Blackhawks breakdown: Johnny Oduya

774198.png

Blackhawks breakdown: Johnny Oduya

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.

After joining the Blackhawks from the Winnipeg Jets in a trade deadline deal on Feb. 27, Johnny Oduya played in 18 games and scored one goal with four assists and a plus-3 rating. He was credited with 11 hits and 42 blocked shots in the regular season. In the six playoff games vs. Phoenix, Oduya picked up three assists and finished plus-1. He was credited with 10 hits and 10 blocked shots in the series.

Boden's take: Oduya was this years Chris Campoli. General manager Stan Bowman talked of adding defensive help at the trade deadline, and he did it for the second straight year. Oduyas impact was immediate (after Toronto scored on his first Blackhawks shift), as he moved the puck, blocked some shots, and added a handful of points after his acquisition from Winnipeg. He also made Nick Leddy better. An argument could be made that his addition was the biggest key for how well the team played down the stretch to secure a playoff spot. But his impact lessened as time went on, and he struggled during the playoff series against Phoenix -- not that he was the only one.

Myers' take: When the Blackhawks picked up the former Jets defenseman at the deadline, it was met with some skepticism. But it didn't take long to see that Oduya was a good fit with this group. Oduya helped balance out a defense that sorely needed it, adding a veteran touch and taking the weight off the young defensemen's (Leddy and Dylan Olsen) shoulders. Duncan Keith spoke highly of him all season. So did Patrick Kane, who loved the long out passes that Oduya was able to throw his way. Alas, as good as Oduya was during the regular-season stretch run, he was that invisible during the postseason.

2012-13 Expectations

Boden: It would be nice to have Oduya back, but not at the price tag he carried in 2011-12 (3.5 million) as he enters unrestricted free agency. This team has only about 6 million to spend under the existing salary cap, which might shrink. On top of that, his game is a lot like the existing defensive corps (outside of Brent Seabrook) and the Hawks already have some hefty financial commitments beyond the top pair (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador). Unless one of those two isnt back, you know how I believe the Hawks should invest -- or swap for -- on the back end if youve read any of these other individual defensive assessments (size and toughness). Thats also counting upon Leddy to be a more consistent, improved puck-mover as well.

Myers: Much like last season, when they got Campoli at the deadline, the Blackhawks will probably look to sign Oduya to another deal. At least that's what Bowman said at the season-ending media day. Oduya will come at a higher price than Campoli would have after earning 3.5 million last season. He did bring good balance, and the Blackhawks need that again next season. But if the Hawks get to the postseason, Oduya has to be more noticeable.

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

Up next: Bryan Bickell

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

james-franklin-1207.jpg
USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead