No more than a few minutes after the NHL lockout finally came to an end, you know there were folks coming to the realization that the Chicago Blackhawks still have a gigantic question mark sitting between the pipes.
There was a great deal of discussion prior to the lockout beginning as to what the Blackhawks had planned to do with Corey Crawford. Would they look to replace him, perhaps go after a bigger name via trade, or give him just one more shot to make an impact.
The reason for his future being up in the air is a shaky regular season, followed up by a questionable postseason. He had streaks where he was just okay during the regular season, followed by streaks of just plain bad. In the playoffs, he surrendered a pair of extremely soft goals in overtime that sent the Hawks home after six games against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Even for a Crawford apologist such as myself, those goals are indefensible.
There’s no doubt that Crawford has the physical tools to succeed. He’s essentially the inverse of Ray Emery, who may have the mentality but too much wear and tear on his body to make him an effective choice in the long term. For Crawford, it’s going to be a question of his mental makeup.
Can he bounce back from a very inconsistent season? It’s possible. He’s not too far removed from great playoff success and that “goaltender of the future” talk. Of course, that also requires the team in front of him to help him out a bit, which didn’t for much of the season. And, at least prior to the lockout starting, the Hawks didn’t do much to address the blue line.
The success or failure is going to be a gigantic focal point as the Hawks season gets underway within the next couple of weeks. Though it’s a shortened season, that fact doesn’t make it an less of a make-or-break campaign for Crawford. He’ll be a player to watch, either way.