Jordan Hendry, who has played the last four seasons as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, and who appeared in 15 games during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2010, has reportedly accepted a tryout with the Minnesota Wild.

According to Ryan Rishaug, the defensive defenseman will be in training camp with the Wild.  It’s not a surprise that Chicago opted not to bring him back, despite the fact that his entire professional career has been played with their organization; Hendry’s agent told ESPN early in July that the ‘Hawks simply didn’t have room for him after adding free agents like Steve Montador and Sean O’Donnell.

That’s part of the story, but doesn’t convey the whole picture.  Hendry, who was a depth defender during his time with the Blackhawks, is coming off ACL surgery that ended his season in late February.  How he will play returning from such a serious injury is a concern, and the fact of the matter is that even prior to the injury he wasn’t an especially effective defenseman for Chicago.

On the positive side, Hendry’s willing to hit (although it should be noted that he’s not an especially physical rearguard), he’s willing to block shots, and he’s not overly gaffe-prone.  All of those are good traits to have in a bottom-pairing defenseman.

The list of negatives is more extensive.  To begin with, we can limit our study of Hendry’s play to even-strength minutes – the coaching staff in Chicago never entrusted him with either power play time (unsurprisingly, given his limited offensive ability) or time on the penalty kill.

At even-strength, Hendry has routinely been assigned the easiest possible defensive matchups available.  His Quality of Competition number (available at behindthenet.ca) is typically at or near the bottom for Blackhawks defenders.  Additionally, he’s received a heavy helping of offensive zone starts, as we can see below:

Season % of offensive zone starts Rank (among Chicago def.)
2007-08 48.8 7th of 8
2008-09 67.7 1st of 10
2009-10 64.3 1st of 8
2010-11 54.9 6th of 9

Over the last three seasons, Hendry has received a ton of offensive zone starts – leading all blue-liners in Chicago from 2008-10, and finishing a little further back last season.

There’s a reason that a defensive defensemen gets a lot of time in the offensive zone, and it’s got nothing to do with putting up points.  The reason is the same that this defensemen routinely gets assigned the easiest possible matchups – because the coaching staff believes he can’t be trusted to play the tough minutes that a true defensive specialist does.

Minnesota isn’t investing much – anything, really – in Hendry.  A tryout contract allows them to evaluate him relative to their other defenders, both in the AHL and NHL without committing to a contract unless he seems worthy.  It’s a good bet on their part.  For Hendry, a spare part at the best of times and coming off a bad injury, it also makes sense to tryout with Minnesota, a team with a weak blue line and several rookies contending for spots.