Chicago Blackhawks: The AHL Will Only Help Leddy, Kruger and Others

Andy Campbell Correspondent ISeptember 20, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 27:  Nick Leddy #8 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 27, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Blackhwaks 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Perhaps I am in the minority and I hope I’m not wrong, but I do believe we will have hockey this season.

One reason could be the Winter Classic and what the NHL has done to market this game. For this reason and the fact that no player is going to want to go without a paycheck for too long, a deal will be reached before January 1. 

At the same time, fans will have some waiting to do and for Chicago fans what does that mean for the ‘Hawks?

Last weekend the ‘Hawks assigned a number of young players to the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. Of those names, ones that stand out are Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes; and also a few others that have received NHL ice time.

For those of you that have read any of my blogs before, I was hopeful that this would be the case weeks ago.

For players like Leddy and Kruger the timing couldn’t be better.

When it comes to Leddy, anyone that watched last season’s first round playoff exit at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes knows that Leddy still has a lot to work on in his game. While he does provide and offensive spark, Leddy’s not ready to be an NHL defenseman on a winning team. In his own end of the ice, his work in front of the net and winning 50/50 battles in the corners is not his specialty.

As I have said before, this is not his fault. Leddy was rushed to the big time on a salary-capped ‘Hawks team for the 2010-11 season. The 19-year-old had only mustered up 11 points in his freshman year at the University of Minnesota prior to being an NHL regular. Those are hardly statistics that make you NHL ready.

Leddy has never had the luxury of being able to work on aspects of his game at a talent level more suitable for his development. Even half a season with the Ice Hogs will give him this opportunity.

To the contrary, Marcus Kruger is someone I feel comfortable with for his defensive-minded instincts. But here’s the catch: Right now the ‘Hawks have a first-line center in Jonathan Toews and two third-line centers in Kruger and Dave Bolland. 

If Kruger is in fact a second-line center of the future, he’ll have to create more offensively. In the faceoff dot, knowing his defensive responsibilities and moving the puck through neutral ice are his strengths; yet instinctively finding space and creating on the attack should be areas of focus for him.

Andrew Shaw, Adam Clendening, Brandon Saad, Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olsen and Brandon Bollig all need the AHL right now.  Shaw was exciting, but as much of a jolt as he was down the stretch last season, his skills need to catch up to his heart.

So imagine if you will the season beginning in January. A select group of players have had a few months of playing hockey at an appropriate level for their future development. Corey Crawford has time to work overseas without the pressure of being the Windy City’s No. 1 goalie, and players like Marian Hossa and Steve Montador have more time to recover.

Assuming other ‘Hawks stay healthy and in shape, when hockey resumes for a shortened season, this team could be ready to make a run. 


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