It has been seven months since Corey Crawford last played a game for the Chicago Blackhawks and we still do not really have any clear answers on whether or not he will be ready for the start of the 2018-19 season.
He last played on Dec. 23 before being sidelined for the remainder of the season with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Everything about it since then has been a giant mystery. What the injury is. How he is doing in his recovery. When he will be ready to return to the ice and actually play. Answers that, for the most part, remain unanswered.
Crawford and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville both spoke to the Chicago media on Friday afternoon and even after that the situation still seems as mysterious as ever.
Quenneville, for his part, expressed confidence that Crawford will be ready for the start of training camp and that he will be the team’s opening night starter. He also said that the team does not plan on carrying three goaltenders during the regular season.
Seems encouraging as it relates to Crawford.
But when Crawford addressed questions about his status he admitted that he was not quite sure if he would be ready for the start of camp, and that while he has made a lot of progress in the past few months, he is still not quite 100 percent yet.
“That’s hard to say right now, but it’s very possible,” Crawford said when asked about being ready for training camp, via Scott Powers of The Athletic (subscription required). “We’ve come a long way in the last couple months. There’s a really good chance that will happen.”
He also said that he has not yet started skating.
He has not been on the ice since practicing briefly with the team during a morning skate in early February.
That all seems … less encouraging.
Not only because Crawford still isn’t sure if he will be ready for the start of the season, isn’t yet 100 percent, and that he hasn’t resumed skating, but also because of just how important he is to the success (or failure) of the team.
Crawford has become one of the better goalies in the league in recent years and with the decline of the Blackhawks’ defense in recent years (both due to age and personnel departures) his play has taken on greater importance. When he was in the lineup this past season he was having an outstanding year and helped the Blackhawks play at a pace that should have been good enough to get them in the playoffs. Without him, everything fell apart as their revolving door of backups were unable to play at an even league average level.
The Blackhawks attempted to address the backup spot by signing veteran Cam Ward to a one-year contract. Ward, though, has been one of the league’s least productive goalies over the past six years and is not likely to be enough if the Blackhawks need him to take on a significant role in the even that Crawford is not ready or misses more time.
If Crawford is healthy and back to the player he was before the injury, it would not be a shock to see the Blackhawks make a return to the playoffs after missing for the first time since 2007-08.
We just do not yet know if he will be ready.
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.