Rozner: More than anything, Blackhawks need Crawford

 
 
Updated 7/14/2018 6:30 PM
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  • All of the recent moves by the Chicago Blackhawks won't matter much is goaltender Corey Crawford doesn't return to form.

    All of the recent moves by the Chicago Blackhawks won't matter much is goaltender Corey Crawford doesn't return to form. Associated Press File Photo/Nov. 9, 2017

There were times during his career when Marian Hossa might have been accused of playing too unselfish, passing up open shots to feed a teammate while hoping for an even better look.

But that was Hossa, always thinking team first, playing special teams even when gassed, blocking shots and beating his man to the puck even when injured.

And the selfless Hossa has done it even in retirement, helping the Blackhawks in a huge way by accepting a deal to Arizona and saving the team more than $4.5 million in cap space.

It has some among the fan base rather excited, knowing the Hawks need at least one major upgrade among the top six forwards and top four defensemen.

But it doesn't solve their bigger problems, all of which are already in house.

Chief among them continues to be Corey Crawford, who has yet to emerge from witness protection.

The man who was their best player in the 2013 and 2015 playoff runs, leading them to a pair of titles, was keeping the Hawks afloat last December when he disappeared late in the month and never resurfaced.

He was playing as well as any goaltender in the game at the time and the Hawks were only 2 points out of a playoff spot with half a season remaining on the schedule.

Without him, the Hawks went on to finish last in their division and 19 points out of a postseason spot behind some laughable goaltending.

Laughable, actually, only if you find pain in others' misery.

There were too many times the Hawks' netminders couldn't stop a beach ball and that affects every player on the ice.

Aggressive defensemen have to take up a different posture, knowing they can't expect a big save, and forwards are reluctant to take chances when they know there could be big problems in their own end.

In short, having bad goaltending hampers every part of your game and makes it impossible to sustain success.

Thus, the Hawks missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

If Crawford -- who owns a cap hit of $6 million the next two years -- does not return to form, the rest of it is irrelevant.

Similarly, Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million) needs to find his game and Brandon Saad ($6 million) must remember he was good not that long ago. If they don't perform, the Hawks will struggle offensively.

No one would blame Duncan Keith ($5.5 million) if he's never the same. He's about 50 in hockey years after the minutes he's logged the last decade.

But Brent Seabrook ($6.8 million) is the most important voice in the locker room and when you play as he has the last couple years, team leadership suffers on and off the ice.

Among them all, it seems least likely that the Hawks will get what they need from Seabrook, and that makes the contract a nightmare for another five years.

That's a lot of money tied up in only a few players and without a serious infusion of young and cheap talent in short order, it's hard to see the Hawks gaining on an improved division even if they make a couple huge deals this summer.

On the other hand, if a couple of the aforementioned find their games and begin to play as they once did, the Hawks could have another run in them.

It starts -- and stops -- with Crawford.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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