This is the first in a series of player previews for the upcoming 2009-2010 season. By the time training camp starts, we should have everyone previewed. Our first look is at probably the most vanilla player on the Blackhawks, Andrew Ladd.
Andrew Ladd started this season rather inauspiciously. He opened up the season skating on a line with Martin Havlat and Jonathan Toews. That didn’t last very long and by the second game he found himself skating with Dave Bolland and a revolving door of wingers that included Jack Skille and Dustin Byfuglien.
It didn’t help matters that the person Ladd was traded for (Tuomo Ruutu) started off the season for the Hurricanes like a maniacal Finn. There were more than a few whispers that the trade was becoming one of the more underwhelming moves of the Dale Tallon era.
It wasn’t until Joel Quenneville partnered Havlat with Ladd and Bolland on December 3rd against the Ducks that his season truly started to take off. Up until that point, Ladd only had 3 goals and 5 assists in 22 games. The rest is history and Ladd ended up with 15 goals and 34 assists. His biggest outburst came on December 7th when he notched a goal and three assists in a 7-1 thrashing of the Phoenix Coyotes.
To go along with that, Ladd was more than capable in his own end. His Behind the Net numbers show he played against the opposing teams’ top players more than anyone else on the team. In fact, Ladd has some of the best sabermetric numbers on the team in nearly every catergory.
In the playoffs, Ladd didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, but he played exactly the type of game that was expected of him: a tough, physical grinder who made sure his three goals came at the most opportune times.
He had no bigger game than in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Canucks when he had a goal and assist in a 2-1 overtime winner. Ladd also played a significant (and controversial if you ask Mike Keenan) role in the Game 1 overtime winner against the Flames when he crashed the net and Havlat slipped the puck past Mikka Kipprusoff.
And that takes us to the present.
Ladd’s 2009-2010 season will be a success if….
He can match his goal output of this past season- We can safely say that Ladd will probably come nowhere close to his 34 assists next season. He will, after all, no longer be playing on a line with Martin Havlat. 15 goals, however, is a very reachable goal for Ladd’s skill set. As long as Ladd plays with someone of decent offensive stature, then he’ll be able to deliver on that output. If everything goes right, a 20 goal season is not out of the realm of possibility.
He continues to become a solid checking winger- There’s a decent chance Ladd will find himself on the third line next year playing with the likes of John Madden and Tomas Kopecky. If he’s asked to play that role, then goal scoring will be on the low end of the totem pole and that’s not exactly a bad thing. Playing alongside Madden, Ladd could become one of the better checking wingers in the league. Even if he doesn’t contribute a ton offensively, then Ladd will still be a key cog on the ’09-10 roster.
Ladd’s 2009-2010 season will be a disappointment if….
The injury bug bites him again- Not many people remember, but when Ladd was traded to Chicago, the Hurricanes had soured on him because he couldn’t keep himself on the ice. He only played in 65 games during the 2006-07 season and played in 63 combined games with the Hurricanes and the Hawks in 2007-08. Ladd kept himself healthy enough last year to play in all 82 games. Suffice to say, anything less than 70 games would not be good.
Ladd disappears in the regular season AND the playoffs– Now, let me clear this up because I don’t want to sound like Tim McCarver here. It would be perfectly acceptable for Ladd to have a marginal regular season. He’s not on this team to score 30 goals. It would not, however, be acceptable for him to disappear in the playoffs. Ladd is the type of player that needs to become better when the ice gets smaller. If the Hawks are going to advance through four rounds of the playoffs, Ladd has to come up with the same important plays he did this past spring (see above).
More than probably any other player on the Hawks roster, Ladd’s type of play is wholly dependent on who his linemates are. Since his junior days playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf, Ladd has proven he can be a positive offensive contributor when paired up with elite talent. He’s also proven to be a good checking winger.
I’d love to see him play with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews while Marian Hossa rehabs his shoulder. They had some success in limited action when Ladd first arrived in Chicago. I also wouldn’t mind seeing him play on a line with Madden and Troy Brouwer to see how well they could shut down the opposition’s top line. It’s a fascinating dynamic.
That’s why the decision that will probably shape Ladd’s 2009-2010 season more than anything else is: Who are his linemates?