As the Corey Crawford injury saga continues to carry on, we’d like to catch you up on where the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender’s current situation sits as well as when the right time is for his return.
Today coach Joel Quenneville said that Corey Crawford could practice with the team as soon as this week. He added that if the end of this week doesn’t happen, the hope is that he joins them by the start of next week.
Crawford, after hitting the ice last week, has continued to make strides in his recovery. That said, this next step is the biggest one yet. Obviously, it’s good to see Crawford putting in the work he has. His conditioning is improving and he’s starting to look like himself in goal.
Clearly, his agility and overall ability to move in the goal have improved tremendously. He was seen doing skating and passing drills over the weekend which helped to improve his conditioning as well.
It’s all incredible to hear about Corey, who hasn’t taken the ice with the team since February 13th. There have been tons of questions surrounding Crawford, his injury and the timetable for his return. Now, with targets set for a return to team practice potentially this Saturday, we see one question answered but more created.
For example, upon his return to practice what kind of action is Crawford going to be seeing? We know he looks good on the ice, but he’s been primarily taking slap shots below the best. While I don’t want to see Corey Crawford getting drilled in the head by goalie coach Jimmy Waite, I am curious when we will begin to see a change in the type of drills Crawford is participating in.
While the Blackhawks share my concern for Crawford — The Athletic’s Scott Powers confirmed that — all signs point to him being close to ready to take the next step.
"“I think whether it’s feeling pucks anywhere and with the traffic and the push, screens, that type of thing, regular game-like action, that’s the next step,” Quenneville told Powers. “I don’t think when he gets to that it’s too far away.”"
“It” meaning making a return to the line-up for good. Coach Q did say that Crawford returning by opening night would be a stretch, however the fact that opening night is a question at all should be a good sign for Blackhawks fans.
Corey Crawford’s Return to the Chicago Blackhawks
Obviously, it’s one thing to be cleared and able to play, but it’s another to be fully ready and able to perform at the highest level.
On that topic, Q said “We want him more than ready.”
There’s no telling when Crawford will be ready to return, and we’ve got no shot at estimating when he will be “more than ready.” So, rather than speculate on dates and times, I’m going to give you my dream scenario.
First things first, I’m fully aware that Crawford’s return could happen before or after this, however I’d be happy if he was playing real, NHL hockey games sometime between October and November. That’s nearly 70 days, which seems like a broad enough time span.
Should Cam Ward and the Blackhawks perform well in his absence (and return), it’d be nice if Crawford was able to transition in as a fringe starter before taking over full-time. Then, he could slowly find his niche once again and, by the time the playoff race begins to kick in, we could hopefully see him back to his own self.
Now, I realize this may sound outlandish to some of the “Crawford is done” crowd, and I understand where these people are coming from.
Head injuries are tough to predict and horrible to deal with. Furthermore, Crawford hasn’t played real game-speed action in a long, long time. These things take time to adjust to. Additionally, we could see a situation where he comes back and decides he isn’t ready (much like Sidney Crosby in the past).
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Despite however his comeback shapes up to be, I only hope it is handled in the best way possible by both Corey and the Chicago Blackhawks organization. As much as it doesn’t feel this way sometimes, there is truly more to life than hockey and I’d hate to see Crow get rushed back only to make things worse.
At the end of the day, all we can do is continue to root for and support the guy while hoping for the best in his recovery.