The 'Hawks management's words maintain their faith in Crawford, though their actions have cast at least a measure of doubt this summer. Is Joel Quenneville sold on his incumbent goal tender?
Quenneville addressed the media Wednesday at Chicago's prospect camp. ESPNChicago.com reporter Jesse Rogers wrote in his blog that the 'Hawks coach explained that he felt Crawford would return to the form that won him the starting job in his rookie campaign. He also explained why Stan Bowman kicked the tires on veteran goalie Martin Brodeur:
We’re expecting Corey to bounce back and capture that consistency in his game and be a top goalie. We believe he can do that. When you have a guy like Marty Brodeur out there, you have to at least visit that situation as well.
Is this a vote of confidence in Crawford, or a case of tolerating him until a better solution comes along?
It's no secret that Crawford's play dropped off in his sophomore season. It also is not unheard of for a young goalie to experience a dip in effectiveness at this stage of his career. Jimmy Howard of Detroit and Steve Mason of Columbus are two cases that come to mind.
Howard bounced back from an off year to post a 2.13 goals against average and .920 save percentage for the Red Wings. Mason has been replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky as the Blue Jackets main goalie after three sub-par seasons.
Crawford definitely needs to rebound from a year that saw him win 30 games but saw him go from a 2.30 goals against average to a 2.72 rate. His save percentage also dropped from .917 in his rookie season to .903 in 2011-12.
Quenneville's words on Wednesday:
I’m very comfortable and confident with Corey. You look at the history of goaltenders around the league…there is a little bit of a bounce factor in that second year. A number of top goalies have had that career path. We anticipate Corey getting right back on track.
It's hard to blame fans for taking that statement with a grain of salt. Bowman made a pitch to Brodeur that came up empty. Would the 'Hawks GM pursue another veteran if the opportunity arose?
Chicago has both Crawford and back up Ray Emery in place for the start of the upcoming season. Crawford is in the second year of a three-year, $8 million contract. It would seem to be advantageous for the Blackhawks to see how he comes back from last season's performance.
That's what the talk is suggesting. Let's see if Bowman's actions point to the same conclusion.