Nick Leddy: A Perfect Ten, Or Even Higher?

 

Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America

 

Tim Currell, formerly a writer here at BlackhawkUp who now writes with Jeffrey Bartl over at Cheer the Anthem, wrote an article two weeks ago regarding the Chicago Blackhawks blue line. In that article he stated that Nick Leddy would be best off getting 6-10 minutes of ice time per night.

Leddy is past that. He’s done with the AHL, he’s completed that step. He needs 6 – 10 minutes a night against world-class players in the NHL, surrounded by veterans, coaches and a support staff who can mentor him. He also needs to practice with an NHL team, get an NHL conditioning plan, work with NHL video coaches, and have a night off to watch every few games or so. Moving Leddy to the stage where he can put in 20 minutes a night can’t be rushed, or we’d be tossing a well-rounded talent out the window. The Blackhawks’ brass knows this, which is exactly why they brought in Montador to replace Brian Campbell.

I replied in the comment section that Leddy will get closer to 14-18 minutes per game. Tim refined his prediction to Leddy getting closer to 10 minutes, but definitely not over 14. I was going to reply further to him there, but I believe the topic needs a full article – or two. With Brian Campbell traded this summer, Leddy, more than any other returning player, will be in the spotlight and likely be the cause of much debate. So why not start it off here? What will be Nick Leddy’s role on this team, and what kind of minutes will that entail?

 

It ain’t Soup, but it says Leddy, Leddy, Leddy on the label, label, label…

Let’s first get out of the way the fact that I disagree Steve Montador was brought in to replace Soupy. This is also, in part, a basis for my opinion of how much TOI Leddy will get this year.

Initially, when Leddy started last season in Chicago, it made some sense for him in particular to get the call from Rockford. Campbell was going to miss the first month and the Hawks lacked a defender with offensive skills. But when Leddy was brought up permanently – after Campbell had returned to the lineup – it didn’t pass the smell test. The Hawks already had two puck-moving defensemen; no need for a 3rd. What they needed was a shutdown #6 defenseman who could contribute on the PK. Leddy by no means fit that description. It’s obvious now that he was being groomed to replace Campbell. Leddy’s development was rushed in order to make a potential trade this offseason possible. Leddy, not Montador, is therefore replacing Campbell.

What Montador is, is a huge upgrade to Nick Boynton. With Campbell’s contract off the books, the Hawks had room to again add depth to the defense. They used it. And defensive depth throughout all three lines is much more important than depth at forward.

In tight games where a coach wants to keep his 4th line forwards on the bench, he can do that and still limit his top forwards’ TOI to less than 25 minutes. Less than 10 minutes TOI for 4th line forwards is palatable – in fact, it happens all the time. They load up on extra minutes during clear victories and typically average between 8-12 minutes of ice time per game over the course of the season, the upper end reserved for centers who also get time on the PK. But these are the forward lines we’re talking about. There are 12 of them and only 6 defenders, which brings me to my next point.

 

10 minutes till Wapner

Maybe it was an exaggeration, or a misunderstanding of the standard distribution of TOI among defenders, but a hope of 6-10 minutes per game for Leddy, or even an expectation of around 10 minutes, just doesn’t jive with traditional norms. Even the worst defenders typically skate more than 10 minutes per game, and on teams that don’t have the likes of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook eating up big minutes, even the low man on the totem pole gets more, sometimes much more.

But we’re talking specifically about the Hawks, so let’s look at them. Since the lockout, Chicago has had only two defenders average less than 10 minutes TOI for the season. This number includes call-ups who only played a handful of games or less in the NHL. So, even “protected” defenders get over 10 minutes of ice time.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the actual TOI that the “worst” defenders on the Blackhawks have received since the lockout.

In six seasons, only Danny Richmond who played a total of 7 games in 2008 and John Scott have averaged less than 10 minutes. And John Scott is a special case (in more ways than one) because his time is skewed by the large number of games he (cough cough) skated at forward. Again, you can occasionally hide weak players at forward without stressing your top players. You can’t do that on defense, not regularly, and certainly not with more than one guy. And I definitely don’t believe Leddy will be “that guy.”

