Before I kick off our player by player season review, there's a couple things I'd like to address.
First, everyone associated with the Hawks -- and that's fans, players, coaches, everyone -- has reached a point where they have to stop pining for members of the 2010 team. I know they will live on forever in our memories and hearts, but we're two years removed from that now, and hockey moves on. For the fans, I know there's a huge swath of Hawks nation that's only heard of the players from that year, and thus that's all they know to suggest to fill the Hawks' needs. But it doesn't get anyone anywhere. There are plenty of others who could solve size on the wing besides Andrew Ladd or Dat Big Buff Guy. There are plenty of others who can calm down the second pair besides Brian Campbell (this is the one I'm guilty of the most), and so on. I know that we haven't exactly dealt with a winner and then the subsequent loss of a lot of that team, and we're still feeling it out. But Hawks Nation should be better than that, and looking forward is always more productive than looking backward...he says as he's about to write a review. But you get it.
As for the players, I get that they miss their buddies and have seen them shipped out, in some cases curiously, to be replaced by guys not up to the job or not as good as those who came before. But this is a business, and for the rest of their careers they will deal with ever-changing dressing rooms. Part of the job, get over it. It's not exactly helping to welcome new additions in. In a salary cap era, and one that is almost certainly about to get even more strict, keeping a team together is going to be nigh-on impossible. So instead of staring and Brandon Saad next fall and wishing he was Troy Brouwer or Kris Versteeg, just concentrate on what Brandon Saad can do. I think the coaches are probably just as guilty of this as well.
Secondly, as this ties in with the goalie review, I've seen a lot of cries from the Chicken Little faction of our fandom that the Hawks will never win again without a premier goalie. This is utter bullshit. While I know how these playoffs have gone, just go back the previous four years to see who's come out of the West, and who has won the Cup. While the Bruins certainly got an all-world performance from Tim Thomas to win, he's got a second round exit and a first round exit along with being booted from the starting job on his playoff resume as well. Before that? Hawks, Pens, Wings. Any premier goalies there? Anyone think Marc-Andre Fleury is a primetime goalie with his consecutive first-round flameouts?
Study who has played in the Western Conference Final before this. Sharks-Nucks, Hawks-Sharks, Hawks-Wings. The Wings were in the two before that as well. Again, no premier goalies to be found. To boot, of all the goalies currently left in the playoffs, which one of them has consistently dragged a team deep into the playoffs? Take your time, I've got all day for your answer.
Quite simply, goalies these days are pretty much like closers in baseball. Unless you have one of the top three to five in the league, you're essentially rolling the dice year to year. Take a look from year to year who racks up 30+ saves, and then see if you can find a lot of them now. Unless you've got Mariano Rivera, you've got questions. You put everything else in place, and just kind of hope that your craps game between the pipes comes up at least passable to go along with it.
To conclude, there are a lot of ways to go deep in the playoffs and win a Cup. You can choose any style, as long as you play that style better than the other teams' play theirs.
Right, let's get to it.
|2011 - Ray Emery||34||1774||15||9||83||2.81||834||751||.900||0|
The Good: We like anger around here, and Emery brings that. Stepped up on a couple of occasions when Crawford was vomiting all over himself, which is basically what you ask of a backup. In fact, in December and the first half of March really steadied the ship when things could have spun way out of control, even more so than they did. All in all, the definition of a #2.
The Bad: Anytime he had to move side to side, really. Which was the fear all along. Fell apart late in the season when too many appearances got him exposed, and wasn't every really heard from again after St. Louis lit him up for three goals in the 1st period on March 13th. Couldn't stem the tide during the February March Into Mestophales's Mansion, and the Hawks really could have used that. Ultimately, could not steal a game, but then again that wasn't really his job.
Contract: Re-signed for 1.1M next year.
Stick Around Or Hit The Bricks: Well this decision has already been made, and that's curious. Even though I'm a proponent of giving Crawford another year to prove it was all just a sophomore slump, the insurance against that would have been finding a backup who you're far more comfortable giving the keys to full time if things go balls-up again. We know Emery is just not that guy. He can get you a win here or there, but he can't get you the run of wins you need, no matter how good the team is in front of him. I suppose if need be, stashing 1.1M in Rockford to bring in another goalie isn't that big of a deal, but I doubt that's the plan. Assuming Crow can regain form though, Emery's a pretty solid guy to give him just the nights off he needs. But that's it.
|2011 - Corey Crawford||57||3218||30||17||146||2.72||1507||1361||.903||0|
The Good: October and March. I suppose Crow should be given a little more credit in the heart and guts department to reclaim his job and some type of form in the season's last month after struggling with confidence and game so long. Pulled out some performances late in the year when the Hawks needed wins and Toews was out that shouldn't go unmentioned. The relief effort against St. Louis comes to mind, and he was brilliant in the OT win over Vancouver late in the year as well. In fact, for all of March he was pretty much his rookie year level. First two games of the playoffs weren't bad either, but...
The Bad: Everything in between October and March. What was really disconcerting was watching Crow struggle with whatever technique he wanted to use. After having a very successful rookie year being pretty conservative as far as challenging shooters, and even that still led to him taking some wonky angles, either he or Stephane Waite or both or someone decided he had to be more aggressive. While that led to a great first month, the book got out in a hurry that Crow just doesn't move all that well when so far out of his crease. How many wrap arounds could he not get back for? How many times did one extra pass leave him swimming? Worse, it took months before a correction was made and his game started to rebound. Who made the correction? Did Crow decide? Or did he have to be told? With his size, he doesn't need to turn into Tim Thomas and flop around like Tigger on a good batch of E.
Oh, yeah, and those two OT goals. No recovery from that. Which is sad, because he was pretty solid up until them in the very definition of "Other than Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
Contract: Two more years at a 2.6M hit.
Stick Around Or Hit The Bricks: I feel like nothing is going to frustrate me more than everyone sharing their opinion on what the Hawks should do with their goalies this summer. While Crow is by no means untouchable and if an offer or deal comes around that can't be passed up Stan should of course do it, I don't know what that is right now. It's not Luongo, and if you think that please don't ever watch a hockey game or read this blog ever again. Tim Thomas is aging and declining, and we don't know how his I'm-making-this-up-as-I-go-along style would fit in with the Hawks, and that is both on and off the ice. Josh Harding has never been a starter. There's just not much that's obvious.
And because of something of a resurgence in the last month, I'm all for giving Crow a chance to bounce back. Sure, he could be Steve Mason. But he could be Jimmy Howard too. The truth is probably somewhere in between. If he sticks to the more conservative approach to stopping shots, regains some confidence early in the season, he can certainly be solid -- not great, but solid -- enough for a Hawks team to go far. Especially if the right pieces in front of him are put in place.