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March 6, 2012 | 4:45pm ET
Give the kids a chance
 Some teams need to give their youngsters some ice time.

CHICAGO, IL -- Every team's ultimate goal is to win a championship.

At the trade deadline, some organizations took steps to get closer to that goal, while others owned the reality of their situation and began looking toward the future. Now, as the final five weeks of the regular season unfold, each organization will continue to watch their future -- either immediate or longer term -- be impacted by the current team's play.

For some organizations, these final few weeks might be a good time to evaluate, and possibly aid, their future.

One great example of this is already taking shape in Chicago, where the Blackhawks are making a playoff run with as many as five rookies on the ice (not including second year defenseman Nick Leddy). The Hawks have received strong contributions from forwards Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes this season, and are now getting significant minutes from Dylan Olsen on the blue line.

But there are some teams, not necessarily chasing the Cup with as much promise as Chicago, who might want to consider a similar approach.

Even if it costs them a post-season berth this year.

We would never propose that teams would intentionally lose games to improve draft position. But just as teams trade away veterans for draft picks as a concession of the current season (see Hal Gill being traded out of Montreal), teams have an opportunity with expanded rosters to utilize their available cap space to get a look at their future.

There has to be a point when the Maple Leafs accept their ultimate fate and begin evaluating the talented youngsters they have in the organization before considering them as trade bait this summer. Having already made a coaching change, would it kill the Leafs to get a long look at Nazem Kardi, Carter Ashton and Joe Colborne?

Similarly, the Islanders are only a few points out of the Eastern Conference postseason, but have five teams between them and the eighth spot. Would giving a top prospect like Calvin De Haan an extended look really hurt their playoff chances? And if it did, would a higher draft pick and a better idea of how NHL-ready De Haan is be such a bad thing for the building Isles?

Some teams, like Calgary and Washington, might not have as many top-end prospects ready for the call, but continued winning might not be in the best long-term interests of the organizations. In both cases, climbing into the eighth spot in the playoffs only to get quickly eliminated would do little to help build either organization.

Indeed, perhaps an even worse fate for both would be finishing ninth, limiting mobility in the draft and not allowing the organization the opportunity to make money on postseason ticket sales.

The other side of this discussion is how, and when, coaches (read: management) asks a veteran to let his minutes be impacted by a youngster. If the Oilers started giving Ryan Smyth's minutes to a call-up like Anton Lander, Smyth could make a case that his pending free agency was impacted by the team's decision to look forward.

The final five weeks are going to be interesting as teams battle for position in the playoff and the draft. It will be equally intriguing to see if some organizations value their slot in the draft as much/more than the eight seed.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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Feb. 22, 2012 Finding the right rental player
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Dec. 30, 2011 Trading Places
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