Unless Leddy completely craps the bed, he’ll be up for more than 30 games this season. That would put him in the first category which has averaged 14:08 mins/game over the past six seasons. But that figure is also again skewed by the likes of John Scott and his minimum wage cohorts last year. That won’t be the case in 2011-12. If I remove 2010-11, the #6 and #7 defenders averaged at least 15 minutes per game from 2005-06 thru 2009-10, well within my 14-18 minutes prediction. But Leddy won’t be the #6 or #7 defender, so his TOI should be even higher than 15 minutes.

That wraps up the first part of my two-part series on Leddy. On Monday, I’ll post part two where we’ll further refine Leddy’s projected TOI, take a look back at his 2011 campaign, and discuss his and Steve Montador’s roles this coming season.

John Schultz
Lead Writer, BlackhawkUp
Follow me on Twitter @ChiNativeSon

Topics: Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks, Danny Richmond, Defense, Duncan Keith, Hockey, John Scott, NHL, Nick Leddy, Steve Montador, TOI

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  • Pingback: Nick Leddy: A Perfect Ten, Or Even Higher? – Blackhawk Up | Duncan Keith

  • FrankRekas

    Have to agree John that Nick needs to play closer to the 14 minute threshold that you’ve stated. I think we can all conclude that Keith and Seabrook played too much last year, and the end result is that their play suffered. Whether we care to admit it or not. With those two just a bit fresher, things change completely. I see Leddy as a younger version of Campbell. If he puts on some weight and gets stronger hopefully he’s survive the beating he’ll take.

    As for Montador, he’ll be perfect in the 5-6 role. He’s physical presence will be a great addition and he’s not a guy that you have to worry about making too many bonehead plays. I just read a saying that you know a defenceman is doing his job when you don’t hear much about him. That will be Montador.

  • johnnymor68

    I like Leddy at the point on the pp. He just needs to learn to make sure he doesn’t forget his defensive responsibilities. He has some speed and a pretty wicked slap shot. I think he can fill in nicely for Campbell and comes at a much cheaper price. Campbell never put up the offensive numbers expected, when he signed his monster deal. He had a decent late run in the Cup year, following his injury and was tops or near tops in the league last year with +/- rating. His offensive skills and speed will not be missed as much, if Leddy continues to develop. He should feel more comfortable this season and with excellent veteran defensemen around him, he should strive to be as good. The Blackhawks strength during the Cup run was solid, stifling defense. This coupled with solid goaltending and a potent offensive attack gives me high hopes to bring back Lord Stanleys Cup! I can’t wait!!

  • DaleHalas

    Montador was indeed brought in to replace Campbell. He was brought in to replace Campbell’s 18 or so minutes playing the Hawks 5th D-Man. So all people are really talking about is replacing that extra time Campbell played in a top 4 role.

    If Leddy takes Campbell’s power play time and Montador can take his penalty killing shifts then there isn’t much else to distribute.

    And it is very possible that Montador in the 5th D-Man role could end up with more overall time on the ice then Leddy does in a top 4 role. It happened this year with Campbell and Leddy. Personally, I think the two will be pretty even considering the Hawks usually end up with more Power Play time then Penalty Killing time…

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @johnnymor68 It’ll be interesting to see how Q works him in on the PP. Personally, I don’t think he’ll initially get much time there, but by season’s end he could be QB’ing the 2nd PP squad.

    And yes, the depth of the defense should really help Leddy get away with any “growing pains.” IMO this defense is deeper than in 2010.

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @DaleHalas

    So you think Montador is being groomed to replace Campbell? I don’t know where to begin.

    Just because Leddy played on the same team with Campbell for half a season, doesn’t mean he’s not replacing him. It’s just like a manager getting fired and someone moving up from within the company to replace him. I’m not sure why people have a difficult time with this concept and instead want to insist that an overpaid, over-hyped, 3rd pair defender is taking the place of Campbell, who still has an extremely unique and valuable skill set?

    I do expect Montador to do well, but I don’t believe he’s a messiah either.

