For those of you who missed the timeless sports-classic film “Bull Durham,” go back to FourSquare, this article isn’t for you. But for those who didn’t, it’s my contention that we have our own Ebbie Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh right here in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room.

His name is Nick Leddy. And instead of throwing bean-balls at the mascot, he is throwing close games right in the dumpster. His flubs against Tampa Bay led directly to the Bolts’ third goal, and the game-winner in OT.

“You lolligag around the infield…”

Actually, lolligagging is a word that really can’t be used to describe Leddy’s game. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s very quick, which leads him to believe that he can tear around any area of the ice with impunity. When he goes on these little escapades, he leaves his position to be covered by a winger — who is then a target to be exploited by the other team, since that winger is not trained to play that position. Leddy creates a defensive weakness with his end-to-end rushes. That’s unnecessary, and it’s only a matter of time before other teams exploit that weakness when it arises.

“He’s got a million dollar arm, but a ten-cent head.”

Leddy was a phenom dating back to his high school hockey days in Minneapolis-St. Paul, when he won the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Metro Player of the Year his senior year. But that big fish in his small pond seemed to be gasping for air just a bit when he hit the rough seas in the NHL. Historically Leddy has averaged about one shot per game, which gives a very clear picture of where his focus is: scoring. That’s where the problems begin.

The kid is fast, no question. The kid has great patience with the puck, and is a strong stick-handler. These all serve him well offensively, to the point where if I were his coach I would be seriously considering moving him up to the wing. Why? Because then he wouldn’t have to learn the defensive side of the game — which he still hasn’t done.

“You don’t need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt. What you need is a curve ball!”

What Leddy needs is a good deal of schooling on how to play defense. He’s got three major problems: leaving his post on the point to go on Bobby Orr Safari below the hash marks; missing his coverage and having to sprint back to cover the man who got behind him; and man-to-man coverage in his own zone, where he is getting powned by even small wingers pushing him around.

“I wanna bring the heat and announce my presence with authority!”

“Nuke” LaLoosh’s problem (aside from being a lousy singer) was that he only considered potential good outcomes, and ignored consequences. Sure, he wanted to throw that fastball — straight into the wheelhouse of a guy who eats fastballs for lunch. Same thing with Leddy: he goes on these glory missions into enemy territory and the only thing on his mind is scoring. He doesn’t consider the fact that when his mission is over, it’s 130 feet back to his own blue line. I think I’d rather he just take slap shots at Tommy Hawk instead.

“So my AAA contract gets bought out so I can hold the flavor of the month’s dick in the bus league!”

Enter Crash Davis, and in my personal opinion that exists already in the form of Blackhawks old-guard defenseman Sean O’Donnell. With nearly 20 years in the league as a stay-at-home defenseman, there are few in the NHL that can give Leddy the kind of mentoring that O’Donnell can provide. Practice them together, play them together, work them out together, room them together on the road. By the end of this season, if all goes as planned, we may have, in Leddy, one of the most offensively-gifted defenseman who ALSO has keenly-honed defensive instincts — and the plus/minus rating to prove it.

“This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.”

It would be great if hockey were as simple a game as baseball — which, I’m sorry, is merely a matter of mastering a set of skills and being able to effectively execute them. No thinking involved. Hockey requires lightning-fast reflexes, both physically and mentally. If baseball is checkers, hockey is 2-minute speed chess: you miss one move, you make one wrong move yourself, game over. All “Nuke” LaLoosh had to do to be successful was follow instructions and do what he was capable of. It won’t be that simple with Leddy, but the kid has undeniable talent. He just needs to learn the other half of the game, and he might just be ready for The Show.

“Anything traveling that far ought to have a damn stewardess on it, don’t you think?”

Just had to throw that one in there…

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