The Chicago Blackhawks could be in the market for a goaltender to help them for the remainder of the season after it was reported by Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus that Corey Crawford could be done for the rest of the season.
After playing in a game on Dec. 23 against the New Jersey Devils – in which he was pulled – Crawford hasn’t seen the ice since then. That’s a span of three weeks and 10 games.
While it was initially announced as a unspecified, yet overused upper-body injury, it’s been reported by Lazerus that it is quite possible Crawford is dealing with vertigo-like symptoms for the second time in his career.
The first came at the end of the 2015-16 season. At that time, he missed nearly four weeks with similar vertigo-like symptoms. However, Crawford returned to the Blackhawks in time for their first-round matchup with the Blues and was seemingly symptom free.
So what does this mean for the Blackhawks?
Blackhawks Lack Goaltending Depth
The Hawks have been fortunate so far in Crawford’s absence – having gone 5-4-1 with Jeff Glass and Anton Forsberg leading the charge in net. Still, an extended absence for their starting goaltender would bury this team in terms of making the postseason – something the team understands.
“Obviously, you’re missing him,” said Quenneville to Lazerus. “He’s been arguably our key player all year, and [with] the consistency he’s given us in the net, we know how valuable the position is and what it means to your team. It’s almost like, ‘Oh, that’s a tremendous hole.’ As a team, you have to make an awareness that, hey, you have to contribute on the defensive side of things a little more.”
Crawford had a 16-9-2 record this season before going down with his apparent upper-body injury. He was playing well, locking up a 2.27 goals against average (GAA) and .929 save percentage (SV%) while notching two shutouts.
His backups haven’t had nearly the same success, though. Forsberg has a 3-6-3 record in 15 games this season. He has an average goals against average at 2.92 and a .911 save percentage to go along with it.
As for Glass, he’s played just six games so far this season with a 3-2-1 record. His 3.18 goals against and .910 save percentage are the worst of the three, but that’s what the Blackhawks are stuck with at this point in time.
What Can the Blackhawks Do?
The biggest issue with vertigo is that there is no timeline for a return. In 2017, the Boston Red Sox lost Brock Holt for nearly three months when he found himself dealing with symptoms of vertigo. Even when they tried to acclimate him to playing through the symptoms, Holt had to remain sidelined as the symptoms persisted, according to the Boston Herald.
Crawford’s vertigo – if that’s what it turns out to be – could be just as devastating to the player and the team as that of Holt.
As of right now, the Blackhawks sit three points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. With Crawford’s immediate future unknown, it leaves the team with far too many questions heading into the home stretch of the season.
That said, the team does have another option. While they haven’t put the netminder on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) yet, they could if the symptoms look like they will end his season. This would open up space on the team’s cap that would allow them to pursue another option in net. But it remains to be seen what the team will do moving forward.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.