    Just a year ago, Montador was the #6 defender in Buffalo. He had the lowest TOI of all the defenders, had the weakest zone starts, and faced the weakest competition (per QualComp) – and he still couldn’t finish with a positive plus/minus rating on a 100 pt team. Now people are claiming he’s replacing Campbell?

    If you’re implying that Leddy was top 4 last at 14 mins/game and Campbell was the #5 defensemen at 23 min/game – and that’s your reason for stating that Mondator is replacing Campbell – then I guess we just won’t agree because there’s no math that’ll ever get that to make sense to me.

    You just don’t get 23 minutes of ice time on a team with 2-7 eating big minutes if you’re #5 – and zone starts don’t matter. When your coach regularly plants your ass on the bench in the 3rd period of tight games, like Q did to Leddy, you’re not top 4.

    And just because Leddy skated half his shifts with Keith, doesn’t make him the #2 or #4 defenseman. Leddy was the #5 defender until Campoli was signed, then he was #6. But I’m not going to insist Keith was the #5 defenseman just because he skated with Leddy!

    Monty’s filling the #5 slot that Boynton held during the first part of the season until Q realized, “Wow, this guy really, really sucks!” Leddy’s moving up in class to take over Campbell’s role on the team.

    I do agree they’ll have about the same amount of ice time though.

  • DaleHalas

    It’s not who you are paired with, it is who your forwards are that determine whether you are top 4 or a 3rd pair defenseman.

    I just grabbed some games. When Leddy and Campoli showed up, Campbell paired with Campoli and took 3rd-pair minutes. Leddy and Keith took over top offensive d-pair shifts. Then when Leddy sat, Campbell moved up.

    Of Campbell’s 18 and a half minutes of 5on5 ice time at least 12 to 16 of it was with Campoli. So Montador takes over those third pair minutes that Campbell was doing when he was paired with Campoli.

    Then the Hawks need to fill maybe 3 – 5 more minutes of top 4 shifts in those “extra minutes” that Campbell did when he WAS in the top 4. Which is, in my opinion, a whole lot easier then filling all 18 minutes of top 4 ice time.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011 – Panthers 3, Blackhawks 2

    Leddy: Keith 12.2 – Toews 9.1 – Dowell 0.8

    Campbell: Campoli 12.9 – Toews 3.5 – Dowell 5.4

    Saturday, March 5, 2011 – Blackhawks 5, Maple Leafs 3

    Leddy: Keith 10.0 – Toews 6.1 – Dowell 2.4

    Campbell: Campoli 17.9 – Toews 5.0 – Dowell 7.1

    Friday, March 4, 2011 – Blackhawks 5, Hurricanes 2

    Leddy: Keith 17.0 – Toews 9.2 – Dowell 3.9

    Campbell: Campoli 16.7 – Toews 3.3 – Dowell 8.8

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011 – Blackhawks 6, Flames 4

    Leddy: Keith 11.9 – Toews 7.9 – Dowell 0.6

    Campbell: Campoli 12.8 – Toews 4.6 – Dowell 7.5

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @DaleHalas What happened in a few games when Campoli first arrived? That’s what you’re going on here? Instead of looking at the total season, or after Campoli had settled in?

    One of the major reasons Q didn’t skate Leddy and Campoli together at that time was because Campoli was completely new – and so was basically Leddy. After Campoli had a handful of games under his belt, Q changed things up.

    Last 10 games of the season – Leddy’s partners:

    42% – Campoli

    25% – Campbell

    21% – Keith

    And Leddy had BY FAR the fewest minutes of the bunch. Leddy was the obvious 6th defenseman.

    The thing you’re completely ignoring is that Q was running out hybrid combinations, mostly to protect Leddy. Leddy wasn’t skating with Keith because he was the #2 defenseman and Campbell was the #5 defenseman, it was to avoid a Campoli-Leddy combo on the 3rd pair whenever possible.

    One single stat like like what center Leddy matched up with in a handful of games doesn’t tell us anything unless you also use understanding of the situation.

