Chicago Blackhawks: Lockout Could Benefit Some Young 'Hawks

Andy Campbell @@andycampbell16Correspondent IAugust 16, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 19:  Brandon Saad #43 of the Chicago Blackhawks moves to the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 19, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The more you read about it, and the more you hear Gary Bettman's comments, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a lockout this season is inevitable. 

On Wednesday, Bettman mentioned that both the owners and the NHLPA are far apart in how they view a solution, according to the Associated Press (per

So, hockey fans, be prepared. More than likely, Bettman is going to oversee another work stoppage. 

It's a drag, truly, and nobody suffers more than the players and fans. 

To that end, what will come of the season?

You will see more seasoned players head overseas to European clubs to get some ice time, make a decent paycheck and see some sights they would typically not have the opportunity to see. That doesn't sound all that bad—well, for them, I mean.

For the younger members of the Chicago Blackhawks, staying in North America and playing in the AHL or perhaps the East Coast League will be the solution. Considering the amount of younger talent that will filter down to those leagues, the AHL will certainly strengthen this season.

When considering how the 'Hawks have invested in "prized' prospects and are relying on their younger talent for their future, this is not such a terrible thing.

You could rattle off a number of different names in the 'Hawks system who have elements of their game that are not NHL-ready, and a half up to a full season in Rockford would be enormous for their player development.

So when the stoppage ensues and the AHL season arrives, I would imagine players like Brandon Saad, Brandon Bollig, Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olsen and even Andrew Shaw may stay local and play for the Rockford Ice Hogs.

Some are no-brainers and may have started the season in the AHL anyway. For a player like Saad, who all the fans are excited about, it would mean a lot for him as a young professional to have this experience.

Stan Bowman is high on Saad and selling him to the Chicago public as an NHL-ready player. The truth is, what we know about Saad and what we are hoping for are very different things.

We know he is fantastic at playing against kids his own age and showed a lot of promise in the 2011 preseason. We have no idea if this kid, who turns 20 in October, is ready to play 80-plus games in the NHL.

We hope he is, but we have no idea. Time in Rockford against older professionals would be huge for him.

And would Andrew Shaw be better off with a European club? No he would not. He's still young and, while he was an asset down the stretch last year, he's 21 years old and has a whopping 37 regular-season NHL contests under his belt.

It's easy to love his contagious enthusiasm and the energy he brings, but his skill development is still critical at this point in his career.

Now, riddle me this: Would it be crazy to keep Nick Leddy or Marcus Kruger in Illinois should a lockout occur? No way. My money is on Kruger heading back to Sweden, but if he wanted to stay and play in Rockford to work on his offensive touch, there are worse things.

Those of you who know my thoughts on Leddy know that I still think he has some serious flaws in his game that he didn't get to work on in one year at the NCAA level or even in the 22 games he played in the AHL during 2010-11 season. Leddy was rushed into the big time because of the 'Hawks post-cup cap crisis.

While some love his point production, his in-zone play and physical battles have suffered. All things he could work on in the AHL.

Don't think so? Well, you may know of someone named Patrice Bergeron, the reigning Selke Trophy winner. Bergeron played 71 games in the NHL in 2003-04, scoring 16 goals and adding 23 assists as a rookie.

When the NHL season failed to commence the following year, Bergeron spent the entire 2004-05 season with the AHL's Providence Bruins—a move that was monumental for his career as the then-20-year-old was able to hone his game.

And now he's an elite NHL player. 

Of course, if I had to chose, we would have a season. Who wouldn't? But maybe, just maybe, when it comes to the long-term success of the 'Hawks and the many prospects they have, a shortened season will give them time that they may not have had.

Time to become better hockey players and learn the game before being thrust onto the big stage with high hopes and higher expectations.


Thanks for reading.

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