Give Teravainen chance to grow before anointing him next star

Written By BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist Posted: 03/23/2014, 02:35am
Array Teuvo Teravainen stood out in the Finnish Elite League, and the scouting report says he handles the puck well. | Getty Images

There ought to be a requirement: To begin to make the case that Teuvo Teravainen is the Blackhawks’ savior, you have to be able to spell and pronounce his name correctly.

What worries me is that the more obsessed among you will be able to tell us his birthdate and how far apart his mother’s contractions were when she went to the hospital.

I half-expected Madison Street to be covered with palm branches for the kid’s arrival Friday at the United Center. First impressions? He reminds me of a young Kosuke Fukudome. All right, that’s completely unfair. The hype leading up to Fukudome’s debut with the Cubs was surpassed only by the hype that followed his first game. Fukudome T-shirts, headbands and jerseys flew off the racks. Turns out he was so-so as a player.

Teravainen is supposed to be much more than that. I know this because I read it on Twitter. Patrick Kane’s recent injury only has intensified the buildup for the 19-year-old from Finland.

‘‘I don’t need to be like Superman here,’’ Teravainen told reporters Friday.

Actually, yeah, you do, Teuvo. If I’m reading fans’ expectations correctly, the headline in the Sun-Times on Saturday should have been, ‘‘Teravainen needs to be like Superman!’’

Let’s stop with the nonsense. All of it.

Kane’s injury — almost surely a knee injury — is a relatively minor one as top-secret knee injuries go. Let’s take general manager Stan Bowman at his word on that. There’s no reason not to, and there’s little gain in it for the Hawks if Bowman is being disingenuous. You, Mr. Fan, can allow yourself to descend into the depths of darkness if you want to, but the Hawks sure aren’t acting like a team that knows Kane is badly hurt. Until there’s proof otherwise, the injury is what Bowman says: ‘‘Nothing too serious.’’

Kane will be out for the rest of the regular season, which sounds grim but isn’t. It’s three weeks, then comes the real stuff. The playoffs.

‘‘He’s a player that really knows how to turn it on and rise to the occasion when he needs to,’’ teammate Kris Versteeg said. ‘‘He’s a big player in big games, so I think these three weeks will help him get stronger and rested.’’

‘‘He’s going to be ready at the right time,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said.

These aren’t people looking for a sliver of a silver lining; these are people looking at the truth. Kane should be fresh for the postseason.

Chicagoans have major trust issues when it comes to knees. Derrick Rose has had two knee injuries, both of which have brought Bulls fans to their knees. Worst-case scenarios seem to be the only scenarios Rose knows. But there’s no correlation here with Kane. Other athletes’ knees have been known to heal quickly. Really.

I know knee injuries are tricky things, and did I see how Kane was wincing on the Hawks’ bench after he was hurt Wednesday? Yes, I saw all of it. But it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not the beginning of the Teravainen Era, either.

Teravainen isn’t here to take Kane’s spot or even to take up the slack while Kane is out. He eventually might end up being the superstar some Hawks fans have created in their minds, but — for now, anyway — let’s just assume he’s a wide-eyed, hockey-stick-thin kid who needs some room to grow. What do you say we give it to him?

Teravainen looked like he belonged during the Hawks’ training camp in September, and he stood out in the Finnish Elite League. The scouting report says he handles the puck extremely well, sort of like — I hate to write this — Kane. The team is smart in attempting to tamp down the expectations raging around him. It probably won’t do much good, but it’s worth the effort.

It’s not easy being an athlete in Chicago, and it’s certainly not easy being the Next Big Thing for the Blackhawks. Fans have dramatic mood swings that are tied to the fortunes of the Hawks. So Kane injury = depression. and Teravainen arrival = Hall of Fame induction. It must be emotionally exhausting.

By the way, the kid’s name is pronounced TAY-voh tair-uh-VIGH-nehn. But, then, you already knew that.

I just hope it doesn’t end up sounding like ‘‘Tebow.’’

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