The Chicago Blackhawks made a surprisingly solid move when they acquired Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline last season. Many questioned the move, given the two draft picks that the Hawks had to give up in order to acquire the defenseman.
That trade ended up being worth it for the Hawks. Paired with Nick Leddy, Oduya moved the puck effectively, while contributing a bit on special teams. He helped Leddy to improve greatly after what was a shaky season for the Hawks’ youngest defenseman. However, down the stretch and the playoffs were a different story.
Oduya, along with Leddy, proved to be vulnerable to a tough opposing forecheck. The Phoenix Coyotes, and similar teams that the Hawks faced, tossed Oduya around pretty easily, which meant some struggles there at the end of last year. Which raised the question of whether or not the Blackhawks would re-sign him or seek a more physical option on the blue line.
The Hawks elected to go with the latter and signed Oduya to a three-year deal worth $10 million. That deal was also questioned. It seemed like a lot for a defenseman that struggled when it mattered most. But that deal is proving to be worth it to this point in the 2013 season.
The pairing of Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson has been terrific for the Blackhawks this year. They’ve been logging quite a bit of ice time, and have been effective at both ends of the ice, which has helped to lighten the load on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in terms of minutes.
Oduya leads the team, and is fourth in the league, with a plus/minus sitting at plus-9. He also has three points to his credit on the season. His play in his own zone has been much better. That, combined with a contrasting style in Hjalmarsson to bounce off of, has led to a much more favorable goal differential for the Blackhawks. And a much better life for whoever is in goal for the Blackhawks.
It’s pretty clear that any questions about Oduya being brought back have been answered. He’s been a strong second pairing defenseman for the Blackhawks this year and has been a huge reason that this blue line has been so much better so far in 2013.