Chicago Blackhawks: Nick Leddy Rumblings, and What's Next for the 'Hawks
August, everyone, August. So that means that the season and training camp are rapidly approaching. Whether you like the current makeup of the 'Hawks or not, unless Shane Doan magically decides that the Windy City is for him, it looks like the current 'Hawks are the ones that you will see in the 2012-13 season.
And that's not all that bad. While I have been as edgy and skeptical as many fans have been, when you look around the league there is a lot to like about this club, and barring any major moves in the NHL Central Division, the 'Hawks will be in the mix to win the division.
A few things to think about this month. If you read Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Tab Bamford's latest piece, you will note that he strongly recommends the 'Hawks reinvesting in Nick Leddy sooner rather than later.
Tab knows his hockey, knows his 'Hawks and I hold his opinion in extremely high regard, but respectfully, the 'Hawks should wait on this one.
The skinny on Leddy is that he is still an unfinished player and there is no telling where his career is going to land. Yes, he is great with the puck, but what scares me off and has always scared me off about Leddy are his reads, defensive zone coverage and lack of winning loose pucks in his own end.
This is not necessarily his fault either. Leddy was rushed into the NHL when the cap-strapped 'Hawks took the ice for the 2010-11 season. This coming off a decent freshman year at the University of Minnesota, playing on a sub .500 club and finishing third in points amongst defensemen with three goals and eight assists in 30 games. That's hardly dominating at the NCAA level. And while he was a mere 18 at the time, that was a huge leap for him to take to go straight to the NHL.
But Stan gave him an offer he couldn't refuse and now he's here. So, Leddy never did have the luxury of learning how to better handle his play away from the puck at a lower level against smaller, slower competition. As Tab mentioned, Duncan Keith spent two full seasons in the AHL, working on his game before making the jump. Leddy never did.
Shifting to his other option, he could have stayed for one or two more seasons as a Gopher and had the time to work on his angles and corner tactics against players more suitable for his game at the time.
This is what you have seen 'Hawks prospect Adam Clendening do and I am going to go on the record right now and state that Clendening will end up being a better pro than Nick Leddy. Don't think so? Well, he was a better freshman at Boston University than Leddy was at Minnesota with 26 points, and last season as a sophomore registered 33 points in 38 games. He was one of if not the best defenseman in Hockey East last season.
Is he better than Leddy now? No he's not, but I believe he will be.
There's a player that will be the next big puck moving defenseman for the 'Hawks. He may spend more time in Rockford this season than in the show, but that will only be to his benefit.
So when it comes to Leddy, wait it out and let him play a few months before inking him to an extension. And if midway through the season, Clendening proves to be NHL ready, that will leave the 'Hawks with a few too many puck-moving defenseman and the return on a move for Leddy could be significant.
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His regular season points are great, but as we have seen in the postseason, when it comes to a tough man's game, Leddy is not ready for that physical battle. He'll never be a big hitter or physical force, but he does need to learn how to win pucks, plain and simple.
On the other hand, Leddy could pan out and I could be completely wrong. At the same time diving into a new contract for him right now may be too risky. Considering how puck-moving defenseman Johnny Oduya was prioritized this off-season, maybe the 'Hawks are not as comfortable with Leddy as some may think.
I was feeling a lot more comfortable about Leddy when he was working with former 'Hawks coach Paul Vincent. Sadly, that is no longer the case.
As for what's next for the 'Hawks? Not much on the player front except tuning up for the starting gate. We won't know much about Brandon Saad, the health of Marian Hossa, or improvements for Nick Leddy for that matter for another month or so.
Until then, we can all wonder and believe what we wish. Let's hope the 2012-13 'Hawks will be a title contender.
Oh yeah, and that CBA thing. Let's hope the season starts on time for that matter.
Thanks for reading.
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