At the trade deadline, the only addition to the Blackhawks roster was defenseman Johnny Oduya.
Most fans thought GM Stan Bowman didn’t do enough, and Oduya wasn’t big enough or physical enough to fix what was supposedly broken with the Hawks.
But since joining the roster, Oduya has proven to be a great addition to the Chicago lineup.
The Blackhawks are 4-1-0 with Oduya in the lineup, and he’s skated over 2o minutes in all four of his appearances in March (including a season-high 25:25 in the 2-1 win at Detroit). Those four wins haven’t come against mediocre teams, either; wins in Ottawa and Detroit certainly aren’t easy to come by, and the win against the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers on Friday night was another solid victory.
Oduya has two points with the Hawks, both of which came in Friday night’s win, and is plus-one while having been credited with nine shots on net. In those same five games, Nick Leddy’s play has improved as well. He has three assists and is plus-one since joining Oduya on the blue line.
But perhaps the most important part of the Oduya addition has been his impact on the ice time of the Hawks’ top pair. The addition of Oduya, coupled with the departure of John Scott, has swapped a 20 minute-per-game defenseman for a 20 shift-per-week “defenseman.”
Duncan Keith’s average ice time in March (27:20) is his lowest since November. He and Brent Seabrook have combined for only one point in four games in the month, but the five points from Leddy-Oduya has more than compensated from the Hawks’ second pair.
Now that Niklas Hjalmarsson has returned to the lineup (skating on the third pair with rookie Dylan Olsen on Friday night), the Blackhawks should be able to manage the minutes of their top pair more efficiently and get better play from all six defensemen.
So far, though, it appears Bowman brought in a good player for the Blackhawks’ mix.