The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominees were announced on Tuesday morning. One player is chosen to represent each NHL team, usually being given to a player who has had to overcome some type of challenge, such as serious injury or an unproductive season prior. Corey Crawford has been chosen as the nominee representing the Blackhawks.
Questions Surround Crawford's Future
Just a few seasons ago, Crawford's future in the NHL was in question. In December of the 2017-18 season, Crawford was pulled after allowing three goals on just seven shots and was put on injured reserve just a few days later. At the time, the Blackhawks did not disclose much information, simply stating that he was suffering from an upper-body injury. Crawford did not play another game in the 2017-18 season, and it was finally revealed that he was dealing with post-concussion symptoms.
The summer going into the 2018-19 season, Crawford's future was still in jeopardy. The team hoped that he would be back in the lineup to start the season. Though he wasn't ready to play right away, Crawford did get his first start in the Blackhawk's sixth game of the season against the Coyotes. Crawford allowed three goals on 30 shots in a 4–1 loss.
The following games were not much better. In 23 games, Crawford had just six wins and endured an eight-game losing streak allowing an average of four goals per game. But things got even worse. In a game against the Sharks on December 16, a year after suffering his first concussion, Crawford's head hit the goalpost and he was taken out of the game. The next day he was placed on injured reserve.
This is when the questions started. Does Crawford continue to play and jeopardize his long-term health? Should Crawford hang up the skates after a great career? Will Crawford ever be the same? This went on for over a month until Crawford was sited doing drills with Blackhawks' goalie coach Jimmy Waite. It seemed Crawford wasn't done yet.
After a month of slowly making his way back into playing shape, Crawford was activated from injured reserve and made his return to the lineup on February 27 against the Ducks. Crawford started in 15 games to finish the season, winning eight games which included a five-game win streak. After nearly a year of questions, Crawford's play did all the answering.
Questions Continue in 2019-20 Season
Crawford started in 39 of the Blackhawks' 70 games in this shortened regular season, splitting time with offseason acquisition Robin Lehner (who won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last season). Both goalies played well behind a team who struggled defensively.
And then the questions started again.
At 35 years old, Crawford's future with the Blackhawks was once again being labeled as potentially over. With both he and Lehner needing new contracts, the team had a decision to make and it seemed Lehner would get the deal. But Crawford had dealt with adversity before so this was nothing new.
Robin Lehner was surprisingly traded at the deadline to the Golden Knights, and Crawford was given the keys to the car. In the remaining eight games before the pause, Crawford showed the team that they had made the right decision. While going 5-3 and allowing under three goals a game, Crawford had made it all the way back.
The nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy will be narrowed down to just three finalists and the winner will be named at a later date yet to be determined. With all the questions surrounding Corey Crawford in recent years, he continues to answer them all with his play.
Should Corey Crawford win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy? Absolutely.