On Tuesday afternoon, fans of the Chicago Blackhawks were hit with the inevitable: Johnny Oduya will not be returning to the Hawks on a new deal. An unrestricted free agent, there was a glimmer of hope that he'd return after the Hawks dealt Brandon Saad and even briefly after the Patrick Sharp trade, but with a defenseman that has had the success that Oduya has had in Chicago, this was likely always going to be the end result.
Instead, he'll sign with a new team on what will likely be a very lucrative new contract, while the Blackhawks are left to fend for themselves on the blue line. Despite a gluttony of forwards, the Hawks are set to head into the 2015-16 season rail thin in regard to their defensive corps. Obviously there's still work to be done, but beyond Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson reside a multitude of questions for Stan Bowman and the gang.
One of those questions bears the name Trevor Daley. Daley will essentially replace Oduya on the blue line as a left-handed defenseman that will likely trot out next to Hjalmarsson on that second pairing. For some, this has ignited a great deal of panic. To an extent, that's understandable, given that Oduya was a very stout defensive presence and developed an outstanding chemistry next to Hjalmarsson. He logged his best years, possession and otherwise, with the Blackhawks.
With Daley, the Hawks are getting a defenseman with higher offensive upside. He's posted at least 20 points on six difference occasions, including a career high 38 in 2014-15. Oduya hadn't produced that type of offense since 2008-09. So while Daley has the advantage in his ability to move the puck and to get the puck to the net, there are serious questions about his ability to play defense.
His struggles in the Corsi department are well-documented. His CF% last season was just 46.4%, which came in at a relative Corsi of -8.4. But it's not as if Oduya was a possession wizard prior to arriving in Chicago. Before being traded from Winnipeg to the Hawks, Oduya hadn't posted a positive CF% since 2008-09. In his time with Atlanta/Winnipeg (from the 2009-10 season to much of the 2011-12 campaign), he went for relative Corsi figures of -8.7, -5.7, and -2.4 at evens, respectively.
Daley happens to be coming off of his worst year in that regard, with his final three seasons in Dallas bringing relative Corsi figures of -2.0, 0.6, and -8.4. But for all the talk of his inability to play defense, he committed only 32 turnovers during the 2014-15 regular season, which ranked 12th on the team and sixth among defensemen. His 29 takeaways represented the third highest total among blue liners in Dallas. He blocked 123 shots, which trailed only Alex Goligoski. He's cut down on his penalty minutes in recent years (34 in '14-'15). Those could all line up pretty favorable with the rest of the Blackhawks' defensive corps.
When it comes down to it, the transition alone should provide some solace for Blackhawks fans that are worried about the addition of Trevor Daley to the Hawks' blue line. While the situations are not identical, Johnny Oduya's possession numbers weren't terrific prior to his joining the Blackhawks. But coming to a team that preaches defensive efficiency, while logging minutes next to one of the most stable defensive defensemen in the game, should bode quite well for Daley.
All in all, there isn't any reason to be panicking to the type of degree which Hawks fans appear to be worrying. He obviously hasn't been a terrific defensive player throughout his career, but his skill set should allow him to make the transition towards becoming a much-improved player in that regard. Don't underestimate the change in systems. Is he going to be as steady in his own zone as Johnny Oduya was for the bulk of his tenure in Chicago? Not necessarily. But if he can approach that type of level, while providing high upside on offense, he should fit in just fine on the Chicago blue line.
In any case, the larger concern shouldn't be Trevor Daley, but whatever happens behind Trevor Daley.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.