Blackhawks Goalie Question: Is A Veteran Necessary?

There are a lot of people in Chicago that are ready to buy the gas that send
rookie netminder Alexander Salak to Rockford. In the eyes of the masses, the
Hawks must have a veteran to back up Corey Crawford this season, or they’re
taking a huge, avoidable risk.

The perception that the Blackhawks will fail without a veteran backup is
built on sand, not concrete. And that sand holds very little water.

For the last three seasons, the Blackhawks have entered a season with a
veteran starter. In each of the last two, the backup on Opening Night was a
relatively untested rookie.

In each of the past three seasons, the goalie slotted to be the backup wound
up starting the bulk of the Hawks’ games. Nikolai Khabibulin, Antti Niemi and
Corey Crawford weren’t supposed to be the starter, but forced their way onto the
ice and, eventually, won the job.

Meanwhile, the veterans on those three rosters that were supposed to start
because of their experience – Cristobal Huet and Marty Turco – had capacity
crowds at the United Center ready and willing to drive them to any city in the
country where the Hawks weren’t playing.

The idea that NHL experience makes a goalie better has some merit, but it
shouldn’t be a requirement for the job. The winner of the competition to backup
Crawford should go to the best goalie, not simply the guy who’s played more than
3 NHL games before.

So far in training camp, Salak has looked adequate. Great? No. Good enough?

So far in training camp, Ray Emery has looked mediocre, if not slow and
lacking adequate flexibility. Does he look good enough to be an NHL backup this
year? Honestly, no.

A highly respected site that evaluates goalies, The Goalie Guild, has written
about Salak on a number of occasions. Here is one of their better write-ups on Salak from this summer.

Last year, the Blackhawks were forced to find respectable-yet-affordable players to fill their roster because of financial limitations. Those limitations are gone; the Hawks are more than $3M under the cap this year.

The idea that a veteran is a must as the backup can be thrown away. The Blackhawks can, and should, afford the best possible players on the roster this year. If that means Salak is the man, so be it.

19 thoughts on “Blackhawks Goalie Question: Is A Veteran Necessary?

  • October 2, 2011 at 9:41 am

    This is the wrong way of looking at the situation. The real question is, would you rather have Salak sitting on the bench in Chicago, or Emery sitting on the bench in Chicago while also retaining Salak and allowing him to play the #1 in Rockford. To me, keeping Emery and Salak in the org is better than just keeping Salak and allowing Salak to get a significant amount of playing time is better than him sitting on the bench for 60 games. Win-win.

    Will Salak be a better goalie than Emery for the 25 games Crawford is on the bench? I don’t know, but what I do know is your sure as hell can’t determine that after 1.5 preseason games.

    And the whole, “our last two backup rookies have turned into gold, so why can’t a third” is just about the dumbest rationale ever.

  • October 2, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Actually, the dumbest rationale ever is putting better players in Rockford because you feel the irrational need to have a veteran on the roster. Paying a bad player because he has experience is the Pulford way, which is stupid and loses games.

  • October 2, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    What’s the next alternative? Is there any other goalie we can try out before season starts? Maybe Stan has an emergency backup plan to trade for a backup goalie in case Crawford has a slump. At this point I am seriously doubting our defense and goalie situation.

  • October 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    The next alternative is to get realistic about expectations. Corey Crawford was one of the best goalies in the league last year, and the Hawks have some of the best depth on their blue line in the NHL. I’m not sure which team you’re looking at, but the Chicago Blackhawks are perfectly fine on their blue line and in net.

  • October 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    “Actually, the dumbest rationale ever is putting better players in Rockford because you feel the irrational need to have a veteran on the roster.”

    No, the dumbest rationale is to let go of a goaltender who showed last season that he might still be good enough to be an NHL starter.

    Ozzie19 was right. It’s a ridiculous rationale to think that just because the Hawks caught lightning in a bottle with 2 rookies, means they’ll get lucky 3 yrs in row. Do you have stats to back that up Tab??

    This statement also makes absolutely no sense:
    “Last year, the Blackhawks were forced to find respectable-yet-affordable players to fill their roster because of financial limitations. Those limitations are gone; the Hawks are more than $3M under the cap this year.”

    Huh? What does that have to do with anything?? Emery will likely cost more than Salak. So if you’re suggesting they spend money, then Emery is your guy, right?

    What makes more sense is to let Salak get some solid minutes in Rockford and to increase organizational depth a goalie. If the Hawks let emery go and Salak falters – or Crow or Salk get injured, there’s no NHL-ready goalie in Rockford to fill in.

    And just because Salak has outplayed Emery in 1.5 preseason games doesn’t *prove* he’s the better goalie.

    If Emery will take an assignment in Rockford, then great, keep Salak up. “Veteran” isn’t the issue just because you claim it to be. The issue is having 2 NHL-caliber goalies to backup Crow instead of only 1 (and that 1 being an untested rookie).

  • October 2, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Yeah the logic of original article is suspect. I mean does it matter.

    The real issue is can you take a chance with Salak. You loose Emery, versus try Emery, if he is ok great, Salak playing and in reserve. No backup plan if you don’t send Salak down. I hope Emery gets his shot and then we call up Salak if we have to cut Emery.

    Vet or not is not part of that discussion. Your flexibility with each player is what matters most in this case.

    Well strike all this. We can just sign Turco if Salak blows up. Or is huet available. :)

  • October 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    If (God forbid) Corey Crawford gets hurt, or has any kind of issue that would cause him to be out of the game for an extended period of time this season, we are SCREWED with Emery. The guy looks TERRIBLE. C’mon, everyone here knows there was a reason Anaheim did not resign him…he freakin’ sucks now. Salak earned the position fair and square. Don’t think the only time this guy will lace up skates will be when he backs up Crow this year. He’ll practice, stay in shape, and be an excellent backup to Corey this season. Emery is trouble waiting to happen.

