One year after the Hawks spent an entire summer backhandely blaming him for them missing the playoffs in the 2017-18 season, Corey Crawford enters 2019 in something of a goalie competition for the long term. With new signee Robin Lehner coming off a career year an potentially primed to take this job out from under him, and his contract expiring after this year and no extension in place yet (which we will get to), Crawford might have some proving to do this year. Let’s dig in.

2018-19 Stats

39 GP – 14 W, 18 L, 5 OTL

.908 SV%, 2.93 GAA

.916 SV% – .920 PP SV% – .853 PK SV%

A Brief History: The Hawks placed a lot of hope in Corey Crawford A) not having jelly for a brain after his concussion-riddled 2017-18 season and B) not playing badly after a concussion-riddled season at 33. He started the year pretty well and actually made it up to halfway through December before he got bumrushed in the crease and had his head smash into the goalpost, giving him his second bad concussion in as many seasons and only raising further concerns about potential jelly brain. He missed two and half months after that before returning at the end of February.

Crawford played pretty fine for most of the season, but ended the year with his worst save percentage since 2011-12 and the worst GAA of his career. Which, really, that just says a lot about how fucking good has been throughout his career, but his overall numbers indicated more of a high-caliber backup goalie rather than the goaltender you want behind a Cup contender. Not that the Hawks are any sort of Cup contender, but you know they want to at least think they are.

It Was The Best of Times: Is it too cliche to say that the best case scenario for Crawford is just to make it through 2019-20 without suffering another brain issue? I feel like I’ve been something of a broken record saying this for a year and a half now, but at a certain point there needs to be more consideration for Corey Crawford’s long term health and not what his value is to a hockey team. This isn’t fucking football where players are essentially willingly mortgaging their long term brain health in the pursuit of sports glory. Sure hockey is physical, and as a goalie you do place yourself at a greater risk of head injury, but this guy’s ability to live a long and happy life should be paramount, at least to himself.

Soapbox aside, given the amount and severity of his head injuries recently, I have to admit I am not expecting a huge amount from Crawford this year. I don’t think that in his age-35 season after having missed more than 90 total games in the past two years (via both sitting out and injury), it is reasonable to think he will ever be a .920 guy again. But with the Hawks seemingly set to run the 1A/1B system with Crawford and Robin Lehner, I think if he can be just a little better than he was last year, maybe post a .910-.915 overall SV% while staying healthy, that will be an excellent year for Crawford and might even let the Hawks sneak in the playoffs.

It Was The BLURST of Times: The worst case scenario for Crawford is that he continues down the unfortunate side of being an over-30 NHL player with a tough recent rash (skypoint Marian Hossa) of injuries and misses a big chunk of the season to more ailments. I obviously pray that wouldn’t be another head injury, but being 35 in sports opens the possibility for more physical ailments as well. What would compound this as worse for Crawford (though maybe not for the Hawks) would be if Robin Lehner proves that his 2018-19 campaign was not a fluke and really grabs the Hawks’ crease by the balls, while Collin Delia proves to be a more than adequate backup with an extremely affordable contract, and the Hawks decide they’d rather move on to younger and less broken players. It would be understandable, but still difficult to process.

I truly pray this worst case scenario does not play out because it would result in Crawford getting the big time Jay Cutler teatment here in Chicago – despite being among the best at his position that the city has even seen, he will never have been appreciated as much as he should have been. But like, way better than Cutler ever was, and yet somehow appreciated even less. He was a top-5 goalie in the NHL for years and got none of the recognition either here or nationally, and the organization seems to have more disdain for him than he does for remaining sober at concerts. And the fans never got over the GLOVE SIDE bullshit that became a fucking stupid narrative in 2013 despite him really being their best player in those playoffs. And while Scott Darling did need to save them slightly in 2015, Crawford was dominant after getting the crease back and probably deserved that Conn Smythe as well.

Prediction: Crawford remains mostly healthy and plays at a similar level to last year, finishing with a .907 SV%. Overall he gets outshined by Robin Lehner, and the two combine for a .910 that keeps the Hawks competitive and they slip into the playoffs, where Lehner is the starter and Crawford only gets in if Lehner struggles. The Hawks re-sign Lehner to a longer-term deal and make it clear to Crawford that his roll going forward is as a year-to-year backup, because if we’ve learned anything throughout Stan Bowman’s tenure as GM it’s that he takes care of extensions for guys he thinks will be part of the future early, regardless of the risk (lookin at you, Nacho) and given that Crow hasn’t had that happen yet, the writing is already on the wall.

Stats from and

Previous Player Previews

Robin Lehner

Everything Else

Let’s pause from the offseason merry-go-round for a bit and talk about Dan Carcillo’s cause/drive/plea, whatever term is best. If you haven’t seen it, he posted a video to Twitter this week that’s worth the time:

At the top, it is clear that Carcillo is sincere, he is angry, he is still grieving, and he is concerned. He wants to see change and is willing to do the work and convincing to see it through. Overall, it should be highly commended.

