Chicago Blackhawks’ Vinnie Hinostroza Could Be Spark Team Needs

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Vinnie Hinostroza
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Vinnie Hinostroza /

Out of the gates this year, the Chicago Blackhawks seemed to have fire, passion and a chip on their collective shoulder because of two first-round playoff exits. Now, 13 games into the season, they seem to have lost some of that energy.

After two games, a fire the Chicago Blackhawks appeared to have has fizzled out. They’ve pulled out a few wins of late, but ultimately they’ve looked slow and unmotivated.

Now 13 games in, they sit 6-5-2 with a convincing win over the Flyers last night. This seemed to be the first game we have seen in a while where there was a full 60-minute effort.

We had seen flashes, maybe a great first period or an aggressive last 10 minutes, but there had not been that full 60-minute start to finish game. Playing that way, there is no hope to getting any better or further in the playoffs than the last two years. Could calling up Vinnie Hinostroza be a spark that the ‘Hawks need?

An argument for Hinostroza on the Blackhawks

On Tuesday after practice, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville left the ice disappointed, to say the least. He made the team do laps, sending a message that its intensity was unacceptable. Quenneville said in an interview afterward: “I didn’t like the last part of our practice. The intensity and the pace went down to a tough-to-watch (level). It was just, Let’s go.”

This begs the question: Would bringing up Hinostroza, a player waiting for his chance to prove he belongs in the NHL, bring the spark and intensity the Blackhawks sorely need?

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Hinostroza saw a good amount of time with the team last year, appearing in 49 games and scoring six goals and 14 points. What exactly he excels in is exactly what the ‘Hawks are lacking: speed and energy.

It is clear when he is on the ice that he is fast, blazing by defenders and getting the puck deep. Toward the beginning of last season, he seemed to be too fast for his own good. He would skate by opponents, only to lose the puck in the boards or be unable to finish.

Toward the middle of the season, he started to use the speed and his skills to his advantage, scoring a couple goals and setting up some great plays. Ultimately, he was sent to Rockford to be called up for one game late in the season and one playoff game.

In Rockford, he saw 15 games and tallied three goals and seven points. When we saw him this preseason, Hinostroza looked like he had a purpose; he looked fast and was playing confidently, scoring a goal and adding an assist.

He did not make the final roster, but in Rockford he is on a mission to prove he should be called up. Through the IceHogs’ first 10 games, Hinostroza has tallied four goals and a team-leading 11 points, also carrying a plus-3 rating. While he may not be scoring a ton of goals, he is proving to be a quick playmaker and a difference-maker.

Would calling up Hinostroza be feasible?

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The big question about calling up Hinostroza is, where does he fit? Would Alex DeBrincat be sent down? While DeBrincat has looked good at times he also has seemed to look confused or bullied at times.

Against the Flyers, on a line with Richard Panik and Jonathan Toews he looked much better. I feel we need to see a couple more games of this first line to see if it really clicks for DeBrincat.

Sending DeBrincat down to Rockford for a little bit may have a similar effect as it did with Nick Schmaltz. DeBrincat has not stuck out in a bad way, but similar to Schmaltz before his stint at Rockford, he looks a bit timid.

DeBrincat is a shooter so he needs to shoot more. He often seems to pass the puck or look for the pass when a shot is available. I am not saying send him down to stay there, but a month or two of developing and confidence-building may be the key for the young forward.

Another option would be to sit Ryan Hartman. While he started the season strong, some bad penalties and declining play bring him into question.

It seems that he has taken the agitator role a little bit too far. On the fourth line he has been good, but making him sit if he continues to take penalties may be a good time to give Hinostroza a shot.

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There is no perfect answer to when or if Hinostroza will be called up, but if the ‘Hawks continue to need speed and energy, bringing him up could be a quick way to turn that around.