Blackhawks breakdown: Nick Leddy

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Blackhawks breakdown: Nick Leddy

Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

In his first full season, the 21-year-old Nick Leddy played more games than he ever has in the past (82) and averaged more ice time (22:05 per game). He scored three goals -- none on the power play -- with 34 assists and finished minus-12. He was credited with 93 hits and 124 blocked shots. In the playoffs, his average ice time fell by more than two minutes per game -- to 20:02 -- despite all but one game going into overtime. He scored one goal and assisted on two vs. Phoenix, finishing with eight hits, four blocked shots and a plus-1 rating in the six games.

Boden's take: It was a nice next step season for one of Stan Bowmans best acquisitions since taking over GM duties. Theres certainly room for improvement, but with Leddys natural speed and skill, it seems to be a matter of when, not if for the kid who just turned 21 in March. He now has his first full NHL season under his belt, and a better gauge of how to manage the physical and mental grind.

His youth was exposed too often on the defensive end, as evidenced by the minus-12 rating, worst among the top-five defensemen (including Johnny Oduya after his arrival). But his upside is part of the reason Bowman dealt Brian Campbell a year ago (we know the main reason), and Leddy seems capable of filling that skating, puck-moving, point-producing role. While he scored one fewer goal (three) in almost twice the regular season games he played as a rookie, his 37 points were three more than Brent Seabrook and just three under Duncan Keith, who led Hawks blueliners.

Myers' take: The Blackhawks looked at Leddy as the guy who was going to replace a big part of Campbells game, a puck-moving defenseman who would get more special teams time. It was a lot to put on a 20-year-old players shoulders; sometimes Leddy thrived in the role, sometimes he buckled under the pressure. Leddy was on the ice for his share of goals given up, and he finished minus-12 for the season. But bumps in the road happen, especially when youre a young player given a lot of responsibility in a short amount of time.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: So if this season was a next step, expectations and experience would lead us to believe Leddy should get into the 40-point range. Hes already listed as 191 lbs., but another 5-10 lbs. of muscle would help his game immensely after being pushed around too often in puck battles along the boards. He spent most of the season paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson, but if the Hawks decide to pursue a veteran with more size and muscle from outside the organization, Leddy could benefit even further. Improvement on his shot from the point could certainly help the power play have a bounce-back year. Hes a shy and soft-spoken kid, but if his game gets a little louder this year, it would give this team a huge shot in the arm.
Tracey: Yes, folks, that plusminus needs to get better. Leddy would be the first to admit that -- and it will. If Leddy learns from his mistakes, puts on a little weight and comes into the next season confident and ready to roll, hell be fine. He still has great speed, and when he enters the oppositions zone with it, good things happen.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Leddy's highlights above.

Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Steve Montador, Sean O'Donnell, Brent Seabrook

Up next: Patrick Sharp

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

There's a lot of buzz around the future of the White Sox.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti joined SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss the team's exciting young prospects and how soon they'll be making their way to the South Side.

Also joining Pat Boyle on this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast are the Tribune's David Haugh, Pro Football Weekly's Hub Arkush and WGN Radio's Sam Panayotovich.

The guys also react to Mike Glennon's recent comments and Kevin White’s uncertain status at OTAs.

Plus, they wonder if Kyle Schwarber has finally found his spot in the Cubs' lineup.

Take a listen to the latest episode below:

Preview: Confident Fire face tough test vs. FC Dallas Thursday on CSN

Preview: Confident Fire face tough test vs. FC Dallas Thursday on CSN

The Chicago Fire are on a three-game winning streak, but those wins have come against struggling teams. FC Dallas, Thursday’s opponent, provides a different level of opposition.

Dallas won the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup last year and was the last team in Major League Soccer to lose this season, only getting knocked off for the first time Saturday against San Jose.

The Fire host Dallas at Toyota Park on CSN with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The Fire (6-3-3, 21 points) have more points, but Dallas (5-1-4, 19 points) has played two fewer games.

“You can test yourself against one of the best teams in the league and kind of gauge where you’re at,” Fire defender Brandon Vincent said. “We’re confident and we want to go out there and battle with them.”

Vincent has been part of a defense that has two straight shutouts, although those came against the two-worst goal-scoring teams in the league in Colorado and D.C. Dallas’ attack isn’t the most prolific in the league (14 goals in 10 games), but is very dangerous on the counter.

“They have a ton of attacking talent,” goalkeeper Matt Lampson said. “They’re actually just a solid team throughout and we expect a very hard game, but we are a completely different team. I think we’ve started to prove that and it’s going to be a very good game.”

While the defense will be busy containing Maxi Urruti (6 goals, 2 assists), midfielder Kellyn Acosta has been a crucial two-way player for Dallas. The 21-year-old has become a key player in the middle with playmaker Mauro Diaz, who was third in MLS with 13 assists last year, still out with an Achilles tendon injury.

Dallas has allowed the fewest goals in the league this season, seven through 10 games. Both centerbacks, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman, have emerged as national team prospects for the U.S.

Dallas has the talent, experience and credentials of a top team. The Fire are new to being a contender. Vincent and Lampson, both in their second years with the Fire, said they haven’t seen the team have this much confidence since they joined the team.

“This is something special,” Lampson said. “That just proves that guys like Juninho, Dax (McCarty) and Bastian (Schweinsteiger) coming in, the culture has completely changed and we have guys who will do anything to win. When you have every guy on the team that’s like that, then you’re going to get results, you’re going to have confidence when you play well and everybody on the field is going to play for each other.”

Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV: CSN Chicago

When: Coverage begins 7 p.m. Thursday with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (6-3-3, 21 points), FCD (5-1-4, 19 points)