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: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by Rick Telander (Chicago Sun-Times) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) to talk Bulls. 

The panel breaks down the trade with Oklahoma City and question whether the team is better or worse now. 

Later, the guys talk about the Blackhawks' trade for Tomas Jurco and also break down the upcoming Daytona 500. Finally, Telander discusses his five-part series chronicling the Orr High School basketball team as they excel on the court and try to survive off it. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

General manager Stan Bowman saw the potential in Tomas Jurco several years ago.

For the 24-year-old forward, it wasn’t working out with the Detroit Red Wings. Perhaps a change of scenery, an opportunity on a team that could vie for another Stanley Cup, makes a difference. The Blackhawks are about to find out.

The Blackhawks acquired Jurco for a third-round pick in this year’s draft on Friday afternoon. The 24-year-old Jurco has played in 16 games with the Red Wings this season but has yet to collect a point. In four seasons with the Wings, Jurco had 15 goals and 24 assists in 159 games. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that, “things haven’t worked out” for Jurco there and that he wanted to go elsewhere.

Jurco was on a bye as a member of the Red Wings but, now that he’s with the Blackhawks, the bye ends. Bowman was hopeful Jurco would join the Blackhawks at practice on Saturday. Also, to clear a roster spot for Jurco, the Blackhawks reassigned Vinnie Hinostroza to the Rockford IceHogs.

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Bowman said he’s been watching Jurco for a few seasons now.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” Bowman said. “He’s been an accomplished player at a lot of different levels. He’s shown flashes in the NHL, not as consistently as he or the Wings would like, but you can see the talent and potential. You have to have some patience with these guys. It doesn’t always come together right away. I’m not expecting him to carry our team but I think he can contribute.”

It was an under-the-radar trade for Bowman but that’s not surprising. In late January, Bowman said he probably wouldn’t do much at the trade deadline; he liked how the Blackhawks’ young players were progressing and figured, if that continued, the team would be in good shape. Since then the Blackhawks have won eight of their last nine and are just three points behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild. As the Blackhawks kept winning it looked like, if they did anything, it would be a depth move.

So will there be any more moves? At this point it doesn’t seem likely, be it on forward or defense – Bowman didn’t have an update on Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) but said he’s happy with the depth in Chicago and Rockford on defense. Bowman said he’ll keep talking but, “but it’s a little bit different than in previous years when I thought we definitely needed something and were lacking in an area.”

“I’ve had a feeling about our team, not just recently but even a month ago. I liked the way this group was starting to come together,” Bowman said. “We’ve seen that enhanced over the last couple of week here. We’ve seen players step up, [Nick] Schmaltz in particular. [Ryan] Hartman’s been good all year. We’ve seen Jonathan [Toews] become a dominant player again. It gives your team a confidence that you have balance, scoring in different lines. We just added a young player to help us now as well as in the future. There’s a lot to be excited about. I’m not expecting more trades. I can’t predict more will happen but I have a good feeling about this group right now.”