on Tuesday and looked a lot like Nick Leddy on the ice. He was generating rushes, pinching in on defense, playing just well enough to catch Quenneville’s veteran-loving eye, perhaps?
But Clendening and Dahlbeck are NHL-ready. It’s time to give them first dibs at the soon-to-be-vacant sixth spot.
As for Bass and Mashinter, either player could easily slide into the Bollig role as fourth-line left wing/enforcer. Bass dropped the gloves Tuesday and has some NHL experience after brief looks with Ottawa and Columbus. In 58 games with Springfield of the AHL last season, he earned 132 penalty minutes. Mashinter played 47 games in Rockford last season, in which he registered 72 penalty minutes. He also picked up 28 points, so he’s not a total slug, but he’s nowhere near the level of players like Morin or Peter Regin.
I understand where Quenneville is coming from. He’s paid to win Stanley Cups first, develop players second. However, at some point the pipeline needs to keep moving. While none of the veteran options are bad players, per se, Cumiskey, Bass or Mashinter would be Band-Aids, while Clendening, Dahlbeck and Morin could be parts of “The Core 2.0.”
Their time has come. Let them play.MORE NEWS: Saint Joseph Catholic School Principal On Administrative Duty After Former Teacher Charged With Child Sex Crimes
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Mannelly Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.