Will Corey Crawford Improve Under New Goaltending Coach Jimmy Waite?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 1: Brent Seabrook #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings watch for the puck in front of goalie Corey Crawford #50 of the Blackhawks in Game Seven of the Western Conference Final during the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on June 01, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Bill Smith/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks did not exactly keep the move a secret, but when they hired Jimmy Waite in early July to serve as their goalie coach, it wasn't front-page news.

That's because the Blackhawks were just days away from inking superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to long-term contracts that are expected to keep them with the team through the 2022-23 season.

However, signing Waite could have a huge impact on the team's fortunes in 2014-15. Waite's brother, Stephane, had been the Blackhawks' goalie coach for 10 seasons, but he left shortly after the team won the 2013 Stanley Cup to take a similar position with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Blackhawks brought in Steve Weeks to fill Stephane Waite's position, but his style did not mesh well with the team's. Head coach Joel Quenneville fired him shortly after the team was eliminated from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings.

Jimmy Waite played in 58 games for the Blackhawks and was primarily a career backup. He also played for the San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes.

Waite had been the goalie coach for Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the past three seasons.

Starting goalie Corey Crawford did not have a bad year in 2013-14, but he appeared to develop some sloppy habits. Crawford had a 2.26 goals-against average and .917 save percentage last year, which are clearly respectable numbers.

With that said, Crawford seemed to give up at least one stoppable goal in nearly every game.

That was a source of frustration for Crawford and the coaching staff. It also was a point of anger for many Blackhawks fans, who let the goalie know their feelings on sports talk radio shows and in social media.

Crawford, of course, played a key role in the Blackhawks' 2013 Stanley Cup victory. He gave up some questionable goals in that postseason run but always rebounded with strong performances in his most important games.

For example, the Boston Bruins appeared to exploit a weakness in Crawford's glove hand when they scored five goals in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Crawford slammed the door on Boston as he allowed three goals in Games 5 and 6 as the Blackhawks clinched the Stanley Cup.

Waite wants to ensure that Crawford is in the right position on the ice and gives opposing shooters little room to look at when they are attacking.

"To me, goaltending is all about positioning," Waite told Blake Schuster of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required). "The guys are bigger now. If you're in the right place at the right time that's all it is. That's the big part of my coaching."

Crawford is anticipating a strong working relationship with Waite, something he also had with his brother. 

"I've heard that they sort of teach the same way, sort of the same philosophy," Crawford told Schuster. "I think it will be an easy transition again and he'll be someone who is going to be very easy to communicate with and we can exchange ideas."

The Blackhawks would like to see Crawford play a bit more consistently in 2014-15. During their championship season, he had a 1.94 GAA and a .926 save percentage. During the postseason, he had a 1.84 GAA and .932 save percentage.

Crawford did not perform as well in the 2014 playoffs. He had a 2.53 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

The Blackhawks rarely ask their goaltender to carry them in the regular season. They are a skilled offensive team that dominates puck possession, and they regularly capitalize on their scoring chances.

That means they don't often need their goalie to stand on his head to give the Blackhawks a chance to win.

However, they need Crawford to be at his best in the postseason. Waite is being asked to guide and groom their goalie so he is in championship form when the 2015 playoffs roll around.