Experimentation by the coaching staff and the Chicago Blackhawks
Coach Quenneville is NOT playing his optimal lineup right now. For example, Jordin Tootoo is just a place-filler while Q figures things out. He’s a pawn. He won’t be on the ice come playoff time.
But he’s useful now. Because it gives Q a chance to try out all the youngsters in different positions. To see where they fit best. This is when he can test their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out chemistry.
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I would expect Nick Schmaltz or Tyler Motte to be a part of a playoff run before Tootoo. Both have been sent back to Rockford for seasoning. There they will benefit from more playing time, and can gain more confidence. Tootoo will not.
Right now, Vinnie Hinostroza has been playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Perhaps this will work out, perhaps it won’t. But if Hinne eventually slots down into a bottom-six role, his time on the top line will only help him to be more dangerous in his new position.
We’ve already seen this happen with Ryan Hartman. He’s looked phenomenal on the third line the last few games after spending time on the top six.
The same can be said on the defensive side. Gustav Forsling was re-assigned to the Rockford IceHogs. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he was called up again at some point in the second half of the ’Hawks’ season.
In the meantime, TVR looks good some nights and horrible others. Michal Kempny is arguably one of the most consistent defensemen on the team. Yet he gets scratched a lot, or his ice time is limited. Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell are both struggling right now.
As fans, it’s fun to try to predict how the D pairings will evolve. How they eventually turn out is anyone’s guess. I’m pretty sure even Coach Q doesn’t know right now. But he’s doing his best to figure it out. Much to all our frustration. Here’s some suggested pairings that have been floating around Twitter lately.