    Looking at TOI over the last 10 games, Campbell literally DOUBLED Leddy’s TOI: Here’s couple of examples:

    April 1st – CBJ

    7:06 EV TOI – Leddy (7:06 Total)

    23:22 EV TOI – Campbell (31:38 Total)

    April 3rd – TBL

    8:14 EV TOI – Leddy (8:14)

    23:19 EV TOI – Campbell (27:47)

    In those 2 late season games Campbell had an astounding FOUR TIMES Leddy’s TOI. But your argument is that Leddy was slotted higher than Campbell?

    If you’re not playing #2 minutes, you’re not #2. Leddy was #6.

  • DaleHalas

    @John Schultz I’m not really sure what we are arguing about. Near as I can tell we at least were in agreement with just about everything concerning the D.

    Anyway, From Feb 9th to Mar 17th. Q matched Leddy and Keith together and they played the top offensive pair shifts. During this stretch of some 18 consecutive games, Campbell was matched with either Jordan Hendry (before he was injured) or Campoli (after he showed up) and they played the 3rd d-pair.

    At the end of the year, yes Q went back to 72 which put Hjammer and Campbell back together, although there were at least two more games where Keith and Leddy were paired.

    So for 20 of a little over 30 games, almost 2/3rds of the games since Leddy came back, he was playing a top 2 offensive role on the team. That was what I was referring too.

    During that time Campbell played with the 6th d-man and 4th lines a lot. So next year, I expect Montador to take over that role. Which was my only original point.

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @DaleHalas It probably would’ve been better/easier for me just to refer back to the article where I stated Montador is replacing Boynton. You’re looking at the last 20 games or so, I’m looking at the entire season.

    My point, which I didn’t go over in detail in the article and why the whole Campoli situation was a complete loss for Bowman (his only major “loss” IMO), is that if Bowman would have filled the short term needs of the team at the deadline, the Hawks would have signed a player much more similar to Monty to fill the #5 spot and skate with Leddy.

    Bowman first threw off the defensive balance by bringing up Leddy permanently. Then he brought in Campoli, who was most likely “security” for this season in case Leddy faltered. That through off the pairings even more. The Hawks then had 4 puck-movers and only 2 shutdown defenders. We talk about Hjammer having a down year, but can you imagine how screwed up the situation would have been it he had gotten injured?

    Leddy and Campoli was not a traditional or ideal 3rd paring, so Q had to hide Leddy in plain site, but ultimate he was still the #6 d-man on that squad. We’ll see more of Q doing this again this season. Leddy should be in the AHL, instead he’s got some big skates to fill and Q has few options on how to utilize him to maximize his abilities while limiting the visibility of his mistakes.

  • DaleHalas

    @John Schultz John, I’m going to take Bowman at his word on this one. He specifically stated that he tried to trade for Montador at the trade deadline and couldn’t get it done. Montador was obviously in Bowmans’s long term plans. I think Campoli was nothing more then plan B on just bringing in the best player that was actually obtainable. And they really had to overpay to even do that.

    When I talked about the economics of the Hawks having three wingers in their core, I specifically said that the Hawks are going to have to play kids in prominent roles. Leddy has to be one of those guys. Or you simply can’t afford to have Hossa and Sharp on your team.

    If Lepisto was signed as the number 6 guy. Montador was signed to replace Boynton at number 5. Keith, Seabrook and Hjammer are the top three. That really only leaves one spot for Leddy. That’s why I think the Hawks are going to go offense and defense in their top 4. And basically why I point to those 20 games as the hint at what the Hawks plan to do next year. There they paired Keith and Leddy and played them on the offensive side. They were the Hawks equivalent of Ehrhoff/Edler where the Nucks best defenseman (Edler) wasn’t in the top shutdown role.

    I also think the Hawks intend to play their third pair a LOT of minutes. I can easily see:

    Keith 26 minutes

    Seabrook 24

    Hjammer 20

    Leddy 16

    Montador 19

    Lepisto 15

    So Leddy gets 14 minutes 5o5 and 2 extra minutes on the PP. Montador jumps up at the end of games with Hjammer and when 72 are re-united. Also, I see him picking up time on the PP. Of course, that is just my opinion and you are probably right in that it most likely won’t start out that way…

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @DaleHalas I’m confused where you disagree. These are the pairings I keep mentioning all over the internet too. And you have Monty in the #5 slot too.