Still, there’s a couple aspects where I feel Car Bomb is just a little off the path.

One, I’m not sure he’s attacking the right thing here. Clearly, the NHL and NHLPA have a lot of work to do. The NHL already has a lawsuit to deal with that almost assuredly will not go well for them, and the union could obviously do more to open the NHL up with information and actual, concerted plan for how to deal with head injuries. This half-in, half-out, quiet room if it’s a third-liner and it’s not the playoffs garbage clearly isn’t working.

And yet, the NHLPA works for the players, at least in theory. And it brings into question what the endgame for Carcillo and others is. Essentially, much like the NFL, it feels that the result should be that all players coming into the league, as well as parents and children just starting the game, know what the risks down the road are. You can’t remove head injuries from hockey. The game moves too fast and especially at the higher levels they guys are too big. There are obviously things the NHL, and NCAA and juniors and all the way down can do, and we’ll get to that. But you’re never going to remove risk from the game, just as you can’t in football.

Parents can make informed decisions, so can players as they get older. And the thing is, if given all the information and warned of what can be waiting when the playing career is over (and no matter how concussed you are, you can still be a GM of course), if a player has a chance at the NHL, I think we know what their choice is going to be. I think you’d find the same with football as well. Most, and maybe an overwhelming most, are going to still play and take the glory, money, fame, whatever else. And while that might not be the choice for us, it’s certainly one we can understand. Players want to keep playing, and while we may say they have to be protected from themselves, how many honestly would agree to that?

Really, it seems to be a debate of what we, the viewing public, can live with instead of what the players want, and yet it’s never framed that way. At this point, players in both the NHL and the NFL would have to have their head in the sand to not know what they’re risking, at least in some ways. Clearly there could be more done, but it no longer is a secret. And they’re still out there. More and more I hear people saying they can’t watch football because of what they now know it’s doing to the players. That could easily come to hockey, too. And that’s our choice. Pretty soon, everyone on the ice and in the stands is going to know exactly what’s going on, what’s at stake, and it’s up to them whether they want it in their lives or not.

Secondly, Carcillo only makes a passing mention of how he played the game, though finally acknowledging at long last that he did cause injuries to others. He fails to mention all the injuries he tried to cause, but baby steps to the elevator. We’ll get there.

And that doesn’t mean that Carcillo’s career and/or style should disqualify him from speaking out or leading this charge. In fact, he might be the right voice to do so. But only if he fully recognizes what he did on the ice, and is then speaking to those who are doing the same now (hi there, Tom Wilson, Brad Marchand, Ryan Reaves, I could go on…). I think we’ll all accept the occasional hit that goes bad or collisions. What the game has to rid itself of is deliberate attempts to injure, and more ex-players who did that speaking out would be a huge step in that. A sort of, “I was once like you and now look at what I have…” kind of thing.

Yes, the NHL needs a better head trauma protocol. But it also needs its players to want it. Players don’t want to leave the ice. They don’t want to get checked out. They jake their baseline tests to appear less hurt than they are when they have to take them again. And while Carcillo wants to lay all of the blame at the feet of the union and league, the “Warrior Mentality” is just as at fault. That players and fans either label those who want any attempt at a headshot out of the game weak or those that do are afraid of speaking up. Players don’t want teammates suspended for 20 games or more, which is what it will take and what Wilson or others should have already banked. Coaches and GMs need to stop employing and deploying players who do nothing else, forcing others to respond in kind.

The problems are there, and it’s a very good thing that Carcillo wants them addressed and now. But they’re more widespread than he either realizes or wants to admit.

Everything Else

With most vacations, the vacation itself is a thousand times more stressful and frustrating than whatever it was you were trying to get away from. This bye week is no different.

As Rose covered yesterday, the Hawks announced that Corey Crawford had vertigo-like symptoms. Then, later on yesterday, Scotty Bowman went on (BIG VOICE GUY) BOB MCCOWN’S PRIME TIME SPORTS hullabaloo and said, with nary a quiver in his voice, that Crawford was really suffering from post-concussion symptoms (2:02:30 in the clip). Later that day, Lazerus reported that Scotty was “guessing” and not sharing insider information.

This, of course, is Grade A fucking NARRATIVE horseshit (on the organ-I-zaton, not Lazerus).

The Blackhawks have a long and infamous history with deflecting and mismanaging concussions.

Recall that legit 17-seconds legend and meatball superhero Dave Bolland faced schoolyard giggles, and pointing and laughing at how long it took him to recover from his concussion back in 2011, all the while dealing with depression, that common ghoul that tends to walk hand in hand with brain injuries.

Recall that one of the reasons Jeremy Morin got shipped out the first time was because he took too long for everyone’s liking coming back from a concussion in 2012. And before he got shipped out, he fought everything in sight to show Q the MORE that the Hawks’s brass always complained wasn’t there. If there’s a better way to proactively protect a player with a history of brain injuries than having him get punched in the face over and over to prove that he’s willing and able to flex nuts, I’d like to hear it.

