Darling 'disappointed and shocked' by Hawks' decision on Crawford
The news that Corey Crawford's tenure as the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender had come to an end hit Scott Darling like a ton of bricks.
"I was like, 'Oh, my God. Did that really happen?'" Darling said in a phone interview Thursday night, six hours after GM Stan Bowman announced that the Hawks would not re-sign Crawford.
Darling spent three seasons as Crawford's backup from 2014-17. After two years playing for Carolina and its AHL affiliate, Darling went overseas last season until the coronavirus forced him to come back to Chicago.
Darling, a Lemont native who grew up a huge Hawks fan, admitted he was "disappointed and shocked" by the news.
"I don't know what their plan is," Darling said. "I'm not a GM, I'm not on the inside. I don't know what their talks are like.
"But what from what I've heard, Crow was willing to take the hometown discount to stay here. Honestly I'm just nervous for the team. Crow has been the backbone, keeping them afloat for years now. ... It's gonna be very weird to see Corey playing in a different jersey next year."
Turns out it will be a Devils jersey, as Crawford agreed to a two-year, $7.8 million contract with New Jersey on Friday night. Crawford told us Saturday that after the Hawks made a one-year, $3 million offer, both sides essentially never negotiated.
"We thought there would be more talk," Crawford said. "We didn't go back and forth at all. So it kind of just ended there. Not much more I can say about that.
"It was a tough phone call. They wanted to go that direction. For me it was pretty heartfelt, pretty emotional after that talking to some of the players. But it's time to move on and have a fresh start."
As for the Hawks, they plan to go with some combination of Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban. Bowman believes Delia and Lankinen are ready to take the next step, much like Crawford, Antti Niemi and Antti Raanta did years ago.
Remember that Crawford played just eight NHL games before starting 55 times in 2010-11.
Darling is perplexed by this plan, however, noting that the 2010-11 Blackhawks were just coming off a Stanley Cup championship.
"(Crawford) had a juggernaut team in front of him when he first came in," Darling said. "My worries as a Hawks fan is if you don't have a top-five goalie with the team that's in place right now, that's gonna be a rough season.
"Unless you sign a Holtby or a Lundqvist or one of these amazing free-agent goalies that are out there, I mean you might as well set up for a rebuild."
Some of Darling's best friends in the world are his goalie partners -- and that's especially true of Crawford. Quiet and reserved with the media, Crawford is anything but that with teammates and buddies.
"I don't think he likes the spotlight," Darling said. "But in the room with the guys, he's hilarious. He's a Chatty Cathy.
"We had a card game on the plane, and he and (Brent) Seabrook were the funniest guys. ... I learned very quickly that he's the nicest, sweetest, purest human in the world with a great sense of humor."
Which is something Darling was so grateful for as he was beginning his NHL career.
"It was a big weight off my shoulders because I didn't know what I was walking into," Darling said. "I thought I would have some tyrant, superstar goalie in front of me.
"But he was the greatest to me and to everyone. Anyone who knows him on a personal level -- he's the man."
For those wondering about Darling, he has multiple offers overseas, but would prefer to stay in the United States.
He spent one month this summer visiting numerous national parks out west after renting an RV with his fiancee. They ended up eloping in Montana and currently reside in Chicago.