Rozner: Chicago Blackhawks should play Corey Crawford ASAP

Yes, Corey Crawford should play hockey again this season.

There. That was complicated.

There’s no degree of difficulty here, and in Crawford’s case there’s no degree of health.

If the Blackhawks deem him injury-free, it’s absolutely best for everyone involved if Crawford takes the ice again before the Hawks hit the golf course.

When pressed on it Monday, GM Stan Bowman did not wade too deeply, saying that it’s up to Crawford once the doctors step out of the way.

“As far as Corey playing this year, I don’t know that,” Bowman said. “What I can tell you is Corey is not going to play until he’s completely medically cleared, and he comes in and says, ‘I’m ready and I want to play.’

“When those two things happen, then he’ll be back playing. So it certainly could be over the next five weeks.

“But we know eventually he’s going to play hockey again. It’s just you have to be patient with some things. When he’s ready, he’s ready.”

That has a hint of Bowman believing Crawford isn’t confident yet in his health, and you don’t take chances with a player who isn’t right upstairs.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has played only 28 games this season.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has played only 28 games this season. – Associated Press/file

But when Crawford is comfortable, even if it’s the final week of the season — even the final game — Crawford should be in the lineup.

“Athletes want to play,” Bowman said. “If Corey’s 100-percent healthy and our doctors say he’s ready to go, and he’s saying, ‘I want to play,’ it would be sort of odd for us to say, ‘You’re not allowed to play.’

“But we’re not at that point.”

The argument for shutting him down is that Crawford could hurt himself in one of those last few games.

True.

He could also hurt himself over the summer in a rink far from Chicago, get injured while training or suffer a wound in the first preseason game.

It’s hockey. Players get hurt all the time. But the benefits of a return far outweigh any risk, a risk — by the way — assumed right now by Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and every other player on the team.

Why not shut them down, too?

Since the season’s over and you’re worried about a player getting hurt, you might as well bring in the IceHogs to handle the final 19 games.

When the season began last October, things looked promising for the Chicago Blackhawks and goalie Corey Crawford.

When the season began last October, things looked promising for the Chicago Blackhawks and goalie Corey Crawford. – Associated Press/2017 file

Every athlete who has been injured wants to get back on the ice — or back on the field — before a season concludes, especially if they’ve missed a serious amount of time.

The best way for Crawford to go into the summer is having played some games to shake the rust, regain his confidence and remember that he was one of the best goalies in the game when he went down.

That’s considerably better than waiting another eight months to play in a real game and face genuine competition, better than having all that time to ponder the consequences of having missed nearly a year in goal.

There’s also the benefit to the team, where players’ jobs may depend on how they finish the season, not to mention others within the organization wondering if they’ll still be employed in April.

Nobody here profits from losing, save the better draft position.

Their goaltending has not been good and it has cost the Hawks about a goal per game, which may not seem like much until you realize the time that bad goal occurs can completely change a game.

And while you’re trying to judge young defensemen, or even young forwards, they know they’re not playing with an all-star in net and it affects every decision made on the ice.

When your goaltender can’t stop a beach ball, you don’t play organically or instinctively. The coaching staff may want a certain style of play, but decisions in all three zones are impacted when there’s a fear that any shot could go in.

You may try to get a clear picture of who a player is, but you’re not getting it when they’re playing a different game in front of these goalies than in front of Crawford.

Meaningless games? Not for many of the current Hawks.

So this notion that they have to shut down Crawford is hardly the same as sitting your quarterback in the preseason or keeping your No. 1 starter off the mound in September when he’s coming off a shoulder injury and the team is out of contention.

There are important reasons for having Crawford play and they extend far beyond the goaltender himself.

Assuming, obviously, that he’s physically ready to play in an NHL game, there’s simply no good argument against it.

The Chicago Blackhawks have struggled without goalie Corey Crawford in net this season.

The Chicago Blackhawks have struggled without goalie Corey Crawford in net this season. – Associated Press/2017 file

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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