Without Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya Steps Up For The Blackhawks

By Randy Holt

We’ve already talked a great deal about how incredibly absurd that massive uproar from when the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline now seems.

The Hawks acquired Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets for a pair of draft picks in the 2013 draft. Oduya came right in with the Hawks and managed to make an impact, eating big minutes and helping to settle down Nick Leddy on the Blackhawks’ second defensive pariring.

But the true test for Oduya came when Duncan Keith was hit with a suspension for his elbow to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin. Keith received a five-game suspension for the hit, which has left Sedin out with a concussion.

Without Keith, the Blackhawks have needed to step up into a bigger role than the 20 minutes a game he was playing with the them before. And he has proven he can do just that without Keith.

Disregarding that 6-1 disaster of a loss to the Nashville Predators, Oduya was one of the better Hawks in their shootout win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. He played well over 30 minutes, including time on both of the special teams. He didn’t have any sort of night on the stat sheet, but was strong all night, which led Joel Quenneville to lean on him on the blue line.

At this point, it’s not even a question that Oduya has been a fantastic fit for the Blackhawks. He brings that puck moving ability that they needed, has contributed on both special teams, though nothing appears to help the power play at this point, and has been able to absorb large minutes.

The eventually inevitable question is going to be whether or not the Blackhawks should bring back Johnny Oduya, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Part of the reason the trade was so contested by the fans is the fact that he was considered a “rental”.

If he continues to play well for the Blackhawks and step up for the remaining three games of Duncan Keith’s absence, I could definitely see the Hawks looking to bring back Oduya this summer, especially since it will likely be at a lesser cap hit than his current one of $3.5 million.

As great as it’s been to see the Blackhawks step up as a team in the absence of Jonathan Toews, it’s also been a joy to watch Johnny Oduya jump right into the mix and become a big piece of the Blackhawks’ puzzle, here down the stretch run.

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