Recall that in 2014, after Toews got splattered on the boards by Dennis Seidenberg—subsequently grabbing his head and skating with the grace of a drunk with puke in his shoes—neither Quenneville nor the Hawks’s training staff had the foresight to take him off the ice immediately, instead opting to let him finish off a power play. This came after 2012, when Toews played several games with a concussion before getting shut down.

Recall that Steve Montador’s family still has a lawsuit pending against the league that alleges, among other things, that Montador received four concussions over three months with the Blackhawks.

The vagueness and silence always evolves in the same way, from “upper body injury” to “dealing with some soreness” to “we’ll see.” Then, when it becomes more apparent that someone’s going to be out for an extended time, upper body turns into dizziness or, in Crow’s case, vertigo. That way, when the diagnosis the brain trust refused to admit all along becomes the diagnosis they’re forced to admit, they can throw up their hands and say, “Whoa, we just thought it was something less serious. Honest!” And when you’re named in a lawsuit that claims that your team put Montador in a position to have not just one, but FOUR concussions in just three months, contributing to his CTE and death, feigning ignorance is really all you have left.

And King Dickhead Gary Bettman—who gives mid 90s Hunter Hearst Helmsley a run for his weaselly heel money—plays a role in how teams handle concussions. Let’s not forget that the NHL is still embroiled in a lawsuit that alleges that the league failed to ensure the safety of players’ brains, letting them play through concussions and other head injuries with full knowledge of what that could lead to and without telling them.

As the face of ownership, Bettman ought to have to answer for the defense calling players participating in the lawsuit “mere puppets” on a “cash grab” (which, probably not coincidentally, echoes a common defense we heard surrounding Doughty and Garbage Dick in the past).

He should be able to offer at least some sort of explanation for why the NHL still refuses to acknowledge the link between CTE and head trauma.

If you want to go to John Galtian levels of selfishness, Bettman should have to answer for why the owners he represents are so willing to mishandle their assets to the league’s detriment, letting star players on popular teams that line the league’s coffers suffer long-term injuries, vicariously damaging the league’s bottom line in the process.

Instead, we get radio silence, and status quo reigns.

But back here, given the Blackhawks’s experience with concussions, at what point do Quenneville and Bowman say enough? It may not be their job to diagnose brain injuries, but it IS their job to, in the most heartless terms, protect their assets. Is this middling season of what-ifs and maybes really worth the long-term health of the best goaltender the Hawks have had since Belfour? Apparently, because they brought him back off a concussion awfully fast, yet again.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that any athlete in Chicago sports history ever got Dangerfielded more often than Crow, from fans and franchise alike. He doesn’t deserve any of this, as both a player and a person.

So here we sit, having to wonder what the fuck is going on with the Hawks’s best player amid innuendo from the team and silence from the league. And because we can only guess at what happened, that’s what I’m going to do.

Since Evgeni “My Face Looks How My Name Sounds” Malkin railroaded Crawford in November, Crawford’s been dealing with a concussion. Because the front office and coaching staff are either too stupid to know or too callous to care, they sent Crawford back out too early in an attempt to salvage points they desperately needed for the deep playoff run they envisioned to wash the taste of two quick exits out of their mouths.

When Crawford’s performances betrayed his health against Dallas and New Jersey in December, the Hawks took advantage, using them as cover to justify taking him out for undisclosed reasons. The undisclosed reason, of course, was a concussion that Crawford should not have been playing through.

With vocal skepticism mounting, the organ-I-zation dripped rumors about vertigo, which is close enough to a concussion to feign ignorance, be believable, and take some of the liability off the team’s latest botch. Then, when people expressed outrage at the possibility that the Hawks knowingly trotted Crawford out too soon, Stan Bowman called his father to take the bullet and indirectly admit that Crawford indeed did have a concussion (or post-concussion symptoms), because he knew it would bounce off the venerable and untouchable Scotty much more easily than it would Stan, given his office’s egregiously bad history with concussions.

Finally, Scotty’s walk back was the little injection of controlled confusion the organ-I-zation needed to have everyone following the drama throw up their hands and say “Oh, who knows?!” Lather, rinse, repeat.

The excuses for Crawford’s absence smell an awful lot like organ-I-zational horseshit. But when the guys running the team and the league have shown time and again that they can be gigantic asses about handling head injuries, should we expect anything else?

Everything Else

I didn’t have time to get to it yesterday, but this lawsuit from Steve Montador’s family against the NHL should make for interesting viewing, particularly here in Chicago. That is if it were every to get to a courtroom, which I simply can’t fathom it ever will, and neither will the much larger class-action one that 80+ former players are a part of. There’s no way the NHL could have this kind of testimony or evidence out there. The NHL could not absorb a massive award like the NFL can, and the NFL hasn’t even found theirs quite yet.

But what if the Hawks’ medical team, or even coaches, had to testify? Or what if we could see the depositions they might have to give? I would be very curious indeed.