    But I also only believe these will be the pairing about half the time. And yes, Monty and Leddy should be getting similar minutes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Monty got slight more because there are nights Leddy will drop down and Monty move up to the 2nd line.

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @DaleHalas And I don’t recall Stan stating they tried to sign Monty *specifically* at the deadline. Can you point me to that quote?

    I can believe that they initially targeted Monty or a player of his type. It would’ve made sense. I’m not convinced Campoli was the best they could do to fill their needs though. But even if Campoli was plan B, plan C in Lepisto looks awfully similar.

  • DaleHalas

    @John Schultz Other than semantics, I didn’t think we disagreed at all. And here is one of the links:

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/6266843-419/hawks-fill-top-priority-with-montador.html

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @DaleHalas Well, that was an indirect quote through one of the Hawks mouthpieces. Another reason I doubt Stan tried his best to bring in a shutdown or PK defender. Plus, the chance of the Hawks getting Monty while Buffalo was in the middle of a playoff fight was extremely small.

  • DaleHalas

    @John Schultz I read a direct quote from Bowman that he tried to bring in Montador last year. Just didn’t find it so I gave you the one I did find. And yeah, they couldn’t get him because Buffalo was still in the hunt.

  • matthew.m.mcclure

    John, you’re going to be a very busy man if you’re going to take the time to rebut everything that Tim Currell writes.

  • cliffkoroll

    @DaleHalas@John Schultz Great article John, and good dialogue, guys.

    I agree with Dale that Campoli was Plan B (they would have liked to get a PKer but really needed a d-man), sorta like Frolik, where everyone was hoping for a center. You can’t always get what you want, right Mick?

    I agree with John that Campbell clearly had 2nd pairing responsibility and big minutes for most of the season. And that Leddy is more appropriately thought of as having a go at filling Soup’s shoes than Montador is,

    John, good to see you over your Boynton man-crush.

    Finally, am I reading that right? Keith has fallen to such depths that he’s no longer a shut-down guy? Either that or a dig at Hammer. Hmm.

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @cliffkoroll@DaleHalas Late to the part, the keg’s already dry. We’ve got wine coolers left in the next thread though.

    Not a knock on Keith or Hjammer, just easy to paint things black and white. Plus, Hawks have never had the defensive depth in the past that they will have this year. Keith will have bigger offensive role now that 1) Campbell’s gone, and 2) we have reliable shutdown defenders with some ability.

  • cliffkoroll

    @John Schultz@DaleHalas to be clear: in your mind, the Hawks had only two shut-down defensemen last year. Seabrook…and…Hammer or Keith?

  • DaleHalas

    @cliffkoroll@John Schultz You “beg the question” there don’t you. Q “trusted” three D-Man last year in critical defensive situations: 72 and Hjammer.

    Campbell had an awesome defensively responsible year last season. He just did it in more offensive situations against lesser talent. He just wasn’t a top guy against the top guys defensive player.

    Still, it will be harder for the new guys to replace the defensive results of Campbell last year, then his offensive exploits.

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @cliffkoroll Like I said, it was just easier to paint things black and white instead trying to categorize every single defenseman.

    Obviously things aren’t black and white and their roles change depending on the situation or pairing. Do you need me to write Keith: 55%Off/45%Def, Seabs: 65%Def/35%Off, etc? You’re reading waaaaay too much into one sentence in a long comment.

    Yes, Keith’s a great defender, but he would definitely be considered more of a puck-mover than a shutdown defender (which often infers “lacking offensive talent”). If you need me to say “two-way defender” that would be the closest to the truth, but then you could counter that Seabs is also a decent two-way defender, etc, etc.

    And yet again, I didn’t have any issues with Keith’s defense, it was his offense that looked bad. I’m not sure if you recall my theory on that.

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    @FrankRekas

  • cliffkoroll

    @John Schultz are you being deliberately obtuse?

    /shawshank’d

    Weber and Lidstrom can play offense, but would anyone say they weren’t shutdown defensemen?

    The Hawks had three shutdown defensemen last year, IMO. You said they had two. It was a simple comment, and I can’t be blamed for the subsequent back-and-forth if you didn’t grok my point right away. no biggie…