I don't think they should abandon the process and rush Mantha, Pulkkinen, Athanasiou, Mrazek, and some of the young defensemen all up here next year, but start leaving room for some of them to get a decent taste of NHL action and go from there.
Reserving spots for kids who may or may not be ready? What if they're not ready? I just feel like we're inventing a problem where none actually exists.
I think the system is in place not because Holland and Babs categorically don't trust kids, but because they don't want to have to rely on kids who may not be ready. Generally, they want Kid A to be Plan B until he's really ready to be Plan A. We know there'll be injuries every season and a couple of underachieving regulars along the way. Worst-case scenario: a kid is overly ready but stuck behind someone on the depth chart. That's better than having a kid on the roster who isn't ready but might as well stick it out because we don't have a Plan B.
To me, it's a lot like shark teeth.
Sharks have numerous rows of teeth
When you consider the number of teeth a shark uses during this lifetime, this information is hardly a surprise. A shark’s teeth are arranged in rows, the number of which varies from species to species. The row nearest the front of the mouth is the “working” row of teeth (though some sharks use up to the first 8 rows of teeth), and they are the largest teeth in a sharks’ mouth. The second row of teeth is smaller than the first row of teeth, the third row of teeth is smaller than the fourth row, and so on. Every time a shark loses a tooth, the tooth in the row behind it moves up to take the lost tooth’s place. This is possible because sharks’ teeth are not embedded in the jaw, but are attached to the skin covering the jaw.
Teeth are continually being grown
New teeth are continually grown in a groove in the shark’s mouth and the skin acts as a “conveyor belt” to move the teeth forward into new positions. Sharks’ specialized teeth have allowed sharks to develop a very strong jaw. Without the ability to quickly replace teeth, a shark’s jaw could not have developed as powerful of a bite. The number of teeth they routinely lose while catching prey would outweigh the quick-kill benefits of their crushing jaw strength.