As the last few weeks have limped by with a Crawford-less Blackhawks team, the questions and murmurs about what the hell is really going on with him have grown in volume and intensity. But now we’ve gotten word from nebulous sources via a Sun-Times piece by Mark Lazerus that Crawford has “vertigo-like symptoms” and may be out the rest of the season.
OK, hysteria aside, what now?
- Fake News? We’ve made it no secret here that the NHL’s convention of not telling anyone shit about what’s happening with players pisses us off to no end. The league as a whole practices this nonsense, and the Hawks in particular are offenders in this regard. And when I say “what’s happening with players” that extends beyond injuries, which of course are always categorized in the non-helpful, binary world of “upper-body” or “lower-body,” as if there weren’t myriad variations among the parts of those halves. I also mean personnel decisions (this is where the Hawks are most problematic). Whether it’s something like moving Top Cat to his off side, marooning Keith with Cody Franson for a quarter of a season, throwing Kempny in the Sarlaac pit, what have you (and these are just some recent examples), the Hawks’ decisions about who plays when and where are given the air of secret priestly knowledge by the club, which cannot be shared with the illiterate peasants. And this Crawford situation has been shadier than most injury or personnel non-announcements. Was he rushed back from a lower-body injury earlier in the season? Their “upper-body” designation when he went back on IR would say no, but I’ll tell you honestly I wasn’t really convinced at the time. Taking them at their word, one would think concussion, but then with no timetable for his return and zero information from the team, speculation grew that it was something more sinister, which wasn’t helped by some cryptic quotes from Toews last weekend about how “He’ll do what he can to get himself better….” Is it really a concussion? Probably. It’s probably some brain-related issue just by virtue of him being a goalie who gets hit in the head with discs of hard rubber flying at enormous rates of speed. But admittedly, “vertigo-like” symptoms is a diagnosis just specific enough to make fans think, oh, OK, it’s a head issue, yet vague enough that it could be something really serious, like say, keeping him in net for a while when he already had a concussion. With this club’s history of obfuscation, I’ve got no reason to believe this is actually vertigo and not a more serious concussion issue, short of an official announcement with some actual medical information.
- The Trade Deadline. Given the Hawks, uhhh, issues this season, there has rightly been speculation about whether they should trade for a top-tier player who could get them into the playoffs, or if they’re in some rebuilding-on-the-fly mode (again, that whole non-communication thing). Crawford’s Vezina-quality season up to the holidays made a stronger case for landing an Erik Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson (or someone else, there have to be a couple other d-men out there, these are just the two most tossed-around names). The problem with any of these moves is of course the harsh reality of the salary cap, which would likely mean needing to move Anisimov and his banged-up ass, but they managed to swap Panik for a younger, faster Duclair, which gave me some optimism that Bowman can still sell magic beans to the other dipshit GMs in this league. However, now you have to ask if putting Crawford on LTIR and the resulting freed-up cap space would allow them to get a comparable goalie and/or any other top-tier guys. The former seems unlikely (who’s out there that could play at the level Crawford was?), and with another trade the risk of having to sweeten any deal by including some of the young guys goes up. Is it worth it to trade Schmaltz, Kampf, Hinostroza, or, god forbid, Top Cat? If the Hawks were going to be able to capitalize on what was likely Crawford’s last excellent season (now “likely” seems to be “definitely”), before Toews declines more precipitously, Keith gets slower, and Kane eventually joins them, then a case could be made that trading away our future would be worth it for the present glory. The same goes for a situation where they land a dark horse Vezina candidate to replace Crawford plus another defenseman. But that looks to be a pipe dream now. As much as I dislike rebuilding-on-the-fly with seemingly little direction, I’d rather see the Hawks pause for a moment and figure out what the fuck they’re going to do with these guys, unless there is some perfect maneuver out there that only Stan knows about. I may be an illiterate peasant, but I’ve got my doubts about that.
- The Jeff Glass Experience. So in the short term, meaning like next week when they come off the bye, Q needs to get over whatever allergic reaction he’s having to Anton Forsberg, or conversely get over whatever infatuation he has with Jeff Glass, and let Forsberg play consistently. Forsberg hasn’t been lights-out, don’t get me wrong, but we can’t have Glass flopping all over the crease against the Lightning or the Leafs next week (or the Islanders, for that matter). Whether playoff hopes are dashed or not with the Crawford news, there is still no reason to shatter Forsberg’s confidence any further by playing a quadruple-A level goalie instead of him (also where the fuck is J-F Berube? Does he have vertigo too?). I’m quite confident that Glass will get way more playing time than he should, and an already desperate and confusing goaltender situation will only get worse. But it’s just a few weeks until pitchers and catchers, right?