Cubs

Blackhawks breakdown: Nick Leddy

723094.png

Blackhawks breakdown: Nick Leddy

Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

In his first full season, the 21-year-old Nick Leddy played more games than he ever has in the past (82) and averaged more ice time (22:05 per game). He scored three goals -- none on the power play -- with 34 assists and finished minus-12. He was credited with 93 hits and 124 blocked shots. In the playoffs, his average ice time fell by more than two minutes per game -- to 20:02 -- despite all but one game going into overtime. He scored one goal and assisted on two vs. Phoenix, finishing with eight hits, four blocked shots and a plus-1 rating in the six games.

Boden's take: It was a nice next step season for one of Stan Bowmans best acquisitions since taking over GM duties. Theres certainly room for improvement, but with Leddys natural speed and skill, it seems to be a matter of when, not if for the kid who just turned 21 in March. He now has his first full NHL season under his belt, and a better gauge of how to manage the physical and mental grind.

His youth was exposed too often on the defensive end, as evidenced by the minus-12 rating, worst among the top-five defensemen (including Johnny Oduya after his arrival). But his upside is part of the reason Bowman dealt Brian Campbell a year ago (we know the main reason), and Leddy seems capable of filling that skating, puck-moving, point-producing role. While he scored one fewer goal (three) in almost twice the regular season games he played as a rookie, his 37 points were three more than Brent Seabrook and just three under Duncan Keith, who led Hawks blueliners.

Myers' take: The Blackhawks looked at Leddy as the guy who was going to replace a big part of Campbells game, a puck-moving defenseman who would get more special teams time. It was a lot to put on a 20-year-old players shoulders; sometimes Leddy thrived in the role, sometimes he buckled under the pressure. Leddy was on the ice for his share of goals given up, and he finished minus-12 for the season. But bumps in the road happen, especially when youre a young player given a lot of responsibility in a short amount of time.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: So if this season was a next step, expectations and experience would lead us to believe Leddy should get into the 40-point range. Hes already listed as 191 lbs., but another 5-10 lbs. of muscle would help his game immensely after being pushed around too often in puck battles along the boards. He spent most of the season paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson, but if the Hawks decide to pursue a veteran with more size and muscle from outside the organization, Leddy could benefit even further. Improvement on his shot from the point could certainly help the power play have a bounce-back year. Hes a shy and soft-spoken kid, but if his game gets a little louder this year, it would give this team a huge shot in the arm.
Tracey: Yes, folks, that plusminus needs to get better. Leddy would be the first to admit that -- and it will. If Leddy learns from his mistakes, puts on a little weight and comes into the next season confident and ready to roll, hell be fine. He still has great speed, and when he enters the oppositions zone with it, good things happen.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Leddy's highlights above.

Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Steve Montador, Sean O'Donnell, Brent Seabrook

Up next: Patrick Sharp

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Four days into the Cubs’ training camp restart, we’ve only begun to get acquainted with the new normal of baseball rhythms and routines that we can only hope will result in a 2020 season of 60 games.

If the league can fix some of its early testing issues and keep enough players on enough teams healthy enough to start the season, what might come into play for the Cubs and the actual baseball.

Early observations after about a dozen Zoom sessions with team personnel and two intrasquad scrimmages:

NUTS: Home cooked?

The Cubs, who draw so reliably in one of the unique ballparks in the majors, might have more to lose than most teams without fans allowed to attend games when the season starts July 24.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

Just how much of the Confines’ home-field advantage is lost will be a matter of “wait-and-see,” manager David Ross said.

“There’s always an advantage to playing in your own park,” he said Sunday. “You feel more comfortable you woke up in your own bed. You’re not staying in a hotel room, which especially now, where you feel like outside spaces just aren’t comfortable as they used to be, probably [gives] a slight advantage in your city.

“There’s no substitute for fans,” he added. “There’s probably a slight advantage, but I don’t know if it’s as great as it used to be.”

What Ross didn’t mention were the rooftops across Waveland and Sheffield, which are planning to operate at 25-percent capacity when games start, suggesting at least a few hundred fans within cheering and booing distance.

“You’re going to hear them loud and clear, too,” pitcher Tyler Chatwood said. “I promise you that.”

BOLTS: Taking the fifth

All you need to know about Alec Mills’ ability to adjust and immediately step into an important role is what he did in an emergency start against the first-place Cardinals at Wrigley last year with the Cubs a half-game out and barely a week left in the season.

He hadn’t started anywhere in a month — and that was in the minors. But the guy who pitched out of the bullpen just three times in the four intervening weeks, pitched two outs deep into the fifth inning that day and didn’t allow a run (the bullpen took care of that, in a loss).

No wonder when Ross talks about Mills replacing the injured Jose Quintana (thumb) in the rotation, he says, “I’ve got a ton of confidence.”

He’s not the only one. “I’ve always had the mindset of doing whatever I can to stay ready and help in any way,” said Mills after pitching a strong three innings in a simulated game Sunday. “Obviously, with an unfortunate injury like this, I think it’s just even more heightened.

“I’m ready to do whatever, whether it needs to be maybe a start here or there, a couple more starts, long guy out of the pen — just whatever I need to do I pride myself on being ready to do that.”

CHATTER: The mask at hand

“It’s a little different. You leave the house with a phone, your keys, your wallet and your mask.”

—Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on his and his teammates’ new daily normal.

“Everybody is thinking about it, but we try to get here and understand this is our safe zone and we’re trying to create that [within] the things that we’re going to do on and off the field.”

—Ross on players weighing the risk of playing during the pandemic against the safety precautions and protocols the team has built in and around its Wrigley Field bubble.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE CUBS TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

Both the Cubs and White Sox may benefit this season from the unique MLB schedule which will have all clubs play regionally, instead of across their leagues. Since the A.L. Central and N.L. Central teams are all fairly close, and Chicago is practically in the middle of the action, both the Sox and Cubs will rank near the bottom for miles traveled over the course of the regular season, according to MLB Network.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

During their 2020 schedule release show, MLB Network displayed a graphic saying the Cubs will travel the second-fewest miles at 4,071 and the White Sox will travel sixth-fewest at 4,750 miles. It’s important to note that may not give them an edge in the regular season, as the other teams to round out the list are all Central division opponents as well: the Brewers, Tigers, Cardinals and Reds.

But when it comes time for the playoffs, that rest may pay off-- especially if either team faces off against a team from the West. All of the top-five teams for most miles traveled come from the A.L. and N.L. West, ranging from 11,332 miles traveled for the Rockies to a whopping 14,706 miles traveled for the Rangers. In a condensed season, with significantly less rest, that long travel could take a toll.


RELATED: White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week

SUBSCRIBE TO THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.