Despite bigger needs elsewhere, the Chicago Blackhawks offseason thus far has been rampant with goaltender rumors. Whether it’s Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur, it sounded as if the Blackhawks were absolutely looking to upgrade their situation between the pipes.
Not so fast.
At the Blackhawks annual prospect camp on Wednesday, head coach Joel Quenneville met with the media and threw his support behind goaltender Corey Crawford. He essentially said that Hawks brass expected a bounce back season out of Crawford, basically going with the “sophomore slump” angle that many of us are hoping explains Crawford’s issues from this past season.
Quenneville didn’t address other goaltenders, such as Luongo, but did mention the Brodeur situation and said basically that when you have a player of that caliber out on the market, that’s something you have to investigate. The Hawks had admitted to reaching out to Brodeur for the brief time he was out on the free agent market.
I’d assume Coach Q’s comments mean you can expect to see Corey Crawford back between the pipes for the Blackhawks this season, as had been expected all along, given the insane asking prices for goaltenders out on the trade market, like Luongo.
Keeping Crawford in the starting role for at least one more season is the right move for the Blackhawks and I’m glad Quenneville got that out of the way while it’s still July. Though I hardly doubt that will stop any potential Luongo rumors.
Sophomore slumps are not uncommon in the National Hockey League, especially among goaltenders. Look at Jimmy Howard or even Jonathan Quick. I’ve said throughout the entire offseason that the focus for the Hawks needs to be improving the team in front of him, rather than replacing him.
Crawford was solid down the stretch and seemed to regain some of that confidence. Even after giving up a pair of soft goals that lost two games for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was still much more similar to the Crawford we saw in the previous postseason than the one we had seen all regular season.
The focus for the Blackhawks front office needs to be on improving the team in front of Corey Crawford, particularly on the blue line. We haven’t seen much of that, but at least we know that he has the support of his head coach even after as shaky a year as he had.