Chicago Blackhawks: Blue Line Preview

keith

Looking around the NHL, there are quite a few teams looking for help on the blue line.

In Chicago, the Blackhawks actually have pretty good depth heading into the shorter season. Playing fewer games should help Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to handle the workload given to them by coach Joel Quenneville, but how the other four slots are filled will make an enormous impact on the coming season.

Here’s a look at the defensemen for the Chicago Blackhawks heading into the short season.

First, let’s get to know the new guys.

RozsivalMichal Rozsival
Age: 34
ht: 6-1    wt: 212
Last year in Phoenix, Rozsival was one of five defensemen to average over 19 minutes per game; however, only two of them played more than 65 games. Rozsival average 19:19 in 54 games last season, adding one goal and 12 assists. In those limited games, he blocked 91 shots and was credited with 62 hits. He also averaged 1:53 on the ice short-handed, which should, hopefully, help the Hawks special teams. Where he fits between the second and third pair is up in the air, but he could certainly handle the workload in a shorter season to be a second-pair defenseman this year.

brookbankSheldon Brookbank
Age: 32
ht: 6-1    wt: 202
Brookbank skated in 80 games with Anaheim last year, contributing three goals and 11 assists while averaging 15:36 per night. Like Rozsival, he could be heavily involved in the Hawks’ penalty killing unit this year; he ranked third on the Ducks, averaging 1:49 per game on PK duty. He was credited with 120 hits and 110 blocked shots last season. He likely figures into the Hawks’ bottom pair, battling to get into the lineup as the 6/7 defenseman each night. Perhaps the more intriguing question is who will be skating on that bottom pair with Brookbank each night.

OduyaJohnny Oduya
Age: 31
ht: 6-0    wt: 190
We got to see a little of Oduya in Chicago after the trade deadline last season, and he was at least adequate skating next to Nick Leddy; he posted five points (one goal, four assists) in 18 games and was plus-three. However, then he played six awful games in the postseason and many fans were ready to wash their hands of the perceived rental. GM Stan Bowman still handed him a three-year extension in late-May, though. In 81 total contests last season, Oduya was credited with 140 blocked shots, and averaged over 20 minutes on the ice per game between his time in Chicago and Winnipeg. He could skate on the second or third pair each night.

HjalmarssonNiklas Hjalmarsson
Age: 25
ht: 6-3     wt: 207
The offer sheet he signed with San Jose has become more of a cruel joke than gauge of a young player’s value in the two years since Doug Wilson extended a financial middle finger to Bowman. He did block 142 shots in 69 games last year, but he has never developed into more than an aggravatingly mediocre puck handler; he had more giveaways (51) last year than a frustratingly average Duncan Keith (50) had in nearly 600 more ice minutes. He’s probably a top-four defenseman in most NHL cities, but the Hawks depth could make him a trade chip if/when Bowman goes shopping.

LeddyNick Leddy
Age: 21
ht: 6-0    wt: 191
We started to see some of the offensive promise that made Leddy a first round pick by the Wild a couple years ago last season, as he put up three goals and 34 assists to finish second among Chicago defensemen with 37 points. He also ranked third among Blackhawks blue liners, averaging over 22 minutes per night; he was the only member of the Hawks group of defensemen to skate in all 82 games last season as well. But there were streaks of bad play throughout last year that led to questions, which have become louder after a less-than-stellar performance in Rockford during the lockout. With some talented other youngsters maturing in Rockford, and with this being the final year of his entry-level contract, Leddy will need to be more consistent on both ends of the ice this year.

Keith-Seabrook

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook continued to be the workhorses in Chicago. They averaged big minutes in every situation and were asked to carry an inconsistent group last year.

Unfortunately, the focus of many in and out of Chicago has been the quality of play from Keith since he won the Norris Trophy. Last year was, admittedly, not his best. Some have wondered if Quenneville is using his top pair too much.

Fortunately, Quenneville has the ability to skate depth players like Oduya and Rozsival nearly 20 minutes per night which, coupled with Hjalmarsson and Leddy (theoretically) developing chemistry with them, could (should) take some of the burden off the shoulders of the Hawks’ top pair.

