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
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
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.