The Chicago Blackhawks are an average hockey team at best these days. This year’s team is a far cry from the Stanley Cup winning teams earlier this decade. While there is still plenty of time for this team to gel and make a run, they are not serious championship contenders at this point.
The biggest difference between the 2017-18 Chicago Blackhawks and the successful teams of the past is the defense. Joel Quenneville’s system starts with the back end and right now the team does not have the personnel to run it.
Between 2009 and 2015, the Blackhawks defense was fast and able to get to the puck out of their own zone using either their legs or a crisp pass. They were constantly leading the breakout and the Blackhawks were one of the best puck possession teams in the game during that span. Constantly having the puck led to goals, goals led to wins and wins led to Cups.
Nowadays when the Blackhawks defenders are not getting beat to loose pucks, they are out of position, getting pushed around and allowing players in between them and their goaltender. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are not the players they used to be and the young players are learning at the NHL level so the unit and the team is struggling.
One trade that is coming back to haunt the Blackhawks three years later is sending Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders just prior to the 2014-15 season. Leddy was traded instead of Johnny Oduya, a veteran trusted more by Quenneville. Yes, the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in Oduya’s last season in Chicago, but they would be much better now with Leddy still on the back end.
Since his arrival in New York, Leddy’s production has gone up with seasons of 37, 40 and 46 points. He currently has three goals and 12 points in 17 games this season. His ice time has gone up as well. After averaging just 16:22 a game in his last season with the Blackhawks, he has had an average ice time of 21:55 in 257 games with the Islanders. He has been a positive Corsi player in all but one season in New York.
Leddy would be the ideal defender to run the Blackhawks system, but he was sacrificed for one more season of Johnny Oduya. To add insult to injury, the Hawks have nothing to show for the trade. Yes, Ville Pokka is still with the Rockford IceHogs, but at this point it is feasible that he never develops into an NHL player as he has been passed on the organizational depth chart by younger players.