This season went nowhere fast for the Blackhawks after goalie Corey Crawford was put on injured reserve.
Next season promises more of the same for the Hawks if Crawford isn’t 100 percent recovered from what the team has termed an “upper-body” injury, reportedly concussion-related.
Which brings us back to this season, which will be lost whether or not Crawford comes back.
At this point, what’s the point of his return?
There are 12 games left before the Hawks begin their earliest summer vacation in 10 seasons.
Crawford hasn’t been on the ice since Feb.12, when he faced a few shots and spent most of the team’s morning skate as a spectator.
It would take Crawford at least a week to 10 days to get back into game shape. The risk of playing a game or two hardly seems worth whatever reward might come with it.
“We’re talking about that,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Wednesday. “We’d like to say we were optimistic then and now we’re not as optimistic, because not as many games (left in the season) and it’s a tighter schedule. But we’ll continue to see.”
And we’ll likely continue to hear the same things over and over from the Hawks regarding Crawford’s status.
A charade of “we’ll sees” and “status quos” and “no news” and “hopefully we’ll get him back on the ice soons” until finally time will deem his return improbable, if not impractical.
Surely Quenneville is tired of repeating the same old lines.
Answering questions more directly would seem to make a lot more sense. But that’s not the way the Blackhawks do things.
Quenneville said he didn’t want to “get into details” when asked for specifics about Crawford’s condition in late December, adding he expected him to be out indefinitely.
Quenneville didn’t want to “get into that part of it” three weeks later, either, when he was asked whether team doctors were treating Crawford.
In early February, Quenneville said “we don’t discuss injuries,” a dangerous stance approved by the NHL but not followed by every team.
The Stars and Red Wings are among several teams that are more transparent about injuries. Sometimes players themselves are open about it, such as when the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews revealed he missed six games this season because of a concussion. The Capitals’ T.J. Oshie did the same when he had the same injury.
Crawford has spoken publicly just once, after he was mostly a spectator for that morning skate in Arizona on Feb. 12, since he was put on injured reserve Dec. 27.
And he said pretty much nothing.
“Not bad,” he said when asked how he felt. “It’s a process to get to a point where I can get into a game. It’s still looking good.”
Now it just looks pointless.
It stands to reason the Hawks’ early optimism about Crawford’s possible return was in good faith. The team didn’t place him on long-term injured reserve. They gave it a whirl on the ice in Arizona in mid-February.
But the efforts, so far, have been fruitless.
One thing Quenneville hasn’t denied is that the Hawks have missed Crawford this season, the first in 10 the team will miss the playoffs. And the same easily could hold true next season if this injury turns out to be more long-term than the team initially thought.
It’s not like All-Star No. 1 goalies with two Stanley Cups on their resumes are out there for the taking.
“He’s been arguably our key player all year, and the consistency he’s given us in the net, we know how valuable the position is and what it means to your team,” Quenneville said. “It’s almost like, ‘OK, that’s a tremendous hole.’ ”
The hole this season already has been filled in. No use in putting any dirt on next season now.