NHL teams submitted their Phase 4 playing rosters on Friday, with the league expected to formally announce each one at some point over the weekend.
Though we don’t yet know the entire 31-player roster that either the Oilers or Blackhawks have submitted, we learned that one of this summer’s biggest mysteries, Corey Crawford, will apparently be travelling to Edmonton.
We are told that goalie Corey Crawford, who has not yet been a participant at Chicago Blackhawks camp, is on the club’s 31-player list submitted on Friday.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) July 24, 2020
Crawford has been noticeably absent since the Hawks have returned to practice this summer. He was deemed “unfit to play” due to his absence at the beginning of camp, but we don’t know if that’s related to COVID-19 or a different injury. Teams do not have to disclose the reason for a player being listed as unfit to play.
Over the past few years, Crawford has missed a fairly significant amount of time due to concussion-related issues. In 2017-18, he was limited to just 28 starts, and, in 2018-19, he started 39 games. This season, Crawford didn’t miss any time due to injury. He started 40 games, splitting the net with Robin Lehner, who, of course, was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights ahead of the trade deadline.
So, at this point, Crawford is still a mystery. We have no idea if he’s going to be fit to play, but we do know that he’ll be an option for the Hawks. Given that teams can bring 31 players along with them, Chicago can comfortably still have three healthy goalies and have Crawford in the mix practicing to try to quickly get into game shape.
“We have ice every day available,” Hawks’ head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “On game days, we have a slot that we can use for extra guys. So, we’re there, and for the most part, we’re going to be in the Rogers arena. They have a practice rink there. There’s a practice rink 25 minutes outside of town, which on some days we’ll use. But it won’t be a problem getting guys on the ice, whoever that may be.”
Hawks captain said on Thursday that he’s confident in Crawford given his ability to bounce back from injuries and perform at a high level.
“Give Crow credit, he’s always risen to the occasion,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews told Chicago media Thursday on a Zoom video conference call. “When he’s gotten in tight spots or when he’s been hurt, he comes back and plays great. I laugh, because the amount of preparation that a guy like me needs to go play at my best as opposed to a guy like Crow who can just pop in there, it’s almost the expectation for him
There’s no doubt that not having Crawford available would be a huge blow to the Hawks. The team boasts one of the worst defences in the league and stellar play from their goaltenders kept them above water.
Crawford and Lehner combined for a .917 save percentage, and, of course, Lehner is now gone. So, if Crawford isn’t good to go, the Hawks will have to start either Malcolm Subban or Colin Delia, both of whom have no playoff experience.
In other Hawks-related news, veteran defenceman Brent Seabrook has announced that he will not be joining the team when they travel to Edmonton. Though the 35-year-old defender has been a full participant in camp over the past two weeks, he said that he wasn’t feeling 100 percent after undergoing right shoulder, right hip, and left hip surgeries in December and January.
Brent Seabrook says he will be not going to Edmonton with the team. "I just don't feel comfortable yet, just not as comfortable as I want to be."
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 24, 2020
This obviously isn’t as big of a hit for the Hawks as Crawford’s absence. While Seabrook was a key part of Chicago’s three Stanley Cup victories in the first half of the 2010s, his play has massively deteriorated due to age and injury. At this stage, it’s not even certain Seabrook would be one of Chicago’s top-six defenders. He was limited to just 32 games due to injury this season and was a healthy scratch back in October.
More important for Chicago’s blueline is the fact that both Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy returned to practice earlier this week. de Haan, who had surgery on his shoulder back in December, had been away due to a family emergency, while Murphy has been bothered by a groin issue. Having both defenders playing close to 100 percent is critical for the Hawks to have anywhere near a competent blueline.