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Sports

Blackhawks' moves lack direction

Johnny Oduya is the (now former) fifth defenseman for a Winnipeg team that, through Sunday, had allowed more goals than all but eight other teams in the NHL.

A former ninth-round pick of the Capitals, Oduya has a minus-9 rating this season and is a minus-24 over the last two years, though he is a plus-27 for his career. He has 109 points in 445 career games, and during the past three seasons, he's registered 371 blocked shots and 179 hits. He's in the final year of a three-year, $10.5-million contract.

Now Oduya can add one more line to his biography. Along with, I suppose, Brendan Morrison (who has done nothing in the seven games he's played with Chicago), Oduya is general manager Stan Bowman's solution to what ails a Blackhawks team that has lost 12 of its last 16 games. That is, unless you consider John Scott being traded an addition by subtraction, and the argument can certainly be made.

If Bowman thought a once-promising season could be salvaged, and dealt away a few prospects and draft picks to shore up the Blackhawks' problems at or before Monday's trade deadline, I would have understood. If Bowman wanted to hold onto his assets for the future and let this season play out with what the Hawks have, figuring that the core still has several playoff runs left in it, I could have bought that, too.

Instead Bowman went with the rather baffling in-between approach. He didn't deal Nick Leddy, Brandon Pirri, Dylan Olsen or any of the Blackhawks other highly-regarded kids. In fact, the only players from the system that have been traded away in 2012 are Scott and Brian Connelly, a 25-year-old minor-league defenseman who didn't figure into the team's long-term plans. Bowman did, however, have to part with second- and third-round picks in 2013 to land Oduya, while the Rangers sent back a fifth-rounder to acquire Scott.

Oduya will help. He is a defenseman on a team that needed one before Steve Montador was lost for maybe the rest of the season and Niklas Hjalmarsson was reportedly concussed. He can play on the power play, and if that means he can shoot from the point without constantly firing the puck into backs of teammates or wide of the net, he'll be an upgrade for Chicago.

But Oduya could be Nicklas Lidstrom and he wouldn't fill all of the needs the Hawks have. Unless (and perhaps even if) they know Jonathan Toews is completely healthy, they could really use another center. Heck, unless (and perhaps even if) they know Hjalmarsson is completely healthy, they could really use another defenseman, even with Oduya.

Oh, and there's the small matter of goaltending that still figures to stand between the Hawks and any hope of a deep playoff run. Corey Crawford had legions of his apologists — I mean, members of the media — leaping back on his bandwagon when he played well during a recent four-game winning streak. He then fell apart late in a 3-1 loss to Dallas Thursday and was pulled after allowing four goals in 10 shots Saturday at Los Angeles. The uninspiring Ray Emery got the start Sunday at Anaheim for another Hawks loss.

Through Sunday, the Blackhawks ranked 22nd in the NHL in goals against average (2.86) and 26th in save percentage (90.1). They are the only team in the league without a shutout, though they've been shut out seven times themselves. Their power play ranked 24th in the league through Sunday, and their penalty kill was 27th.

Johnny Oduya is supposed to fix all of that?

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