Chicago Blackhawks: Quenneville says Crawford may start season on IR

(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

As the Chicago Blackhawks hit the ice for the NHL preseason, goalie Corey Crawford is still absent. On Monday, coach Joel Quenneville admitted Crawford may not be ready for the start of the season.

The Chicago Blackhawks missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008. The team was coming off a disappointing 2017 playoffs in which they were swept as the number one seed by the Nashville Predators.

Coming off back-to-back letdowns, it’s imperative that the Blackhawks bounce back with a healthy, competitive squad. But even that is now in question.

Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford has been dealing with injury issues since early in the 2017-2018 NHL season. Crawford finally acknowledged during this year’s training camp that he suffered a concussion in December of last season.

The Blackhawks had been secretive with his status during the entire year, stating only that he had an “Upper body injury.”

Crawford is a key part of the team’s overall success. When the goalie went down last season, the team turned to goalies Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass, and J-F Berube to fill the void. It didn’t work out well. The team failed to ever get going without a steady goaltender backing them up. In addition, key veterans like Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook also struggled.

The Blackhawks finished 2017-2018 with a losing record at 33-39-10, good enough for last place in the Central Division. Fans realized how crucial Crawford was to the team’s success, and awaited his return. When it never came, it was clear that the team wouldn’t find that spark to climb up the standings down the stretch.

While there hasn’t been a lot of info on Crawford’s concussion, there were whispers this offseason that he was finally getting better. In July at the Blackhawks Convention, Crawford admitted he wasn’t 100 percent but was improving. There were rumors he would be part of the team’s training camp this summer, but that didn’t happen.

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On Monday, coach Joel Quenneville stated that it “Might be stretching it” to think that Crawford would be ready for the start of the 2018-2019 NHL season. This is definitely concerning because it seems as if Crawford has been dealing with post-concussion symptoms for almost an entire calendar year. If they aren’t getting markedly better by now, how long will it be?

Concussions are such a complicated injury that there’s not really a set timetable for how long it takes to recover from one. Still, it’s very troubling that Crawford just can’t seem to get to 100 percent. The sooner he can get back the better, as evidenced by Tuesday’s preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Blackhawks signed veteran goaltender Cam Ward to a one-year, $3 million deal this offseason in hopes that he would be a consistent backup to Crawford. Now it seems as if Ward will have to start the season as the team’s starting goalie. He was awful on Tuesday, giving up two goals on the first two shots he faced, and six goals overall before being pulled from the game.

If the Blackhawks don’t have Crawford healthy, it’s clear that the team isn’t going to be in playoff contention. It also doesn’t help that the team plays in one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. If Crawford still deals with concussion issues this season, it may be time for the team to move on from him. It will be rough for Blackhawks fans, but the team needs consistency in net to win.

Next. Pay attention to these Hawks at camp. dark

There are a lot of unknowns surrounding this team heading into the 2018-2019 season. If the core of talented veterans continue to decline and Crawford can’t get back on the ice, then this team’s championship window may slam shut. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.