The Blackhawks have been struggling defensively all season. And in the aftermath of the Brian Campbell trade, the onus of his work was put on rookies or guys not far removed from that status.
In acquiring Johnny Oduya today, the Blackhawks hope to alleviate that.
The Blackhawks got Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a second- and third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The move filled general manager Stan Bowmans desire to get a defenseman, and gave the Blackhawks another veteran presence back there.
His style fits in with what we do here in terms of ability to skate, Bowman said. Hes one of the better skating defensemen in the NHL. Hes got a lot of experience, hes played on good teams and hes played a lot of minutes. With our team right now hell be a nice, calming influence on some of our players.
For the 30-year-old Oduya, who spoke via conference call on Monday afternoon, its another opportunity.
Theres excitement, for sure, said Oduya, who will be at Blackhawks practice Tuesday and is expected to play Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Any time youre in a position where youre battling for a whole year, you obviously dont want to leave your teammates or friends behind. But theres an excitement getting to Chicago. Its a really good team and a great place to play.
Oduya has played more penalty kill than power play and said he isnt afraid to block shots he has 98 of those so far this season. Oduya is also a puck-moving defenseman. No, hes not Campbell. But hes more used to playing that style of game, while youngsters like Nick Leddy and Dylan Olsen were thrown into that work with little experience at it this season.
Weve got some young guys -- Leddys just got 100 games under his belt and Dylans come in and played as well. But we could use that experience, Bowman said of Oduya. The way he can skate with the puck and make plays, I think he can eat up important minutes with our defense. Its a crucial time for our team, but solidifying that back end is something weve talked about for a long time. He brings a lot to the mix.
The Blackhawks defensive corps got a lot younger when Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador went out with their injuries. Both Leddy and Olsen have promise, but heaping so much on their shoulders at such a young age could hinder more than help. Will Oduya help the Blackhawks defense right the ship? Is he enough? The Blackhawks have a tough final stretch looming. Theyre hoping this gives them a little more security along the blue line.
In terms of where hell fit I dont know, Bowman said. But I expect him to eat up a lot of the minutes that are being spread around right now.