The Blackhawks’ demise last season can be pinpointed on one key player missing: Corey Crawford.
Without their veteran goalie, the Hawks shuffled through five different goaltenders — including accountant-turned-emergency goalie Scott Foster — to try and fill the void left by Crawford, who posted a .929 save percentage in the 35 games he played.
The question still remains as to whether or not Crawford, 33, will be ready to return to the crease in time for training camp and the start of the Hawks’ season.
So for the first time in more than two months, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman provided a brief update on Crawford, who is listed as attending next month’s Blackhawks convention.
The update was that there was no update.
Bowman said basically the same thing he did at the end of the Hawks’ season.
“What I said at the end of the year is still the case now. We expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said during a pre-NHL draft conference call with media. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”
“All the players are preparing for next season. Corey is in that same preparation mode. … Nothing has changed.”
Bowman also said the Hawks expect Crawford to be back and ready to go in training camp.
But the mystery still remains: What is actually wrong with Crawford, who missed the final 47 games with a head injury?
The Hawks have remained tight-lipped about Crawford’s situation, calling it an “upper-body injury.” But sources told the Sun-Times back in January that Crawford was experiencing “vertigo-like symptoms.”
Asked about the secrecy surround Crawford’s status, Bowman brushed off the idea that the Hawks were hiding something.
“There’s no gag order,” he said. “We handle Corey’s situation as we’ve handled every other player. We never go into specifics on injuries.”
It’s clear that goaltending is a need for the Hawks. Asked if the team was looking for a better back-up goaltender, Bowman didn’t get into specifics.
“As far as our other situation in terms of goaltenders — it’s an important position — so we’ll have some discussions to see if we can improve in that area,” Bowman said. “It’s too early to tell if we can. But … it’s our job to look at everything we can to improve short term and longterm and that’s what we’re going to do over the next couple of weeks here.”
Last month, the Hawks added a little depth to their goaltending by signing Kevin Lankinen to a two-year contract. Lankinen, 23, played in Finland’s top league last season and had a .946 save percentage and a 1.33 goals-against average in 15 games.