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Well, We’re Waiting – The Committed Indian.com’s Season Preview: The Rest Of The Defense (Part 1)

We’re starting to run a little short on time here, so I’m just going to wrap up the rest of the blue line in a two-part post here. Another reason to do that, based on what we’ve heard have been the pairs in this “training camp”, is it’s hard to discern which is the second and which is the third. It might just be that the Hawks have their top pair, and then two others that are going to split the rest of the time evenly. This one we’ll just have to see play out.

Nick Leddy

2011-2012: 82g – 3G – 34A – 37P – -12 – 3.2 SH% – -0.86 Behind The Net Rating

I give Leddy more shit than anyone, I think. Part of it is my appreciation for Brian Campbell and Leddy being tossed into that role before he was ready. Part of it is the expectations were so high, and most of those expectations were built up by the coach and GM themselves. They couldn’t wait to tell you how good they thought Leddy could be and already is. None of that is Leddy’s fault.

So let’s pump the breaks. 37 points at the age of 20 in your first NHL season from the back-end is hardly something to sneeze at. -12 is -12, as is the ugly Behind The Net Rating. Some of that can be attributed to playing with Niklas Hjalmarsson who has become a sped. But Leddy’s CORSI is up around Seabrook’s, which led the team’s d-men aside from the limited doses of Steve Montador. So there are some things to work with here.

Leddy’s play in Rockford isn’t going to get anyone excited. He wasn’t bad, but where you wanted to see him dominate he rarely did. He got better there as the season went on, and you saw more and more of the pushing style of play that we’ve always been promised Leddy would bring.

But not all the way there. There are different factors this year for Leddy. He’s apparently not going to play with Hammer. He will be partnered with either Brookbank or Rozsival, who will be far steadier than Super Nintendo Hjalmers ever was, which will provide the platform for Leddy to take more risks — assuming he feels comfortable with his new partner quickly and adjusts to playing the left side now.

But Leddy is still a big question on the Hawks, and along with the goaltending and special teams that don’t have answers from last year. The Hawks need Leddy to be everything he has hinted he can be. They need someone other than Keith who can push the play with his feet and get them out of their own zone by himself. I think he can be that, but I wonder if the mentality, the balls are actually there with Leddy. Is he too afraid of making a mistake? Does he want to put himself out there? We don’t know.

He can be helped. I would imagine with Rozie and Brookbank in the fold, he shouldn’t be needed on the kill. The struggles there had to have affected his confidence. He still looks the best candidate to QB the power play. It’s now or never for Leddy, because his contract is up after the year. The Hawks need him to be immense this year. Leddy needs it too. Whether we all get it, I really have no idea.

Niklas Hjalmarsson (aka Hammer aka Super Nintendo Hjalmers)

2011-2012: 69g – 1G – 14A – 15P – +9 – 1.5 SH% – 0.17 Behind The Net Rating

If I had written this a week ago, it would have been with the assurance that Hammer was going to be punted at the first convenience. However, with the news that Steve Montador had a recurrence of his concussion in just offseason workouts, the Hawks probably can’t afford to deal Hammer. With Monty out, if Niklas were dealt the Hawks would be down to six d-men, and that’s not enough in this short season.

So what now? Hammer looks to be reduced to third pairing minutes with Johnny Oduya. Oduya should be more steady than Leddy, though he didn’t look all keen under a heavy Phoenix forecheck either. I don’t know what exactly happened to Hammer’s game, but he’s been so jittery with the puck the past two seasons you wonder if he isn’t going through heroin withdrawal. After two years, you wonder how that’s going to change.

However, in a lesser role where his assignments can be picked a little better, maybe he gets just a bit more breathing space and will make less mistakes. He doesn’t have to do much now. Just being a meatbag at even strength and on the kill, and only being smart in his own zone. He doesn’t have to chip in anything offensively at all to be effective. Again, this is another thing we don’t know that we’re going to get.

Michal Rozsival

2011-2012: 54g – 1G -12A – 13P – +8 – 2.0 SH% – 0.60 Behind The Net Rating

I can’t shake the feeling that Rozie is going to get this year’s Montador treatment, and be banished to whatever dark hole that Sami Lepisto had a couch and bar installed in. I also can’t escape the feeling that if he isn’t, Rozsival could be a sneaky good signing.

Ignore what Rangers fans tell you. He was asked to be a top pairing guy there, and that’s not what he is. He’s a big body, a bigger nasty streak that you might remember in the playoffs last year, with better optics than at first blush. That Behind The Net Rating comes from playing the second toughest Quality of Competition on the Yotes last year.

Rozie isn’t going to wow anyone. He isn’t going to chip in offensively. He’s not that fast. But he’s someone who can improve the kill, and can provide Leddy a platform to really start shotgunning up the ice, which is what the Hawks need. He’s not dumb, and can at least make a solid first pass. Watch this one.


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