The way the Utica Comets have handled young players has been the subject of many online debates this season, which is why I was surprised that Jonathan Dahlen’s comments about his time in Utica mostly flew under the radar.
A lot was made of Dahlen’s denial that he asked for a trade, but what was more interesting to me were his comments regarding how he felt about his development during his time in Utica, in an interview he gave to Swedish Publication Sundsvalls Tidning:
My whole career I have loved hockey, I have always been happy and I have gained energy from it, I have walked around with a smile on my face. It has been tough when you haven’t really been given the chance to play your own game, and if you make a mistake you get to sit and you get an earful. I have been in a tough spot, it works for some, but not for me.
I have had a tough season and I have been feeling up and down. They have treated me in a way that hasn’t brought forward the best hockey player in me nor developed me in the right way. That’s what I have told the agent, that it is the wrong way to treat me if they want me to develop.
Dahlen’s statements could certainly just be sour grapes, but they’ll do nothing to dispell the notion that there has been trouble on the farm regarding how the team is developing their young players. What do you think? Are you satisfied with the way the Comets have handled their youth this season? If not, what would you change?
Last week I asked: Who would you like to see as Hughes’ defense partner? Should the team allow him to play more than 10 games?
Given that Hughes is still recovering from injury, I’d sit him out a couple of games, then get him into a few practices with the team and healthy scratch him, and get him in the final 9 games of the season. That gets him an NHL paycheque, eases him into the lineup, ensures he’s not playing on an injured food, and protects him from exposure to the expansion draft.
I honestly can’t see any reason for the team to rush him into the lineup or play him more than nine games to finish the season.
As for partners? I’d like to see the following pairs to end the season, in a few games’ time when everyone’s healthy:
Edler / Tanev
Hughes / Stetcher
Hutton / Biega
I expect the answers to be almost unanimous.
1. If both are healthy enough to play, Tanev seems like the best available partner for Hughes the remainder of this season. Hughes biggest step is likely to be learning to play defence at the NHL level and Tanev is the most knowledgeable and consistent defensively among the right side d-men.
2. It would seem beyond comprehension to even consider playing Hughes to the extent the Canucks would have to protect him in the expansion draft. Hughes development is not going to depend in any way on whether he gets into 8, 9 or 11 games this season. He’s not going to get the Canucks into the playoffs playing an extra game or two or three.
It is possible that it won’t matter much for expansion purposes, but we can’t tell at this time how things look on the protected list two years from now. I don’t think it is good for the franchise in the long-term to try to build extra hope to maybe sell a few more tickets this summer when there is some possibility it could cost the team someone they want to keep later.
Sit him for a few, let him hang with the guys and see what the NHL is like. I’d play him a couple of times on the road before he plays at home and just ease him in with sheltered situations. He is a skinny kid trying to learn how to play in a mans league, don’t wet your pocket protectors thinking he needs to be a thrown in as a showcase talent in his first few games in the league.
Anyone that knows better and has actually played has been treated this way since they were a young teenager coming up through the ranks. College to Pro isnt much different than being 15 and playing against 17 year olds. There is a process and the worst thing to do (unless you are a Gretzky, McDavid, Crosby, Lemieux or Matthews) is to have any expectations bigger than “just go out there, keep your head up, have some fun and play the game”.