The Chicago Blackhawks had a very busy weekend as they gave us an idea of what their idea of the future looks like. Spoiler alert: it may not be pretty over the next couple of seasons. Corey Crawford, one of the greatest goaltenders in team history, is now with the New Jersey Devils. Brandon Saad has been traded to the Colorado Avalanche. Meanwhile, these moves have the team’s captain, Jonathan Toews, left wondering what the heck is going on.
Crawford “Devastated” to Leave Chicago
Although he may never get the respect he fully deserves, Crawford is right up there with Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito and Ed Belfour when it comes to who was the best netminder in team history. He is third all-time in wins, (260) and goals-against average (2.45), second in save percentage (.918) and seventh in shutouts (26).
Crawford was part of two memorable Stanley Cup championship runs in 2013 and 2015. He never shied away from reporters, even after the toughest loss and he would never pass the blame to any of his teammates, even when a crucial goal wasn’t his fault. Heck, he even recovered from COVID-19 to lead the Blackhawks past the Edmonton Oilers in the Qualifying Round earlier this fall. All of that came to an end when he put pen to paper with the Devils on Friday night.
“I was pretty devastated about not returning to Chicago,” Crawford admitted during a video call over the weekend. “That’s all I’ve known my whole career. They just wanted to go a different way.”
He later revealed that there was never any serious contract talks between he and general manager Stan Bowman.
“There just wasn’t that much negotiation,” Crawford said. “We thought there would be more talk. I think it was at $3 [million]. We didn’t really go back-and-forth at all, so it just kind of just ended there. There’s not much more I can say about that.
“I don’t think it was necessarily (the term). We just didn’t negotiate that much. That’s all it really was. I can’t really say much more about that. Let’s leave it there.”
This is a very disappointing end to a 17-year relationship with the organization. He deserved better than this.
Now the Blackhawks are left with the recently re-signed Malcolm Subban, Colin Delia and Kevin Lakinen to fight it out for the starting job. What a difference a year makes as the Blackhawks went from having the dup of Crawford and Robin Lehner to a trio of goaltenders with 83 games of NHL experience between them.
Toews, Core Not Happy with New Direction
With Crawford and Saad looking to be new homes, the remaining veterans in the Blackhawks locker room are not happy with this new “youth movement.” Mark Lazerus reported in the Athletic that the core four of Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are “pissed” and “have had enough.”
Lazerus spoke to Toews and he clearly expressed his frustration:
“Bottom line is, I want to win,” Toews told The Athletic on Saturday night. “The expectation for the other leaders on this team and myself is to come ready to training camp every year to be a playoff team. We prepare ourselves to win a Cup for our fans. I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild. That has never been communicated to me, for that matter. A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected.”
From “Blackhawks’ latest moves shock, upset core vets like Jonathan Toews: ‘It’s sad’” by Mark Lazerus, The Athletic – 10/12/20
He called Crawford’s departure “sad” and is disappointed that he is no longer with the team. Toews and the other members of the “core” are the only four players left from all three of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup wins. They have done more for this franchise than any group of players in its history. They brought the team from being an afterthought in Chicago to being the hottest ticket in town.
While the majority of Blackhawks fans will be in favor of a rebuild, it is hard for guys as competitive as this group to deal with losing. They have earned a conversation from Blackhawks management about the philosophy change. Bowman should have sat each one of these guys down and personally told them and then offered to help them move on if they don’t want to be a part of it. There is no excuse for these conversations never taking place.
If the Blackhawks are to do a rebuild the correct way, you don’t trade Saad for and 25-year-old defenseman and a little over a $1 million in salary-cap space. You move him for prospects and picks. Also, you don’t have four very expensive veterans on your team. However, all of the core four have no-movement clauses even if a team was willing to take on their hefty salaries.
The next few months will be very interesting to see. Can the relationship between these players and management be repaired? Will any of them be traded for picks and prospects? Only time will tell.
Suter Off to Hot Start
Bowman deserves a lot of criticism for the current status of the Blackhawks. However, one thing he and his staff deserve a ton of credit is the success they have had in bringing in free agents from Europe over the years.
The latest name added to that list is Swiss forward Pius Suter. He led the Switzerland’s National League with 30 goals and 53 points last season, the same league Dominik Kubalik won the scoring title in during the 2018-19 season.
Suter has been on loan to the GC Küsnacht Lions in the Swiss League, Switzerland’s equivalent to the American Hockey League (AHL). To no surprise, he is showing off his skill in the second-tier league. He has two goals and an assist in his first three games.
The 24-year-old forward will be heading to Chicago for the start of training camp, hopefully in early December. He should have a chance to not only earn a roster spot but possibly a spot in the top-six.
There is a long time between now and the start of training camp and who knows what the Blackhawks’ roster will look like by then. One thing for sure is that we will keep updated every step of the way.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.