Sep 17, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save against the Detroit Red Wings during the third period at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Good: Corey Crawford is RICH!!! I guess that’s more good for him, but in theory that translates to a happy and confident goalie. Crow got to metaphorically give the finger to his doubters (me!) as he backstopped the team to a Stanley Cup. Crow still has room for improvement, mind you, mostly where it isn’t that important- the shootout. It may not be a factor in the postseason, but it might be valuable to work on if the Hawks aren’t as successful as they were last season. Still, Crawford has shown that he can play big in the biggest of spotlights. The future is looking bright for the Hawks when it comes to goalie depth. They signed Finnish net minder Antti Raanta over the summer. The guy has the potential to be great, and his attitude seems to suggest he is happy to accept the challenge of becoming an elite NHL goalie.
The Bad: The signing of NiKolai Khabibulin wouldn’t have been bad if the price was a lot more reasonable. There were a few young backup goalies available that signed for cheap with worse teams. Maybe the Raanta signing dissuaded any young goalies from signing only to then be stuck between current top guy Crawford and future prospect Antti Raanta.
And the Questionable: While a big contract can help boost confidence in a player, much like Bickell, the pressure could hinder Crow’s progress. The final concern would come from Crow’s health. He had a few patches where he had to sit out for an extended period, but we were lucky enough to have Emery ready and eager to go. An extended showing of Khabi would not be something to look forward to. He’s a capable backup to keep Crow rested, but that’s it.
Overall the Hawks have a lot going for them heading into the season to defend the cup. The pieces they lost may not be easily replaced, but the team will evolve. The talent pool is too deep for the Hawks not to succeed this year. Like I said in my Central Division preview, the Hawks should be on top of the Central when it’s all said and done.