DETROIT — It finally might be time to retire the “Corey Crawford doesn’t get any respect” story line.
Crawford, who long has been overlooked despite backstopping the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups in the last three seasons, has muscled his way into the Vezina Trophy discussion this year with perhaps the best season of his career. And on Wednesday, he finally got the call from Hockey Canada, earning one of the first 16 spots on Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey — the NHL’s answer to the Olympics.
“It’s awesome,” Crawford said. “I’ve been trying to make that team for a while. It’s definitely an honor to be named and a chance to play for your country.”
Crawford was joined on the roster by Team Canada stalwarts Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith.
“It’s awesome,” Toews said. “I think there’s one guy I’m super-excited about because I always talk about him and I don’t feel he gets enough attention for as good a player as he is, and that’s Corey Crawford. Honestly, he’s one of those guys that’s deserved to be at that level for a long time and finally he’s getting that recognition. I don’t know if a lot of people think that he’s good because of our team, but I think all of us in this room know that our team is good because of him — what he brings every single night, what he’s shown pretty much year after year for the last little while. It’s great to see him get called up to that level.”
The World Cup will be played in Toronto from Sept. 17 through Oct. 1, and the Hawks will be well represented. Besides Crawford, Toews and Keith, Patrick Kane will play for the United States, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin for Russia, Niklas Hjalmarsson for Sweden, Teuvo Teravainen for Finland, and Marian Hossa for Team Europe. And these are just the preliminary rosters. Brent Seabrook could still make the Canada lineup, and Marcus Kruger could be picked by Sweden; both were previously Olympians.
That means for nearly half the Hawks roster, the World Cup will be their training camp. Even Joel Quenneville will miss camp, because he’s an assistant coach under Mike Babcock for Canada. So while the Hawks’ stars jump right into a star-laden international tournament, assistants Mike Kitchen and Kevin Dineen will hold a training camp for the Hawks’ leftovers.
A camp split could go one of two ways. It could hinder a team’s ability to work in new players and lead to a slow start. Or it could underscore just how meaningless training camp has become. At the very least, those playing in the World Cup will have the most intense and demanding training camp of their lives.
“I think a lot can change,” Toews said with a shrug. “But I don’t think training camp really determines what’s going to happen in the long run.”
Another concern raised by the World Cup is the wear and tear on players, especially those coming off deep playoff runs. Hawks summers have been almost comically short the past three seasons, and most veterans don’t even play in road preseason games in late September. Now, those players will be expected to be game-ready by Sept. 17 — which means starting their offseason training even earlier than usual. And if the Hawks are fortunate enough to make another run at the Stanley Cup, that offseason won’t even start until nearly July.
“It would be a really short offseason, that’s for sure,” Hjalmarsson said. “But it’s tough to say. We’ve played a lot of hockey for a lot of years in a row now, and you kind of get used to it, to be honest with you. Hopefully, we never miss the playoffs. That would feel extremely strange to be done in April and have so many months off, you know? I guess we’re kind of used to getting a couple of months in between the seasons and then getting right after it.”
Quenneville isn’t too worried. He thinks the excitement — particularly for first-timers such as Crawford — will win out over fatigue or rust.
“It has to be exciting for these guys to get the privilege to represent their countries,” Quenneville said. “The best players in the world, and you get to play among them. I don’t see it being an issue. I think guys will be excited about it.”