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Chicago Blackhawks’ Young Forwards Should Garner More Minutes Now

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 3: Carl Dahlstrom
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 3: Carl Dahlstrom /
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The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t going anywhere fast this season, so why not kill two birds with one stone by giving the young forwards some more playing time?

The youth movement is on when it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks. The team is embracing this pretty well, with guys like Richard Panik, Tommy Wingels, Lance Bouma and Cody Franson being traded or sent to the AHL, and guys like Patrick Sharp seeing less and less ice time.

But it’s not a full-on switch. Ice time leaders are still guys like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. And while this isn’t surprising — and also completely understandable in three of the four cases — it isn’t necessary.

I’m not advocating benching all the guys who are older than 26. That wouldn’t make a lick of sense. You’d just be devastating the locker room and causing major rifts. However, I think the vets could be understanding of the young guns getting some more playing time as soon as possible.

This is especially true at the forward position, where you’re talking about 12 guys being on the ice instead of six (with defensemen). So let’s discuss the prospect of getting the young forwards on the ice more.

Argument for the young guys

Let’s look at the Blackhawks’ most recent line combinations, courtesy NHL.com’s Tracey Myers:

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It’s good the Alex DeBrincatNick SchmaltzVinnie Hinostroza line is now the second grouping instead of the third.  It should mean they’re going to be getting more minutes right away.

But even more can be done. Matthew Highmore deserves a healthy look. I’m not sure you’re going to get that playing him 8-10 minutes a night. David Kampf and Anthony Duclair should also be seeing more action, for the Blackhawks to better assess what they’ll have with the two moving forward.

We already know what Kane, Toews, Sharp, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov provide. There’s a fair enough chance Sharp and Anisimov won’t be with the team next season, and I’m not sure their trade stock can be boosted that much anyway. (It’s more likely Sharp just retires, to boot.)

The Blackhawks are in an obvious youth movement, so give the youth its chance to shine. At the same time, guys like Kane, Toews and Saad can rest their legs and bodies in preparation for getting back toward a playoff-caliber focus in the near future.

I realize short playoff runs the last two seasons would suggest there are no tired legs here, but think about the wear and tear these guys have put on. In this argument, we’re also talking about Keith and Seabrook, too. Even Saad has some decent mileage on him by this point.

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Let the veterans mentor the youngsters and do their thing, but go more of an even-minutes approach with these two parties. That would be my suggestion to coach Joel Quenneville. You’re getting nothing out of double- or triple-shifting Kane at this point in the season. Let’s see 14-18 minutes of each of these young guys, let them form chemistry and allow the Blackhawks to accurately assess some of their forward talent.

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