The date is August 2nd. The Blackhawks have just announced that they have signed former Dallas goaltending star Marty Turco to a one year, $1.3 million deal, salvaging the loss of Antti Niemi to arbitration and the Great Chicago Fire Sale of 2010.
The immediate reaction of (bandwagon) fans? "How could we lose Niemi? He was the best, ever! But we're still gonna repeat, because we're awesome! I think...right?"
The immediate reaction of most other fans: "Good riddance to Niemi, he was a flash in the pan! Now we've got a PROVEN goaltender in Turco! We're gonna repeat! Wooo!"
It seems that the Hawks were very wise in choosing to let Niemi go, as the give-or-take $1 mil they saved on Turco has allowed a couple extra players to fit under the salary cap. But, more importantly, they got a mentor.
Now, when I heard about Turco's signing, I'll admit that my first reaction was to think about the signing of a proven goaltender, able to provide quality, consistent goaltending for a reasonable cap hit. But my second thought was that we finally had a mentor to bring Corey Crawford into his own, and help him be the goaltender of the future for Chicago, not unlike Howard and Osgood (Detroit) or Giguere and Gustavsson (Toronto). In today's NHL, the learning curve for goaltenders is steep, and having a veteran around who knows the game and has been there and done that can often help a young goaltender really jump into the league on the right foot.
Turco hasn't started the season particularly strongly, but most of that can be attributed to a defense that hasn't always shown up in front of him. However, a lot of times he does seem to be undisciplined, flopping around in (or out) of his crease and unable to recover to make the save (see San Jose's first goal on November 24th). He is not the goaltender of years past, but his real purpose for being in Chicago is, again, to be the mentor for Crawford.
Crawford has been on fire so far this year, and is now starting again on Tuesday for the third straight game. Look for Turco to be rotated out of the starting position more and more as the season rolls on allowing Crawford to get more and more starts.
Obviously, the Hawks are not going to repeat, but they are still a legitimate contender to go deep into the playoffs as long as they continue to find their game and don't show up for only 40 minutes a night like they appeared to at the start of the season. A lot of the offseason trades have hurt the team, particularly costing them depth on their lines, which that made them so lethal last year.
Still, I predict the Hawks will finish second in the division (behind Det), and fourth or fifth in the conference. Go Hawks!
Agree? Disagree? Let me know!