Chicago Blackhawks: Defending Stanley Cup Champions Face Growing Pains

Joshua BurmeisterContributor IMarch 13, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 18: Matt Calvert #11 of the Columbus Blue Jackets collides with Nick Leddy #8 and Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks as he scores a 1st period goal at the United Center on February 18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

During the current visit to the White House, the Chicago Blackhawks got to meet with someone important to them. No, I do not mean President Obama. The Hawks got to catch up with departed defenseman, Brent Sopel.

Last year, for the Stanley Cup-winning squad, Sopel was applauded for his shot blocking ability and willingness to lay his body on the line to save a goal. He finished the season with a plus-3 and 8 points. In the end, he was shipped out to Atlanta due to money constraints. Most fans were impartial to the deal.

His overall slow and ungraceful skating ability left him mainly unpopular in Chicago.

The only problem is that the Blackhawks do miss him. His veteran intuition put him in the right places at the right times. The mediocre play of rookie Nick Leddy has made this painfully evident.

Leddy has tallied a plus-1 through 32 games played this season. Although not a terrible score, a closer examination of his ice time shows gaping holes in his abilities. His play has demonstrated a distinct unawareness of players on the ice. He has, on several occasions, missed passes to teammates or mistakenly passed into traffic. Most importantly, the mistakes he has made have led to goals or the inevitable overuse of the more solid defense lines.

After everything has been said and done, Leddy has shown promise. He is a quick, talented defender. Unfortunately, he has allowed the rotating door to Rockford to affect his play. Altogether, Leddy has been sent down to the Rockford Icehogs six times during the course of the 2010-2011 season. His affected psyche has left him ultimately a question mark for any potential use in the playoffs or even next season.

The good news is Leddy is only 20 years old this season and has plenty of time for growth and development. For right now, his forecast remains cloudy with a chance for sun.