The 48-game schedule makes this season a sprint, and the Hawks are certainly equipped to spread the ice time out if they choose to do so this year. This group must be more consistent in front of the roster’s biggest question mark, Corey Crawford, if this team wants to go deep into the postseason.

This entry was posted in 2012-13 Blackhawks and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Chicago Blackhawks: Blue Line Preview

  1. Will says:

    I think with the combination of more blocked shots, and a stronger more disciplined defense, Crawford should really come into his own this year. He can make stellar saves when he is not concerned with so many loose ends going on around him all at once. Hopefully Leddy will show more maturity (Which I believe he can do,) Oduya will learn from his postseason mistakes, and Rosy and Brookbank will add the needed depth. I really think if these guys can come together and put their minds to it, this will be a perfectly rounded defense. I’m not quite sure what has happened to Hammer over the last couple of seasons, but I love his play early in his career, especially during the Cup season. He still blocks shots like nobodies business, but he just needs to get more focused. If he does not start the season right, trading him would not bother me if we can get something worthy in return. Overall though, I think our defense has had valuable parts added, along with another season of needed maturity notched on the belt.

  2. wall says:

    Tab, love “the financial middle finger”

    Bowman has done a good job of adding depth in this “condensed” season…

    Rosy is a capable addition… Stanton put up good +/- in Rock… Stanton impressed me with his ability to play the body and gaps in practice Monday. I wouldn’t mind seeing him play some real games (when someone goes IR) to see what he can do…

    Hawks D needs to play the body more when puck gets to the net… this is where Leddy and Keith are weakest… and what makes the average Crow look less than average.

  3. Nick says:

    Tab, great article as usual. I noticed that you didn’t comment on Steve Montador. Where does he fit in with the Blackhawks defence? Even with all of these players, the blue line is crowded and he makes it that much more. Thanks

  4. Tab Bamford says:

    With Montador suffering a setback in his return from last season’s concussion, his future is undoubtedly in question. I’m not sure he’s any higher than 6-7 on the depth chart even if healthy this year. Personally, I would rather Ryan Stanton get ice time than Montador at this point; concussions are awful, and we’re seeing more and more retired players having significant issues because of head injuries. I hope he takes care of himself first and foremost.

  5. SouthSideHawkMan117 says:

    I am still very surprised that Hammer is on the team. It would be great if he can bounce back and put together a strong season. If not I think its a toss up between him and Leddy being traded. The best thing the Hawks can do is play well and then move one of these guys during the trade deadline. I have a feelings players will be even more “at a premium” b/c after 24 games or so, its hard to say who will be in and who will be out of the playoffs. I would say everyone but Columbus has a legit shot at the cup this season. 48 game sprint.

  6. Ben Radke says:

    @will , “I’m not quite sure what has happened to Hammer over the last couple of seasons,” He unfortunately never progressed in skating, puck work, passing or even checking. He has become a faster player and a very good shot blocker. However, he has absolutely not increased any of his skills to accumulate 3.5 million dollars of worth. Bowman has a quick 48 game season to assess the Hammer, and decide whether to dump him a lot. I wouldn’t trade him with such a short season unless we got a very good packaged deal for another defencemen.

    I truly believe Crow will be much better this short season with a more seasoned, healthy and more balanced defense. I think we are going to see the minutes even out a lot more, which should result in Keith and Seabrook playing much better hockey on the blue line. This should give Crow the much needed room for him to focus on the PUCK instead of worrying of forwards breaking through are line for one on one, like we saw way too many times last year.

    TAB, what are your thoughts on LEDDY and any possible trades? I think he had a very solid season last year. His numbers prove it. He had some sloppy play here and there, but overall he is progressing very well overall. Do you think the brass will trade him because of his agents actions with “that” player that ended up in Minnesota?….

    Sir_Radke

  7. Will says:

    He has always been a good shot blocker, that is his upside. But he does not lay down hits like he used to, maybe it has to do with something to do with his suspension two seasons ago. He has so much upside but he has not taken advantage of it all, thats all I’m saying.

  8. jeff says:

    Its put up or shut up for Leddy this year. Hoping he is better than last year, total defensive zone liability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>