Will The Blackhawks Re-Sign Defenseman Johnny Oduya?
There are few things associated with the Chicago Blackhawks that are more frustrating to discuss than team defense. “Good” would not be a word anyone would use to describe the blue line. “Mediocre”, “just okay”, “shaky”, and “abysmal” all would have fit the bill at one time or another in 2011-2012.
Brent Seabrook was really the only calming, consistent presence on a Hawks blue line that featured an inconsistent Duncan Keith, a green Nick Leddy, a misused Steve Montador, and a useless-in-everything-but-shot-blocking Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Those defensive issues made Johnny Oduya‘s arrival to Chicago much more welcome. The Hawks acquired Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets, to a massive uproar from Hawks fans that wanted more. Only “more” wasn’t availabe in this year’s market. Oduya was as good a move as Stan Bowman could have hoped to make.
For the most part, it was a move that worked out well for the Hawks, at least in the regular season. His speed and puck movement helped make up for at least some of the loss of Brian Campbell and he was a contributor on both special teams.
He was also a great linemate for Nick Leddy. Leddy was forced into a role that he likely wasn’t ready to assume, in trying to replace Campbell, and Oduya’s presence helped to settle him down. During the regular season, the two performed really well together. But in the last few games of the regular season, and in the postseason, the shine from that pairing dulled.
Both Leddy and Oduya were completely beat and outmuscled to every puck against the ruthless forecheck of the Phoenix Coyotes. Oduya was particularly awful, getting tossed around like a rag doll by the Coyotes forwards.
Essentially, it was two completely different seasons for Oduya with the Hawks. He showed that he could be a good piece, as an offensive player, but against a physical team like Phoenix, his play in the defensive end is going to be a major concern. Now that the Hawks have seen both sides of the coin, will they seek to bring back Oduya, who is an unrestricted free agent?
Bowman has already said that the team will look at bringing Oduya back. Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen. He likely wouldn’t cost much, but the Blackhawks could look to bring in a defenseman with a more physical game, like a Matt Carle or Jason Garrison.
I would say that the chances are pretty decent the Hawks will bring back Oduya. It’s no lock, but they like his offensive game and he’ll be on the cheaper side of things.