  • October 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    if Vet or Not isn’t part of the discussion, then WHY are we talking about Emery at all, Steve? LOL… you defeat your own comment there. If this was an open competition, and the BETTER goalie wins the backup job, it isn’t close. Salak is the guy. The only reason we’re even talking about Emery is because he has experience. He has been mediocre, if not bad, this preseason.

  • October 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    I’ll wait for you to rationalize the 11 games Emery played that showed you he “might still be good enough” to do anything… because Emery didn’t show anything but mediocrity this preseason.

  • October 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Why? He was solid last year and can play. You get a free shot to see if he turns his game up. If he does great, you have Salak playing and improving.

    If not, you call up Salak or make a trade.

    I don’t know if there was a competition. Let Emery have it, I was surprised he was this bad. He sure doesn’t look like the guy at the end last year in Ana.

    What is the deal with your attitude? I think this was better when you don’t reply to people. I guess I will leave the bad posts alone. The first commenter nailed it.

  • October 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    oops, forgot to ask this question. Didn’t we do the same thing with Niemi? It was crawford and Niemi in “competition”. We took Niemi since we couldn’t send him down. So while even, we took the free shot at it. If Niemi didn’t work out, you call up Crawford. Wasn’t that the case. If so, this is deja vu all over again.

  • October 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    So you’re surprised Emery was this bad… and he sure doesn’t look like the guy at the end of last year in Anaheim… but we’re supposed to hand him a job based on what he did in Anaheim? The logic doesn’t come full circle, Steve.

  • October 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    “I’ll wait for you to rationalize the 11 games Emery played that showed you he “might still be good enough” to do anything… because Emery didn’t show anything but mediocrity this preseason.”

    Let’s see 11 REGULAR SEASON games versus 1.5 PRESEASON GAMES. Yeah, not sure what I was thinking looking at games that meant something.

    “if Vet or Not isn’t part of the discussion, then WHY are we talking about Emery at all, Steve? LOL… you defeat your own comment there.”

    1. I find it hilarious you discount your readers’ opinions by LOL’ing at them.
    2. How did he disprove his own comment? If these were two promising rookies we were talking about – but by bringing up one, they would lose the other – the situation would be the same. You try to keep both.

    And as Steve suggested this is the very much like the Niemi-Crawford situation 2 yrs ago. Per Bowman, it came down to Corey being exempt from re-entry waivers, so they brought Niemi up. Salak is also exempt, he can come up any time if Emery doesn’t work out.

    And Blackhawks44 your argument doesn’t hold water. If Crow was to get injured, Salak would get called up. So you’d have Emery and Salak filling in, which would be a lot better than your scenario, which would have Salak and Richards as the tandem.

  • October 2, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Salak is the better goalie but he is young and needs to be playing regularly, which unfortunately means starting 55-60 games in Rockford this year. It will do a whole lot better for him and the organization if he’s there this year. He will gain nothing from sitting on the bench all season. Emery will be adequate for 25 games this season. He’s always been solid when called upon.

  • October 3, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I think there’s one reality every Blackhawks fan can be excited about.

    Last year, we were having the Emery-Salak argument over who would start and who would backup, between Turco & Crawford. This year, we have a young 33-game-winner and we’re arguing over who should, God forbid, play 20 games this year as Crawford’s backup.

  • October 3, 2011 at 1:06 am

    @ChicagoNativeSon preseason or regular season, considering Emery is only in Chicago on a tryout basis, wouldn’t he be playing his ass off regardless? I feel like he did try pretty hard and still came up pretty short. Salak is who backs up Crawford if Chicago is interested in winning.

  • October 3, 2011 at 5:58 am

    fom may: “The reported one-way contract does not guarantee Salak will be Crawford’s backup next season, but it does guarantee that he will be paid an NHL salary, even if he is ultimately sent to play for Rockford.”

    i am not sure how wavers relate to the two goalie’s situations but it clearly shows management’s opinion of salak’s potential.

    i like him a lot. emery .. not so much (but certainly he doesnt seem like a dud)
    but i dont think training camp was anything but a test of emery’s health which he seems to have passed. his body of work speaks for itself and criteria for veterans in training camp are different than for unproven players
    i fully expect him to be signed unless his demands price him out of the budget
    nhl caliber goalies have become plentiful as many teams have gone with youth the last couple of years .. we can get one when we need one
    but thats just my opinion
    bowman will sign him because bowman plays the percentage game and insurence is best if you dont end up needing it

  • October 3, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Salak was signed to a one way contract most likely because that was the only way to get him back to North America. If the hawks were so in love with Salak, then why did they give Emery a try out?

    This is nearly exactly the same as Niemi/Crow, excellent point. For those of you that remember, Crawford outplayed Niemi that preseason.

    If crow goes down, most likely Salak gets called up to be the start, which he will be more prepared to do if he’s starting.

    I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to understand why some fans believe Salak + Emery> only Salak. If Emery sharts the bed in the first month or so, cut him and bring up Salak. No harm done.

  • October 4, 2011 at 9:26 am

    emery is the back up now so the only question left is how badly he will stink the place up
    turko’s problem wasnt that he was too old but that he is too small and the game is getting so fast that being quick isnt enough have to be big bodied because you’re not going to see a lot of the deflected shots coming at you
    emery has the size so we’ll see
    salak wont be effected by waiver requirements until he has 60 nhl games under his belt i found out so its only an issue if they ever want to send emery to the ahl


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