Over the Olympic break, I’m doing a daily review of one or several Chicago Blackhawks players and giving out grades based on their performance during the 2013-14 season thus far. Today, we examine Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya.
Leddy has been decidedly average this year. His skating remains his best asset, and he still possesses tantalizing offensive potential that is yet to manifest. Joel Quenneville still feeds Leddy mostly sheltered minutes, as he has the lowest corsi relative quality of competition among all Blackhawks players (not just defensemen), and starts more than 62 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.
In terms of production, Leddy will not come particularly close to matching his career high of 37 points. His relative corsi is down quite a bit this season, as he is now an “even” possession player compared to his teammates rather than significantly positive as he was in 2012-13.
On the defensive side of the puck, work still needs to be done. Leddy’s positional awareness has plainly increased since he entered the NHL in 2010, but he still falls asleep too often; of all Chicago’s defensemen, he loses his man the most.
Final Verdict: C-
He hasn’t been bad, but it’s disappointing to see so little improvement this year. Hopefully it will prove to be a mere blip on the radar and Leddy’s game begins to trend upward once again in 2014-15.
Oduya’s season, on the other hand, is an interesting case. Often overshadowed by his partner Niklas Hjalmarsson, he is often forgotten when discussing Chicago’s defensive core.
There are definitely some turnover concerns. If not for the league-leading Hjalmarsson, Oduya would have by far the most giveaways per minute of any Blackhawks player. He does offer some positives in the world of real-time stats, however. Oduya is one of the most consistent shot blockers Chicago has, and probably the single most effective; he almost never compromises a shift by allowing an opposing shot to hit him in a tough spot, very much unlike Hjalmarsson.
Oduya’s speed and passing ability are very important components of Chicago’s league-best transition game, skills that often (unfairly) go unnoticed. He does not put up many points, but probably generates the most offense from the back-end of any Blackhawks defenseman other than Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Oduya and Hjalmarsson are used as Chicago’s primary shutdown pairing, and thus face by far the toughest competition of all roster players. They have been successful in this role this year, albeit not quite as much as in 2012-13.
Final Verdict: B.
Oduya has had a solid campaign, but he is yet to match the level he played at last season.