By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) — The 2014-’15 NHL season is upon us, and the Blackhawks look primed and loaded for another long playoff run. But they’re going to have to do it without top prospect Teuvo Teravainen — at least for the immediate future.
As expected, the young Finnish phenom will begin the season in Rockford, and you know what? That’s OK. Sure, it’s disappointing that the Hawks’ most exciting young prospect won’t be part of the action from the first puck drop, but patience is the right approach.
Teravainen is eight games (three in Chicago, five in Rockford) into his North American hockey career, and for all of the brilliant flashes we’ve seen so far, there have been moments that have shown he’s not ready for top-six NHL minutes.
The Blackhawks are in a position in which they don’t need to rush any prospect, no matter how elite. They’re the Stanley Cup favorites with or without Teravainen, so why not put him in the best development situation for his career? In Rockford, he will have the luxury of top minutes, be part of the power-play unit and, most importantly, get time at center.
The signing of Brad Richards has bought the Hawks a little bit of time in Teravainen’s development. Richards can give the Hawks, at the very least, competent center play on the second or third line. That’s a luxury the Hawks have lacked since, well, since they mattered.
I know Teravainen’s demotion is a huge bone of contention for many Hawks fans, but isn’t it time to trust the this staff? I’ve been critical of Joel Quenneville’s coaching in the past, but for all of his flaws, he’s a proven winner and a championship coach. I believe that he knows “NHL ready” when he sees it.
Think of the situation with the Cubs. Most Cub fans with a brain have entrusted president of baseball operations Theo Esptein and his regime to rebuild the club and are on board with the plan. Why? Because Epstein has won several championships and is considered one of the best minds in the game. Quenneville is considered one of the best coaches in the game, while general manager Stan Bowman is rapidly gaining league-wide respect. If their plan is to develop Teravainen for a one-time, permanent call-up (like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, etc.), I’m on board.
A back-and-forth, up-and-down situation doesn’t help Teravainen become the player the Hawks envision him becoming. In his interview with Dan Bernstein and Barry Rozner on Tuesday, Quenneville said, “Whether it happens overnight … whether it’s going to be one game, 10 games, a whole season down there … it will happen. We’ll know. He’ll know.”
The Hawks are wise take their time with Teravainen. When he’s finally in Chicago, he will be here for a long, long time.
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.