John Jaeckel: Rockford Shuttle In High Gear

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Scott Darling and Joakim Nordstrom up. Antti Raanta down. Nordstrom plays one game, Darling sits. Nordstrom and Darling down, Stephen Johns and Raanta back up.

Quoting Austin Powers: “I think I’ve gone cross-eyed.”

A big caveat here: don’t read too much into it.

The loss of rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, which now appears to be for a while after he was placed on LTIR yesterday, hurts a bit.

Van Riemsdyk has beeb a pleasant surprise thus far this season. He certainly hasn’t, as you fear with many young defensemen, hurt the team.

But don’t assume Johns is replacing him. Johns might see NHL ice for the first time here at the beginning of the Circus Road trip. He might just as well not. The Hawks still have a “healthy” third pair in the now approaching glacial Michal Rozsival and David Rundblad. Is it a “good” third pair that you want to see have extended TOI? No, probably not. But Johns is probably not ready to be a savior either.

My sense of these moves, beyond wrinkles in contracts that might save some cap dollars here or there, is that it gives players like Johns (in particular) a chance to practice with the big club, get some exposure (and vice versa) to the NHL coaching staff—before being sent back down to play in earnest at the AHL level.

Raanta is back because he is truly the Hawks’ backup goalie, going into an important road trip. He got some valuable PT at Rockford. Done.

And I would expect more of this as the season progresses, brief stayovers for top prospects like Johns, Mark McNeill, Philip Danault, perhaps even Teuvo Teravainen, as the roster and cap allow.

The thing to also remember is that Rockford is playing well.

The players there are gaining valuable experience from being part of a solid, winning team. So while you might wonder why a McNeill or a Klas Dahlbeck have not been called up (yet), it likely could be because they are truly integral to the ongoing success at Rockford—it just makes more sense for them and their development to be there in leadership roles.

More will be revealed. And, the Shuttle is up and running.

I’ll have a Calgary preview tomorrow or Thursday.

In the meantime, if you have hockey questions or comments about the blog message thread, feel free to PM me.

JJ