Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Blackhawks were a bit of an anomaly this season. They were second in the Western Conference in goals scored and second-to-last in goals allowed, ahead of only the talentless Columbus Blue Jackets. Even with that...impressive (?) stat line, they were still able to make the playoffs as the sixth seed and seemed to be playing a favorable matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Too bad no one told Phoenix.
As we all know, the Blackhawks were eliminated in six games and were ousted from the playoffs.
The problem all season was goaltending. Corey Crawford was inconsistent at best and held the Blackhawks back. I don't mean to heap all of the blame on to Crawford, as the defense wasn't always jumping on grenades trying to help, but two of the losses in the Phoenix series were on incredibly soft goals that he had no business giving up.
From this point, there's good news and bad news for the Blackhawks.
The good news is that they're finally getting rid of Cristobal Huet's heinously bad contract ($5.625 million cap hit last season, zero minutes played). That will certainly free up a ton of money to go after another goalie.
The bad news is that the only name worth aggressively pursuing in this year's class of goaltender free agents is Martin Brodeur, who is definitely not the long-term answer, and the Blackhawks probably couldn't lure him away from New Jersey with a king's ransom.
So how do they improve?
They get another solid blueliner to try to improve the defense so Crawford, or whoever is in goal next season, isn't being leaned on so heavily. One name that pops up is Bryce Salvador, a good defensive defenseman who apparently does have the capability to score, as we're seeing this postseason.
Signing Salvador would go a long way toward improving a defense that looked sluggish at times this season and wasn't helped by suspect goaltending throughout.