The Chicago Blackhawks were one of several teams inquiring about future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur when the free-agency period opened on Sunday. They have their goaltending concerns, obviously, after Corey Crawfords rocky sophomore season. You dont ask about any other goaltender and a 40-year-old goaltender, to boot if youre not a little worried about your situation.
But as Sunday night drew to a close, it appeared that Brodeurs test of the free-agency waters didnt make it out of the shallow end.
Darren Dreger of TSN.ca reported late Sunday that the Devils were offering Brodeur a two-year deal. Its a chance for Brodeur to finish his career as a Devil, and if he accepts the deal it would be a somewhat expected conclusion.
Which brings us back to the Blackhawks goaltending. I asked general manager Stan Bowman about Crawford when the GMs met briefly in New York during the Stanley Cup Finals. Did he believe Crawford could return to rookie-year glory this season?
Obviously, (his two seasons) were two polar opposites, Bowman said then. The year before, we don t make the playoffs without him. He played over 30 games in a row that year (regular season and playoffs) and I dont think he had a bad game in the 30. This year he just wasnt consistent. Now the question is, which one is the reality?
Ive said this a lot: Guys dont lose their ability over the summer. I dont think he lost the ability to play goalie. I think its a mental thing more than anything, Bowman continued. Your skills dont erode. Its not like hes an older guy; hes not injured. Those would all be concerns if he was 39 or had a big injury. Then you say, What happened to him? Its more the mental side.
Bowman said other goaltenders have gone through their early career struggles before rebounding. A good case in point is Mike Smith, who was an up-and-coming goaltender with Dallas, struggled for several years in Tampa Bay, then was the Phoenix Coyotes star last season.
Bowman said the Blackhawks are hoping Crawford relocates his game like others have.
Does it mean he will? Not necessarily. But chances are hell follow that trajectory, he said. Our goalie coach (Stephane Waite) will spend some time with him, prepare him, break down his season. There was a lot of work behind the scenes, but you still have to stop the puck. Were optimistic, though, that hes going to get it turned around.
Optimistic? Yes. Is it a certainty? Nothing ever is.
The Blackhawks need to be better around Crawford, particularly on defense. But ultimately, its about Crawford stopping the puck. And if the goalie situation remains the same heading into this season, Crawford has to conjure up the play of his rookie season.