NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild

And So It Begins – ’13-’14 Hawks Preview: Players A-Leaping

Hello my pretties. I’m back from a brief hiatus, and I’ve returned to bathe in a stream of contract extensions! Oh the paper cuts! Anyway, it’s time to keep rolling with our preview of the upcoming season (can it really be less than a month?) So let’s not waste any more time, yes? Yes. Indeed. How so. Indubitably.

If, as Hawks fans, you could pick one player to make the leap to becoming a better player, whose leap would be most beneficial to the team? -Why?

The answer to me, as it has been for the past few years, is Nick Leddy. While Leddy certainly made a huge jump last year from his first full year in the NHL, the Hawks still need and can get more from him, especially in the spring time.

In the middle of last season-in-a-can, Leddy had fully earned his promotion to the second pairing, as much as Brent Seabrook earned his demotion to it. But that didn’t last when the calendar hit April, and for a few playoff games, and most of the Final, Leddy was relegated to basically a glorified spectator.

The big thing The Agape One provides is he’s still the only power play quarterback on the roster. No matter how much they want to think Keith is, he just isn’t. Leds has far better vision and passing ability from out of his zone. It’s really only second to Seabrook. Now, the power play system may be so fercockt that no one can save it. But Leddy is about the only one with a chance, especially as he’s really adept at getting his shot through traffic.

But more than that, as Oduya gets older and more expendable, Leddy is going to have to cement himself on the second pairing all year this time. Obviously, there is incentive. There’s a longshot Olympic bid acting as the dangling carrot, and of course he’s on a “bridge” contract. So if he wants to be showering trixies with singles and champagne at Rockit in a couple years, he’s going to have to earn it.

Last year, we saw Leddy more willing to skate into and out of traffic with the puck. That opens up the whole ice for him, and we were treated to those breathtaking end-to-end rushes. Leddy also was a little stronger than in the past, and that process needs to continue. Because at times Leddy is going to have to fight his way out of jams, not just with speed.

He also has to play the defense to be trusted on the second pairing, which he’s shown capable of, though not all the time. His gaps were much better last year but can still improve. If he does all these things, it gives the Hawks genuine weapons on their top two pairings (as well as perhaps the best third pairing in the league) and the ability to strike from anywhere anytime. Few teams can boast that.

Runner up: Marcus Kruger – He’s going to get a chance to be the full-time checking center (if Q holds true to his hints that he might move Shaw to wing, where he pretty much belongs), which is what we’ve mostly thought he was designed for. It’s one thing to be solid, and it’s another to be an actual plus. Kruger was a plus on the kill for sure, and will still be first call on that. But now he’s got to be a little more effective at even-strength. He’s going to have to show a little more ass and snarl to be a true checking center, and also his nose around the net should see him pot 15+goals — which he hasn’t threatened yet. With Bolland and Stalberg gone and Bickell likely to be on the top six, Kruger is going to have to help Shaw and the kids with secondary scoring. He’s got the capability, but if he doesn’t the Hawks begin to look a little top heavy.

  • Waylon

    I guess the question on my mind is will he be capable of giving us more TOI in both the regular and the playoffs than last season? Sure hope so, because if he can’t then Keith’s going to look like a rented mule again, ala 2012.

    • Black JEM

      I think he will – another step up for him. He has all the tools. Still young. If he makes the same leap this year as as last we will have a luxury of riches on the blue line. And then Seebs behind will be on the radar screen. Assuming Oduya is on his last contract of significance as is Rosie, and with Clendening and Johns (?) from ND is coming up and Leddy has earned a nice RFA deal when this one expires, Seebs will be odd man out for another juicy contract. Love ‘em to death, but I hope he was hurt or just had an off year, because he was really up and down.

      • lizmcneill

        Too many nachos.

      • Waylon

        While his season was definitely schizoid, we only heard about his other intangibles when the playoffs were almost over – he’s a huge locker room presence, and he played a significant role in their comeback against the Wings. At the very least, he kept Toews from further implosions on the ice. Zetterberg really got up his backside, and it showed.

    • Why

      Or Brookbank is going to have to play extended minutes.

      • Waylon

        If the accountant is the answer, then look out below.

  • Why

    I had about six answers I considered “right” to this question and I enjoyed reading that.

  • http://www.lotsofbutterplease.com/ I am not Chico Maki

    (Sam, if an idiot reader forgot to post a question in the question thread, would the idiot have a place to post one now without hijacking a thread?)

  • bizarrohairhelmet
    • VanDorp’sMullet

      There are some things you can never, ever, ever un-see.

      • bizarrohairhelmet

        That can’t be real. We are being trolled. Two shades of yellow? The horror….

        • VanDorp’sMullet

          Seriously. Buffalo has one of the best, non-original 6 sweaters… why do they constantly have to fuck with it?

    • red palace

      Somebody’s brain about to get cut in half by a pair of scissors

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      Ugliest unis I’ve seen since the Astros of the 70′s

      • Waylon

        JR Richard, isn’t it? Holy crap that guy was one of the scariest hurlers on the mound of that era. When he finished his delivery it looked like he was about ten feet away from the batter.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Whomever plays at 2C

    Then Leds.

    • red palace

      2C, yes

  • 07GreyDigger

    You mean Keith constantly taking slap shots into the other team’s shin pads isn’t the mark of a top flight QB of a Stanley Cup winning power play?!

  • rkeign

    I wouldn’t anticipate Q as being very keen on breaking up the Swede blue line pairing that served him so well deep into the playoffs. Barring injuries, Leddy, I’m afraid, is going to continue in a 3rd line role. But what about Brookbank?