Last summer, at my previous website, I took some time to examine (what I consider to be) my area of expertise…
To the surprise of many, that expertise is not complaining and fighting with meatballs on Twitter, but goaltenders and goaltending.
It may be more of an obsession than an area of expertise, but I digress.
I laid out my opinion of how the Blackhawks goaltending situation would play out. Of course, I could not have predicted Corey Crawford would be out for the season after December 23rd, but I think the season played out much like I predicted.
Below is a piece I wrote the day they signed Collin Delia to a contract. I figured that it would be a good time to look back to see how things shook out.
First, some love for The-Rink and Hostile Legend Collin Delia, who was named the AHL player of the week, just last week:
The Blackhawks announced this morning that they had finalized a deal to bring former Merrimack junior goalie Collin Delia in to the Blackhawks organization and goalie fold.
As one might expect, I was absolutely delighted to hear this, because I have been singing the song of Delia for about 12 months. Last summer, when he was coming off a visit to the Ducks prospect camp, he caught my goalie eye. Even though he went back to Merrimack for his Junior season, he attended Capitals camp this summer, as well, and was invited back to Blackhawks camp.
Seeing a free agent two years in a row, in the same team’s camp is rare. NHL organizations were taking a long hard look at this California kid, and with the house cleaning the Blackhawks performed this spring/summer another solid goalie in the pipeline is never a bad problem to have.
Ever since I saw Delia play during the prospect camp of 2016, I was intrigued with his style and very calm demeanor. He was coming off an injury plagued sophomore season, that saw his stats dip, after an impressive freshman nine game look the season before. Even though he didn’t miss much time, his goals against went up by over a goal a game and his save percentage went down by .050, as a result. Just watching Delia play, though, it was hard to not be impressed.
He has decent size at 6’2″ and roughly 200lbs, but he’s no physical giant like Scott Darling. The first thing that really caught my eye, though, was his smooth fluid movement sliding side to side. Look, it’s not easy to master sliding side to side on ice without some little imperfections, but Delia looked to have his weight distribution locked in. He makes it look so simple, which takes exceptional bio-mechanics to accomplish. Not only does he move very smooth, but his natural reflexes were on display both this year and last, more specifically, his glove hand. Delia has a low compact stance, which allows him to explode in any direction quick and efficiently, and he’s also very flexible.
He came back this summer healthier, and better overall, after getting back on track with a very respectable 2.15 goals against average and .927 save percentage, while being named Hockey East Third Team All-Star and the league’s Stop It Goaltending Champion. It is easy to see why Blackhawks goalie specialists Jimmy Waite, and Peter Aubry were licking their lips. He came into prospect camp and stole the spotlight from camp vet and former draft pick Matt Tomkins, which led GM Stan Bowman to personally pull Delia aside to acknowledge his great week at camp.
Now on to the predictions:
With Friday’s signing, the Blackhawks now have six goalies under their umbrella in one fashion or another. Delia will, most likely, attend the Traverse City Rookie tournament with the Blackhawks rookies, later this summer. He will also attend the pro training camp in September, when all but Corey Crawford’s starting job could be up for grabs.
Goalie Matt Tomkins signed an AHL deal just before prospect camp, but with JF Berube and Jeff Glass signed to NHL deals, Tomkins looks to be all but Indy bound. This leaves Delia on the cusp of Rockford and Indy. Anything can happen, and given Jeff Glass’ age, Delia could push for a backup spot in Rockford with strong training camps.
Peripherally, I am still not sold on Anton Forsberg as Crawford’s backup, and JF Berube could surprise people, as well. Most likely, the depth will play out with Crawford/Forsberg in Chicago, with Berube/Glass in Rockford and Delia/Tomkins in Indy. Don’t be surprised of you see Berube and/or Delia make some waves and force the Blackhawks to make some more complicated decisions, though.
Not too shabby, if I say so myself.
