I know we’re all trying to move on from the extended fart sound that was the Hawks’ ’18-19 season, but at FFUD we revel in our misery and the pointlessness of it all, so we’re going to give you our year-end player reviews in all their sadness and glory. And who better to start with than the man, the myth, the legend, Corey Crawford?
39 GP – .908 SV% — 2.93 GAA
.913 SV% at evens – .880 SV% on the PK
Oh Corey Crawford, the linchpin of this team, steeped in drama nearly all year making not one but two comebacks, and proving he’s still among the elite in this league. There were rocky times and a definitive drop in quality for a while, and after the second concussion it was legitimately debated if he could or should come back at all—I openly advocated that he should not, for the record. And yet he proved his worth time and time again and now there are still more questions than answers. Let’s dig in:
It Comes with a Free Frogurt
It is beyond a shadow of a doubt at this point that Crawford is the most important player on the team and that he’s basically a complete badass for all the shit he’s put up with on and off the ice. Remember how at the beginning of the season the organ-I-zation declared him ready to play, which was news to everyone, including to Crawford himself? It seemed like the perfect set-up for Bowman to throw him under the bus in short order. And then when he did come back in mid-October, he wasn’t exactly the Crawford of old, throwing out a .901 SV% and 3.27 GAA at evens in 23 games. On the penalty kill he was a woeful .895.
Yet he was dealing with The Defense From Hell and still managed to have some gems as he got back into form after not playing for 10 fucking months. For example, by mid-November he got his first shutout against the Blues (who admittedly sucked a lot more then than later in the season). Crow stopped 39 of 40 shots against the Wild a couple days later, and played extremely well against a blisteringly fast Flames team, all the while facing anywhere from 30-40 shots nearly every night.
You all know about the second concussion thanks to perennial shithead Evander Kane. What matters for our purposes is how Crawford ignored the (rather logical) calls for him to hang it up, worked his way back, and finished the season better than his first go-round. He put up a .932 SV% and 1.98 GAA at evens over his last 16 games. He also got his only other shutout of the season against Montreal in an effort that deserves every cheesy sportswriting superlative you want to throw at it (perhaps “flawless,” “sparkling,” “textbook,” I can go on here).
Even when the Hawks were in the process of shitting the bed and falling out of the wild card race, it was rarely on Crow’s shoulders. And that includes when he was literally shitting his pants and had to be replaced against the Leafs in the middle of March. Crawford silenced all the doubters (including your truly) about his capabilities in net, his near super-human ability to work his way back from serious injury, and his penchant for competing up until the absolute final whistle.
The Frogurt is Also Cursed
But that doesn’t mean that the injuries haven’t taken a toll—it just means that Crawford is forging ahead as IF they haven’t but that’s not necessarily reality. The Hawks can and should give him the benefit of every doubt and act under the assumption that he’ll start next year and pick things up where he left them, with that .932, not the early-season wobbles. No matter what, though, he needs to address his PK performance (as does the whole team, obviously), and aim for consistency that goes longer than the stretch at the end of this past season.
But, his history of concussions can never be far from the conversation because no one knows what the longer-term ramifications are or what decision he may be forced to take should he sustain another one. On top of that, Crawford pulled a groin muscle in his last game, which isn’t terrifying in and of itself, especially with an entire offseason to heal, but it’s indicative of what happens to everyone in their mid-30s, and particularly to NHL goalies.
Crawford’s contract is up after the 2019-20 season as well, throwing yet another question into the mix. If he doesn’t play well, should they trade him before the deadline and try to get something, anything for him? If he’s playing lights out will he accept a short extension for a couple years since that’s the only wise move the Hawks could make long-term? Can they develop a viable replacement, Collin “Superfluous L” Delia or otherwise, while Crow still takes the majority of the starts? (OK, that was three questions not one but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEANT.)
All of this is to say that next season very well may be Corey Crawford’s last season as a Blackhawk, for any number of reasons. It makes the imperative for the team to get good NOW that much stronger since it’s impossible to say what the endgame looks like, or if it even would be an endgame next season.
If there were any justice in this world, Crawford would have a Vezina-worthy 2019-2020 season and ride off into the proverbial sunset with at least a conference championship, if not one more Cup to his name. But there is no justice here, so we’ll have to hope he stays healthy, plays at his highest level, and that the Hawks don’t totally fuck up the roster.