Chicago Blackhawks’ 6 Most Useful Departures To Have In 2017-18
By Colin Likas
2. Nick Leddy
Don’t worry, I hadn’t forgotten that the Blackhawks’ defensive unit is a tire fire inside a dumpster fire heading into this season. On that note, we start with the young blueliner the Blackhawks traded at the last moment in 2014.
Leddy was constantly under a microscope in Chicago, it seemed. There really was no reason for it, considering he was a throw-in on the 2010 deal that brought Kim Johnsson to Chicago while moving Cam Barker to Minnesota. Nonetheless, Leddy faced a fair amount of scrutiny in his early 20s while not playing up to the standard of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and the like.
But Leddy provided something the Blackhawks needed when he was in Chicago, and something they need even more now: a puck-moving defenseman. Keith could do that fairly well before. Now, it’s pretty much down to Michal Kempny for that duty, and Coach Q doesn’t trust him.
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Leddy, meanwhile, has become a top-pairing blueliner with the New York Islanders after an October 2014 trade to get under the salary cap. The most notable asset the Blackhawks received was Ville Pokka, who they don’t trust at the NHL level. Leddy has had seasons of 37, 40 and 46 points since leaving, and the Blackhawks’ defense is getting less and less mobile. Yikes.
1. Niklas Hjalmarsson
Leddy plays a style the Blackhawks really need on defense right now. But Hjammer is far and away the top answer to the question of which former Blackhawk the team needs most heading into the 2017-18 season.
Without Hjammer last season, the Blackhawks might have had to surrender to Nashville before the four-game playoff sweep was completed. They wouldn’t have won the Central Division. They wouldn’t have done much of anything, because Hjammer was the only D-man who was consistently reliable last season.
Providing normal scoring stats for Hjammer wouldn’t be doing him justice. If you’ve watched the Blackhawks for more than 10 minutes, you know exactly what he provides. If you’ve just joined the fan base, or recently met up with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones circa 1997, here’s a reminder:
Hjammer was a defensive hero for the Blackhawks on more occasions than one. He teamed up with Oduya to become to ultimate shutdown pairing in Chicago’s current era. And he eventually turned into a pretty balanced blueliner out of necessity.
He’s not taking his talents to Arizona, after this offseason’s trade that sent Connor Murphy the other way. While you can understand Bowman’s thought process behind the deal, this one really hurts. Not as much as a shot block to the throat, but still.
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Hjammer is by far the departed player the Blackhawks miss most from the last several years. He wouldn’t be the savior for Chicago’s depleted blue line in 2017-18, but he’d make it quite a bit better and far less of a concern. How much his absence will be felt remains to be seen, but Blackhawks fans have opted to guess the amount will be large.