In all honesty, I was just making guesses based on my personal evaluation of the goalies I had seen. With Corey Crawford’s injury and uncertain future, the Blackhawks may be forced into some uncomfortable positions.
Like the back of a Volkswagen?
I honestly think Corey Crawford will be back next season, but the organization will have to assume that he will, again, spend some time in injured reserve at some point. He has not been healthy for an entire season in years and he is coming off of a pretty significant bout of post concussion syndrome, according to reports.
VERDICT – Until a doctor tells us otherwise, we have to assume Crawford will be back healthy in the fall.
Anton Forsberg has had a rough year. He started off absolutely on fire, but has not yet shown he can be handed the net. It is probably a bit too early to be cutting bait on a 25 year old goalie. They have him signed for another year at a very affordable cap number so they will ride this one out, unless someone comes calling with a deal they cannot pass up. Highly unlikely.
VERDICT – Back for one more year and possibly competes with Berube for the backup spot once again.
The way they have fumble and butchered the fragile confidence of Anton Forsberg, bringing back Jean-Francois Berube seems like an affordable foregone conclusion, but Stan Bowman is not always interested in what is most logical. With a thin corp of free agent goalies this year, building on all of the time and development you put into Berube, already, would seem plausible.
VERDICT – He battled a pretty bad injury and fought his way back. As of late, he has been the more consistent of the two current Blackhawks goalies. Give him another affordable deal, and have him compete with Forsberg again. At the very least, he will be a solid starter in Rockford with Collin Delia.
Jeff Glass will be an unrestricted free agent and, based on the depth chart, he should be left to sign elsewhere. He served his purpose and they got all they could out of the guy. If the team stops playing sentimental favorites and actually let Jeff Glass go, maybe they can bring him into the organisation as a goaltending scout or coach instead of mucking up the roster with 32 year old dead weight.
This would open up a spot for Bowman to sign another depth goalie, if they feel that they need to.
VERDICT – Let him go. This franchise does not need to get any older, and Delia has shown that he can take that next step. He was a warrior and hung in there as expansion draft bait, but bid him adieu
Collin Delia has shown that he can be, at the very least, an AHL backup. He is signed and will be back next season. He could very well push to be that number three guy, especially if they do something silly, like letting both Glass and Berube go. If that were to happen, Delia would be one Corey Crawford or Anton Forsberg injury away from making his NHL debut.
VERDICT – He will be back, and The-Rink will be on that bandwagon.
Behind Delia, Matt Tomkins has been playing pretty well, between Rockford and Indy. He is on an expiring AHL deal, but has done nothing to think that he is undesirable to this franchise. I would guess they will bring him back for another year.
VERDICT – Bring the kid back. He has hung in there and grown over the last year. If he wants to stay with the Blackhawks, he has earned the right to come back.
Lastly, the Blackhawks still hold the rights to Russian goalie Ivan Nalimov and former draft pick Wouter Peeters. Nalimov is under contract for one more year with Salavat Yulaev in the KHL and Peeters has been struggling in the USHL, so neither is an option for 2018-19.
VERDICT – Do not even bother with either of these guys until, at least, next spring. At the earliest.
If Crawford is back and they are as confident in Delia as I am, then the Hawks should probably sign another young free agent goalie to develop, possibly out of development camp. You could also see them acquire an unfamiliar name in a low level deal at the draft. Someone like Elmhurst native Garret Sparks comes to mind.
If Crawford is not back, they will be in trouble anyway. They could go one of two routes:
- Try and poach a young RFA, like Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Philipp Grubauer. This is a rare occurrence, because NHL General Managers are cowards, but still plausible.
- Sign an NHL level vet to some in and hold down the net until Crawford can eventually come back. Someone like Cam Ward, Jaroslav Halak, or Jonathan Bernier. You may cringe at those names, but if you can get them at reasonable prices they may be able to stop the ship from completely sinking just long enough to straighten out this Crawford ordeal.