John Jaeckel: TT Arrives Just In Time

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What better way to fill the news during a lull in the Blackhawks’ schedule than recalling prized prospect Teuvo Teravainen?

Is that why the Hawks recalled him yesterday? No.

Again, although these words have been put in my mouth by some who apparently can’t read, I don’t think the Hawks have hyped Teravainen quite so much as some blogs and fans have.

I think the Hawks recalled him because his skill set (sort of) replaces that of a player who went down with injury on New Year’s Day—Kris Versteeg.

Because, Teravainen’s played better of late in Rockford—and this is a way of rewarding that effort.

Because after recalling Joakim Nordstrom and Philip Danault, you might also say now it’s TT’s turn.

Is he in Chicago to stay? Well if he scores say a point every couple of games—and really plays well over 200 feet of ice—maybe. More likely, he gets a 4-6 game look, playing somewhere, some wing, some center, on the top 3 lines. He might also sit for a night or two.

Few, if any, bloggers have been as critical as I have in the past of the Hawks for rushing and hyping prospects. Not so with Teravainen, nor really with any prospects the last couple of years. The Hawks now seem to have settled into the Detroit model for prospect development, letting prospects marinate for a long time in the minors—until they’re past ready.

This is a model that works for a team like the 2015 Blackhawks—loaded with premier veteran talent and poised for a Cup run, where every point in the standings could mean the difference between home or away ice in a round of the playoffs. The Hawks don’t have a lot of room for players to learn on the job.

If this were the 2005 Blackhawks, where TT might be replacing Mark Cullen or Jimmy Dowd, different story.

Let me go back to what I said earlier. Probably the main reason that TT is in Chicago this morning is not that he has become “even more awesomer.” But because the Hawks had a vacant roster spot and a temporary hole in the top 6.

Teravainen is projected as a top 6 player. His game is not suited to a shutdown or checking role.

It’s my observation that after about 8 years of a Hockey Renaissance in Chicago, the fan base has become progressively better-informed and more capable of understanding what goes on, both on and off the ice. Yet we still hear the lament that “TT is better than Carcillo—why is Gorilla Salad still around? Where’s TT?”

So. Tired. Of. Explaining. This.

But here goes, one more time.

Even if you refuse to accept that Carcillo has a role on an NHL team, numerous NHL head coaches have shown that they do—not that THAT matters. Well, yeah, it does, because Joel Quenneville, the head coach of the Blackhawks has too.

So, without getting into the timeworn debate of what Carcillo’s role is, can we not agree that whatever it is, the 175 pound (and that’s probably generous) Teravainen, with his gifted hands and vision, is not suited to Carcillo’s role?

Right.

So TT is here to complement a couple of the Hawks’ current top 9 players, either as a wing or a center. And if you want to gauge how good, or how ready he is, look beyond the nifty passes and stickhandling—because everyone knows he can do that. We knew he could do that three years ago. That hasn’t kept him from the NHL.

Look at his compete and success level along the wall. Look at how covered or uncovered his man is through center ice, or in the Hawks’ zone. Look at how Teravainen handles (or doesn’t handle) contact. Because those are the things that are going to tell the Hawk coaching staff (and the organization as a whole) how really ready he is for a long-term stint in the NHL.

I’ll have a Dallas preview tomorrow, all for now.

JJ