Yell at Gatekeeper
With opening night less than a week away, the Blackhawks are down to some tough decisions with their roster. We talked at length about the options on Tuesday night’s Shoutcast, but there are some real questions. I’m going to break down some of the upcoming roster decisions or at least try to lay them out in a logical manor. This doesn’t mean Joel Quenneville decide to use the logical method. First, we look at my favorites, the goalies, which is the only position that is seemingly locked down.
Corey Crawford is the clear and unquestioned number one. He had has his injury bugs each year, but he is still a top 10 goalie in this league. We can all expect another injury at some point this year. It is inevitable. Crawford will continue his solid, unspectacular performance, and continue to be overlooked, as well as under rated. He won’t truly be appreciated until the Cup window is secured shut and this generation of players are retired. It is a shame that the guy gets so much angst from fans that don’t truly understand the intricacies of the position, but it is the nature of the sport and Chicago.
Sneaky offseason acquisition Anton Forsberg will back up Corey Crawford. Before camp began, I honestly thought that Jean-Francois Berube had a solid chance to challenge Forsberg for the backup job, but Berube had a pretty rusty performance against the Blue Jackets. This opened the door wide open for Forsberg. All he needs to do is be solid tonight in Detroit, and the race is officially over. Forsberg really impressed me in his opening game vs the Blue Jackets. He was big in net, quick in the crease, and composed. His reflexes are very good for a big guy. I am now aboard the Forsberg train. If he can keep this up, he’ll be a perfectly fine replacement for Scott Darling.
My dark horse this camp was Jean-Francois Berube, and he simply just didn’t deliver in his one opportunity. His first goal against was more the lack of support from his team, but he got a piece of the Ryan Murray shot. The last two goals against were pretty sloppy. There is no excuse to be giving up a goal off the end boards, from virtually behind the net, like he did to Lucas Sedlak. The third goal was a weak backhand less than a minute later by Oliver Bjorkstrand, that was actually defended alright by Brent Seabrook, which softly went 5-hole. He will be fine in Rockford, if he sneaks through waivers, and “should be” the number one guy there, but Jeff Glass is a former teammate of new coach Jeremy Colliton, so that could affect the game distribution. If Crawford or Forsberg get hurt, Berube is a fine option as well.
Jeff Glass is just a veteran depth guy that can be a leader in the locker room for the kids and provide some valuable consistent experience in the Icehogs backup role. If Glass ends up being counted on for more than a leadership role, then there are real problems.
First year pro (and Puckin Hostile favorite), Collin Delia doesn’t figure into the pro team’s plans this year, or even maybe next, but this will be an important season for him to earn a reputation and gather some crucial experience. Expect him to probably start the season in Indy, with the Fuel, and share time with Matt Tomkins. If Delia can have a solid season in Indy, we could see him get some time in Rockford as the season progresses. He has the potential and certainly has the talent. The fanboy in me wants to see Delia get some Rockford time and wow the pants off everyone, but the pragmatist in me says that isn’t realiztec to expect.
Matt Tomkins is signed to an AHL deal and will eventually end up in Indy with Delia. While I was certainly fine with Jake Hildebrand and Eric Levine in the ECHL last year, Delia and Tomkins are an upgrade to the depth of the organization. Hildebrand was just alright as the primary netminder in Indy, but was overmatched in the few times he actually saw the ice in Rockford. He today signed a tryout with the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL. Levine was a temporary solution to the thin goaltending depth in the organization, as was Jeff Glass, and wasn’t even all that good in Indy.