For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Chicago Blackhawks missed the playoffs and were forced to spend the spring on the golf course thinking about what went wrong.
For starters, this team was extremely inconsistent. Their best players did not play like their best players, they had a leaky defense, their special teams were awful (28th in the league on the power play; 20th in the league on the penalty kill), and when you play like this and have these issues, it leads to your team finishing last in an extremely competitive division and being the 7th worst team in the NHL.
With all of that said, however, the biggest reason why the Blackhawks missed the playoffs was because they were without their star goaltender Corey Crawford. Crawford, who helped his team to two Cups (2013 and 2015), missed most of last season with an upper body injury.
Prior to the injury, Crawford was easily the team’s best player. In 28 games, he was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, a .929 save percentage, and two shutouts. These are all-star numbers, folks.
Since becoming the team’s starting goaltender in the 2011-12 season, Crawford has been one of the club’s most consistent players. He puts up good numbers every year (Career record of 230-124-45 with a 2.37 GAA, a .919 save percentage, and 23 shutouts), he keeps his team in games that they have no business of winning, and he is a two-time All-Star as well as a two-time winner of William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltender with the least amount of goals allowed.
This is a lot for a team to miss out on. With Crawford hurt, the team had to use several different netminders and none of them grabbed hold of the position and became a consistent goaltender who could help his team win hockey games.
Getting Crawford back healthy should be the number one concern right now. Yes, team general manager Stan Bowman still has to address other on ice issues with his hockey club, but having Crawford back between the pipes would help mask the other problems this team has.
Without Crawford, this team could miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Yes, this team has had a ton of success since the 2010-11 season, but missing the postseason in back-to-back years will not sit well with anyone in Chicago whether it is with the fans or team executives.