Chicago Blackhawks: Is Sitting Antoine Vermette The Right Move?

By Skylar Peters

As the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs draw within hours of commencing, one of the most talked-about series features two Central Division rivals; the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Nashville Predators.

Over the past few days, the talk surrounding the series can be summed up with one word: Kane.

Yes, the return of Patrick Kane from a clavicle injury, almost a month before schedule, has polarized fans of both teams. The Blackhawks’ already potent offense will receive a significant boost with the return of #88, and many have picked the Blackhawks to not only win the series, but take it all the way to the Stanley Cup.

However, with Kane back in the lineup, someone will have to sit. In Game One, that will be newly-acquired rental forward, Antoine Vermette.

The news of Vermette sitting in the press-box for the start of the series shocked some, but it was quickly buried amongst all the talk of Kane’s return.

With Game One looming, however, the move has many Blackhawks’ fans examining the cost of Vermette.

At the NHL Trade Deadline in March, it seemed the Blackhawks got a steal with the acquisition of Vermette – a proven prospect in Klas Dahlbeck, along with a first-round pick in a stacked 2015 NHL Draft is a high price to pay, yes, but in return the Blackhawks gained a forward that was pegged as one of the most desirable available at the time, and a proven playoff performer at that.

Vermette was a Blackhawks-killer when his former team, the then-Phoenix Coyotes, took down Chicago in the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals, on their way to the Western Conference Final.

However, that Antoine Vermette certainly wasn’t the one that showed up in the Windy City. in 19 games with the Blackhawks, Vermette recorded just 3 assists, and directed 24 shots on goal, while going -2.

With Kane back in his old spot on the Blackhawks’ second line, it was a given that Vermette was going to have to move somewhere. Moving to the press box, however, shocked most fans, purely because of the price the Blachkawks paid for the 32-year old.

While Vermette sits for Game One, the Blackhawks will dress Joakim Nordstrom, who averaged 8:30 of ice time/game in the Blackhawks’ playoff run last season. Also in the lineup is highly coveted rookie Teuvo Teravainen, who has also struggled to play big minutes under coach Joel Quenneville since he joined the Blackhawks full-time mid-season.

Quenneville said the decision to scratch Vermette was largely “performance-based”, and frankly, no one can blame him. However, this is the time of year that the Blackhawks acquired Vermette for, and no one can imagine Vermette sitting for an extended period of time, especially if the Blackhawks drop any of the opening games to the Predators on the road.

In my eyes, the decision to scratch Vermette was a good one. Vermette was in need of a wake-up call, and after watching his team take to the ice for playoff hockey without him, especially after spending the majority of the season with basement-dwelling Phoenix, he should be more than ready to make an impact in the following games.

Though he could have sacrificed Norsdstrom or Teravainen after Kane’s return, putting Vermette on the Blackhawks’ fourth line could cause a shift in chemistry that renders that group ineffective, at a crucial time of year.

The Blackhawks’ toughest game of the series may very well be tonight, with Kane still shaking off rust, and the Blackhawks fighting an uphill battle without home-ice advantage. If the ‘Hawks drop Game One, expect to see #80 in the lineup as soon as Friday night, with an energy that Chicago fans have not yet seen from Vermette.

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