By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) Before I begin, I should point out that analyzing Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s lines is often a study in futility. He changes line combinations more often than I change my underpants (which truly isn’t that often, so it’s a bad example). That said, I’ve been trying to figure out how the Blackhawks should be using young forward Teuvo Teravainen in his latest call-up.
When Teravainen’s promotion to the big club was announced last weekend, I originally insisted that he needed to play somewhere on the top six, as his game wasn’t suited for a checking role. But as I watched Teravainen skate against the Dallas Stars on Sunday, my thought process changed.
During the game, Teravainen was bounced around to several lines. He spent time skating with Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, Joakim Nordstrom, Ben Smith, Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw. Yes, he played at least one shift with every winger on the roster. No one seems to know what to do with him at this point.
As I’ve said all year, patience is the best route to take with Teravainen, and the Hawks have certainly been patient with his development. They’ve taken their time in calling him up and have done everything they can to ease expectations and take pressure of the electrifying Finn. With that patience in mind, let’s take a look at what might be best for Teravainen right now.
Teravainen is 42 games into his North American hockey career or roughly half of a regular season. Every European Blackhawk player I’ve ever spoken to has admitted that the adjustment from the European to North American game was the hardest part of their development. The smaller ice surface and speed of the game can be overwhelming, especially for an offensive-minded player like Teravainen.
The easiest way to ease his transition is by putting him on a line with more predictable linemates. Players like Kane, Sharp, Saad and Hossa have free rein to improvise or freelance their games. This was clearly illustrated when Kane and Teravainen collided on a developing rush against Dallas.
Conversely, players like Smith, Shaw, Bickell and Nordstrom typically play by the book. They don’t abandon their posts and can be counted on to be where they’re supposed to be. Playing with these types of players, at least for a handful of games, will put Teravainen in the best position to ease in to the NHL game.
Yes, his numbers may suffer, but the Hawks don’t need him to light up the scoreboard right away. He’s no savior, and he doesn’t need to be a savior. Teravinen’s another piece on the NHL’s deepest team.
Getting the most out of his game long-term should be the focus, not an immediate explosion of points. If Teravainen’s developed correctly, the points and top-six minutes will be there for a 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.