Improved Leddy off to quick start

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Improved Leddy off to quick start

Nick Leddy went through his ups and downs in his sophomore season.
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman put up solid numbers, especially in assists, where his 34 were second on the team only to Duncan Keith (36). But Leddy was also a minus-12 on the season, a number that definitely needed to improve.
And in this early season, Leddy has been an improved defenseman.
Leddy started the season with an assist in each of his first four games, and is sitting at a minus-1 during the Blackhawks run to a 5-0-0 start. Leddy, whos in the final season of his three-year contract, is looking to regain the defensive game he showed signs of during his first season with the Blackhawks. While the lockout dragged on for months, Leddy honed his game with the Rockford IceHogs. He came back to Chicago looking more confident.
That definitely helped, Leddy said of Rockford. And weve all been playing together here (for two seasons). We all had a lot of chemistry together and that definitely helps.
Coach Joel Quenneville said some of Leddys improvement just comes from playing more.
With defensemen, as they mature, the more opportunities they see. That helps you in all aspects of your game, Quenneville said. The more you play the better you play; he got playing time in all situations down there and that should help.
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Leddy said he mostly needed to improve his defensive coverage and Rockfords coaches helped him do that, be it with on-ice tutelage or watching video.
Its about being stronger on my stick in front of the net, making that first strong play and helping get the puck out of the zone, Leddy said. I really needed to work on that.
Quenneville said hes noticed Leddys better defending work, be it even strength or special teams.
Hes got a better stick, hes coming up with some loose pucks and when he starts the rush from our end he can alleviate that pressure and skate by people, Quenneville said. Hes been good on power-play entries as well; and hes got a good shot. Hes been playing different kind of minutes against different kind of guys. Were comfortable against any kind of matchup with him out there but theres been overall improvement in his game.
Leddy has been a steady presence in the Blackhawks lineup but has had two different partners, Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank. Both provide a veteran presence for Leddy, who said its nothing to adjust to eachs style.
They have a little different styles but its nice that we all make a simple, easy play, he said. Everyone has their own style. You just have to get used to it.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”