Andrew Ladd left Winnipeg earlier this week as a trade saw him re-join the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that he won the Stanley Cup within 2010. Much has been made about the move and the sentiment is generally positive in terms of improving Chicago’s chances to win the Stanley Cup again. While Ladd does add something to Chicago’s depth – in truth he’s a very over-rated player at this point in his career.
Ladd scored 17 goals and tallied 17 assists in 59 games for the Jets this season, averaging .576 points per game. That’s not that great of a tally for a forward and his scoring rate is way down compared to his recent seasons. Last season, for instance, Ladd had .765 points per game, in 2013/14 he had .692 points per game, and in the strike-shortened 2012/13 season, he had almost a point per game. He’s clearly having a bad season, something that I think is getting overlooked.
You can attribute his decline to something to do with Winnipeg or whatever you want, but the bottom line is that Ladd is in a contract year, and he is turning in the worst numbers among his recent seasons. Usually, players don’t hold back in seasons that precede contract negotiations as they need solid numbers fresh in everyone’s mind for salary leverage. Therefore, you have to think that the problem is with Ladd himself, and the trade is a great one for Winnipeg as they dump some salary (they will foot some of Ladd’s bill still) and gain some future prospects.
Ladd could end up flopping in Chi-town, this time, around, but there’s another point of view on the trade that I don’t like. Chicago’s not weak up front, if anywhere they need to bolster their defenses. They already have two premium scoring options in Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, the outright leader in NHL scoring and a top-10 scorer respectively.
But on defense, Chicago have given up 151 goals so far this season and, while that’s not exactly egregious, there is more room for improvement on that front. Keeping in mind that the ‘hawks have work to do IN THE REGULAR SEASON still if they want to win the Central Division, the Blackhawks probably would have been better served going out and getting Toronto’s James Reimer – a player that was on the market.
In 32 games, and without great skaters in front of him, Reimer posted an 18th-best league-wide save percentage this season of .918 in Toronto. He would have been a very capable back-up for Corey Crawford, one that could have taken a load off of the Chicago starter in a couple remaining back-to-back situations this season.
One, two, or three points in the tight Central Division could make a huge difference for playoff seeding. In fact, if the division stays tight then there might not be much between first and third place. That is, just a couple points could make the difference between home-ice advantage through two rounds and not having any at all – even in the first round. Looking back a few days, I think Chicago would have been better focusing on improving defense for the balance of the regular season than adding Ladd.
San Jose nabbed Reimer instead, and the Sharks do look better for it now. But the real winner thus far in the trading game is Florida. The Panthers plundered Alberta for a couple good role players in Jiri Hudler, formerly of Calgary, and Teddy Purcell, formerly of Edmonton. Hudler’s season hasn’t been his best, but the center still has .660 points per game. Teddy Purcell is about a half-a-point per game right-winger, so there’s some depth added with him.
In the end, a lot of the trade successes will come down to chemistry – a touch-and-go thing in hockey. But for Chicago, I think they should have taken an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it attitude’ on the forward front and pursued better defenses instead. For Florida, I think they had to make a move and that adding the players they got was the right risk to take.
In conclusion, I don’t really think the Ladd trade will burn the Blackhawks as I had them as a major contender even without him. However, I don’t think they did as much as San Jose or Florida did. That said, Florida and San Jose aren’t the clubs that will be in Chicago’s way in the early rounds, unless the Sharks somehow end up facing the ‘hawks as a Wild Card.
Chicago, it should be pointed out, seem more interested in the post-season than the passive Dallas Stars. In a conference that appears to be a showdown, once again, between the ‘hawks and surging Anaheim Ducks, the ‘hawks will have all the experience that’s needed to create a very confident locker room. They look like the toughest out still even if they didn’t make the optimal move this week.