It is no secret that Brendan Perlini has struggled in his time as a Chicago Blackhawk. Since being acquired on November 25th, he has just three goals and one assist in 23 games. Not only has his offense been underwhelming, but his defense has also been a major concern to the team. Perlini has a -14 plus-minus rating and has struggled to stay out of the box with 14 penalty minutes. This has lead to Perlini being scratched twice in his short time with the team.
Is this all Perlini’s fault, or is it a result of the system he is playing in?
While he may never be tied to the Nick Schmaltz trade like Dylan Strome always will be, as a 2014 first-round draft pick, Perlini should hardly be considered as a ‘throw-in’ to that trade. In fact, the 17 goals he scored last season were second best on the Arizona Coyotes in just his second NHL season. Perlini has a tremendous wrist shot and is one of the fastest skaters on the team, and with his big 6’3″ frame he seems like a perfect power forward for the Blackhawks top 9. Unfortunately, he has been mostly used in a checking role on the fourth line, where he has struggled to produce offensively.
Blackhawks Head Coach Jeremy Colliton has been reluctant to give Perlini much of a chance to play with superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and he has also received limited power play minutes despite having 10 career power-play goals. In his time with the Blackhawks, the 22-year-old winger has played an unfamiliar role and received an unfamiliar amount of ice time.
During his first two NHL seasons with Arizona, Perlini averaged 14-15 minutes of ice time per game. Things have been quite different in Chicago though, as Perlini has struggled to find the 10-minute mark in most games. He has averaged 9:56 of ice time so far, which is the second lowest on the team. Even current AHL players Alexandre Fortin, Dylan Sikura, and Luke Johnson averaged more ice time during their short stints in the NHL.
While Perlini’s defense has clearly been a factor as to why he’s played so little, that shouldn’t keep him from playing on the second power-play unit. Perlini scored five power-play goals last season, more than Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. He has shown he can score with the man advantage, but Perlini has received just three minutes of power play time from Coach Colliton. Artem Anisimov and Dominik Kahun have each played 50+ minutes on the power play this season, but neither of them has scored a power-play goal.
Perlini has the ability to give the second power-play unit some speed to go along with the heavy wrist shot he possesses. Jeremy Colliton needs to give Perlini a look on the power-play, or else he is wasting a valuable piece of a crucial trade. The Chicago Blackhawks are making the same mistakes with Brendan Perlini that they made last season with Anthony Duclair.
With the current role that Perlini is playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, it is only reasonable to note that he is a free agent at the end of the season. Perlini is a forward that could be re-signed for cheap, but in order to have a better idea of what he can bring to the table, the Blackhawks need to let him loose in a sense.
It is crucial that the Blackhawks use the last 31 games of the season as efficiently as possible. The young players need to be in the lineup experiencing all phases of the game. Hopefully, Perlini will be playing a more significant role in the top 9 in addition to receiving more power play minutes.
Without that opportunity, the Blackhawks will never be able to truly evaluate the type of player that he can be for them. The worst-case scenario with Perlini would be the Blackhawks failing to give him an opportunity, and then he signs elsewhere this offseason and turns into a fantastic player.
If Colliton gives Perlini a chance to prove himself, it gives the front office more options to work with. With the NHL trade deadline coming up on February 25th, Perlini could be someone of interest to a contending team if the Blackhawks do not like what they see in him. Rather than losing Perlini to free agency with nothing in return (which would 100% happen if he continues to play at this rate), trade him away for anything of value to the team’s future. Because THAT is what the rest of the season is about – THE FUTURE.
If Perlini plays well in a more significant role before the deadline, then hopefully Stan Bowman can resign him for a reasonable price. He’s still only 22-years-old and has an offensive upside to his game. The only true way to evaluate Brendan Perlini is by giving him a chance to succeed in the role he best fits in.