The Chicago Blackhawks enter the Olympic break on pretty solid footing despite a loss to Phoenix to close out a six-game road trip. Several things are evident as far as the 'Hawks are concerned. Chicago is headed for the postseason and has shown that it can trade rubber with the NHL's best teams when it needs to.
It also is likely that Brandon Pirri will finish the season with another organization.
The young center was sent to Rockford Thursday on the heels of general manager Stan Bowman's acquisition of Islanders centers Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Pirri has NHL potential, having played in 35 games with the Blackhawks by the age of 22. However, it is increasingly clear that Pirri's future probably resides elsewhere.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has long resisted using Pirri as the team's second-line center this season despite what has been a long-time opening. Michal Handzus has shown that he isn't the answer there, suggesting that the 'Hawks might finally give Pirri an extended stretch to show what he could do.
Instead, Quenneville had Bowman look for a younger, faster version of Handzus. Bowman plucked Regin off the Islanders' scrap heap, and Quenneville immediately inserted him into the second line Friday night against the Coyotes.
Pirri is back down with Chicago's AHL affiliate in Rockford. He will represent the IceHogs next week on the AHL All-Star team that will take on Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. I would advise Pirri to leave most of his bags packed following the trip to St. Johns.
Pirri's window to establish himself on the Blackhawks seemed to be this season. Chicago's second-round draft selection in 2009 was coming off of an All-Star season in Rockford that saw him lead the AHL in points.
Pirri was injured in training camp. Despite coming aboard in October and contributing six goals and five assists in 15 games, he struggled on the November road trip and was sent down soon after Handzus was reactivated late in the month.
The 23 games he competed in served as the longest stretch for Pirri with the 'Hawks. Like his most recent four-game stint, most of Pirri's appearances have been in spot duty. Quenneville has shown that he doesn't trust the kid to play enough of a two-way game to let him learn on the job.
In an organization so loaded with young prospects, Pirri isn't alone in needing a change of address to find steady NHL work. Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen faced similar futures with Chicago before Bowman sent them to Florida as part of the trade for Kris Versteeg.
Taking part in Phoenix's 2-0 win over the 'Hawks was Rob Klinkhammer, who has become a very productive forward since being moved out of the 'Hawks organization back in 2011. Andrew Shaw's ascension resulted in moving a player like Klinkhammer, just like the prospect of Teuvo Teravainen makes Pirri expendable.
That's why it wouldn't come as a shock to see Pirri dealt by the trade deadline, likely for draft picks or other young talent. Rockford forwards like Pirri and Jeremy Morin should draw interest from several organizations. Bowman shouldn't have a problem finding a willing trade partner if he desires one.
Pirri is a talented forward and will likely score in the NHL to the tune of 40-50 points if he ever gets a full season to skate in this league. Disagree with me if you wish on that point, but it appears that Pirri will have to settle that issue with another team.