Chicago Blackhawks: 6 Reasons to Take a Chance on Dominik Hasek
With the issues that have beset Chicago in goal since the departure of Antti Niemi, and Buffalo saying "thanks, but no thanks" to Hasek's desire to return, the Blackhawks seem like a solid fit for The Dominator.
There is some opposition to bringing in someone who will be 48 by the end of the 2012-13 campaign, and rightly so. However, Hasek is a special case, and here's why.
Crawford and Emery Don't Instill Confidence
Contrary to some popular belief, Chicago's goaltending tandem isn't exactly cringe-worthy. The issue at hand is that it's just not all that good.
Some may remember when Ray Emery was still a promising starter in Ottawa, mostly what many thought to be his breakout season in 2006-07. In that season, Emery went 33-16-6 with a 2.47 GAA and .918 save percentage. During Ottawa's playoff run, which ended in a Stanley Cup Finals loss, Emery saw every minute in net, posting a 13-7 record, with a 2.26 GAA and three shutouts.
This would prove to be Emery's high water mark, as he then struggled to ever find that form again, as he bounced around, trying to find a home. Razor's stops included Philadelphia, the KHL, and his return from hip surgery in Anaheim. Now he's an average to above-average backup goalie who was unbeaten in regulation at the United Center.
Corey Crawford took a step back, and Chicago's front office and fans alike are hoping that Crow isn't just another Emery. 2010-11 looked to be a breakout year for the longtime Chicago farmhand, who had spent five years at the AHL after four-year career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Finally given the starting job, Crawford blew past veteran Marty Turco, posting a 2.30 GAA and .917 SV%.
This last season, Crawford didn't post the same results by any means, seeing his GAA jump to 2.72 and his SV% drop to .903. While the hope is that Crawford will regain his 2010-11 form, the reality may be that he's just another flash in the pan like his backup in Emery.
Chicago's Goaltending Depth Is Weak
At this point last season, Chicago's goaltending depth chart read something along the lines of Corey Crawford, Ray Emery, Alexander Salak, Alec Richards. The man who would eventually assume the #3 goalie spot, Carter Hutton, wasn't even a thought, as he'd signed as a free agent with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye.
Salak was injured and ineffective, and reportedly placed on waivers, seemingly putting an end to his future in Chicago. Richards bombed at both the AHL and ECHL, finding himself unable to muster a save percentage over .900 at either level.
The combination leaves the team with Carter Hutton and not much else in the system. While I'm a fan of Hutton, and believe he's a late bloomer, the reality is that he has zero NHL games under his belt, and could very easily regress back into a career minor leaguer, something Chicago's front office is surely petrified of.
Chicago's Prospects Haven't Forced the Issue
With the issues that have beset Chicago's system in net for the past two seasons, there was a certain amount of hope that one of the goalie prospects still in juniors would have a standout campaign or two and bring some hope.
The good-but-not-great performances of Carruth and Simpson, coupled with the aforementioned struggles of Richards and Salak, don't paint a very bright picture for Chicago's goaltending in the immediate future.
Hasek's Had Post-NHL Success in Europe
A year after retiring from the NHL after hoisting the Stanley Cup with Detroit, Hasek felt the fire to play build inside him once again.
While the Hawks were busy ending the longest Stanley Cup Championship drought in the NHL, Hasek had returned to the club where his career started, HC Pardubice in the Czech League. Hasek went 24-12 with a .922 SV%, 2.24 GAA, three shutouts, and carried his team all the way, winning the Czech League championship.
The next year, Hasek took himself to the next level, signing with HC Spartak Moscow of the KHL. At the ripe young age of 46, Hasek lead the league in shutouts with seven, while still sporting very solid stats: A 23-18-3 record, .915 SV%, and a 2.45 GAA.
Despite sitting out the 2011-12 season, Hasek's recent success in Europe can't be overlooked.
Age Isn't Always an Issue with Goalies
The last two Stanley Cup Playoffs have seen an old goalie carry his team quite deep.
Last summer, it was Dwayne Roloson taking Tampa Bay to the Eastern Conference Finals. This summer, Martin Brodeur took the Devils to the cusp of winning the Stanley Cup, which would have been his fourth with the team.
Not subject to the hard hits and requirements of raw foot speed, a highly-talented goaltender can find himself able to prolong his career in the modern NHL.
Hasek Wasn't Forced out of the NHL
The argument that I personally find most frustrating against bringing Hasek to Chicago is that it's been four years since he appeared in the NHL. True, but this was his desire, not the will of the league's 30 GMs.
When Hasek left the NHL, it wasn't because the general consensus was that he couldn't compete at the highest level anymore. Hasek left on his terms because he didn't have the motivation at the time.
In 2007-08, Hasek had a 2.14 GAA. Had he still been motivated from then to today, it's hard to imagine Hasek not having an NHL contract right now.
What are your thoughts? Should Chicago give Hasek a shot?