The Chicago Blackhawks will have an open competition for their backup goalie spot in training camp this year, with Alexander Salak and Ray Emery fighting to sit behind Corey Crawford on the depth chart in Chicago.
Considering the potential of Salak and Emery as a quality backup, the Hawks could enter the 2011-12 season with depth between the pipes that hasn’t been seen at the United Center – ever.
The list of goalies to wear the Blackhawks sweater over the past 20 years is an embarrassment to the organization of Charlie Gardiner, Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall and Eddie Belfour.
Jocelyn Thibault spent five years between the pipes, but was backed up by overwhelming talents like Mark Fitzpatrick, Steve Passmore and Robbie Tallas.
Jeff Hackett was decent, but his one season between the pipts was spent with Chris Terreri by his side.
After the lockout? Nikolai Khabibulin, Craig Anderson, Brian Boucher, Micheal Leighton and Patrick Lalime…
Do you see where we’re going?
Not since the 1991-92 season have the Blackhawks had two good, young goalies that a coach could play with confidence on a nightly basis. That season, Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour was incredible, and his backup somehow earned All-Rookie honors despite limited playing time. Indeed, that backup was good enough that Belfour forced the organization to trade one of them out of town; The Eagle was never comfortable with his spot on top of the Hawks’ depth chart.
Belfour’s backup that year? The guy we traded for the draft pick that landed Eric Daze.
Salak, 24, was the top goalie in the Swedish Elite League this past season, appearing in 32 games and posting seven shutouts with a 1.97 goals-against-average. As Chris Kuc reported on Thursday night, Salak is already in Chicago working on his game at the United Center and would figure to have the inside track on the job with a two-year, one-way contract in hand.
But Emery comes into camp with a lot to prove. He returned from injury last year to win seven of his nine regular season starts, posting a solid .926 save percentage for the Ducks. He will turn 29 in late September, and comes to Chicago with only the guarantee of a chance. But sometimes that’s all a competitor needs.
While we won’t say that the backup this year will have the same career path as Hašek – six Vezina Trophies, two Hart Trophies – there is cause for confidence from Hawks fans heading into the coming season.
Whether it’s Salak or Emery, the Blackhawks will have their best depth in net in 20 years.