I saved this one for last because it’s the most uncertain — even more so than possible call-ups later in the season.
Crow’s upper-body injury/post-concussion syndrome has become a bizarre, unfortunate and mysterious story. He officially missed all of January and has not been a consistent presence for the Blackhawks since late November, when you think about it.
Now, Coach Q has suggested this week he thinks Crow will play again this season. I really hope they aren’t trying to rush him back from something (mistreatment of injury seems to be how we got here in the first place). But if Crow is good to go sometime this month, I’d say it gives the Blackhawks a much better chance at rebounding.
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Sure, Crow is going to be quite rusty when he returns. But I think a rusty Crow is better than inconsistent Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Just look at how Crow performed between injuries in December. All-around, pretty impressive.
And that’s been the biggest thing for the Blackhawks this season: They need an impressive goaltender at all times because they’re so brutally inconsistent (and because the defense is all-around slow). If the Blackhawks can find the right combinations at forward and defense and then be backed up by Crow, it really strengthens the playoff chant.
No need to tank
Some will wonder if it’s worth it for the Blackhawks to even make the postseason. This team is clearly flawed and isn’t one big trade-deadline move from being top in the league. But I contend the Blackhawks aren’t that far away from getting back to that level without many external moves.
There are several good, young pieces on the way up. I’ve mentioned a majority of them already in this post. The Blackhawks have the chance to be a rock-solid team (with some question marks, sure) very soon. They don’t need to intentionally miss the playoffs to gain a 1.2 percent chance or whatever at the top lottery spot.
The Blackhawks absolutely should fight for a postseason slot. The next wave of young Blackhawks talent needs something like that. DeBrincat, Duclair, Hinostroza, Kampf, Schmaltz, Connor Murphy — these guys need to be directly responsible for something like pushing a team back from the brink and into the postseason. It’s how you create a great culture, and a winning culture.
The Blackhawks gain nothing from a losing season, except a higher possibility they see more major offseason changes that may or may not work. And while adding all of this aforementioned young talent to an already-growing youth group also may fail, we’re at least seeing the Blackhawks make positive strides in that regard. So why not keep trending that way?