If this news were to be confirmed, there would only be two Quebec goaltenders left in the NHL this season: Marc-André Fleury (Vegas) who is 36, and Jonathan Bernier (Detroit), who is 32.
The nursery of Quebec goalkeepers, which was so rich in the past, is therefore drying up. You have to go back to 1959-1960 to find a season in which only two Quebec native goaltenders played 20 or more games in the NHL. At the time, however, the league was made up of just six teams.
Ten years ago, 12 Quebec goaltenders had played at least one game in the NHL, and eight of them had started at least 20 games. By the turn of the 2000s, 18 Quebec-born goalies had stepped on an NHL rink and 12 of them had obtained at least 20 starts.
Besides Crawford, Fleury and Bernier, only three other Quebec goaltenders defended the net of an NHL team last season: Samuel Montembault (Florida, 15 starts), Louis Domingue (New Jersey and Vancouver, 9 starts) and Antoine Bibeau (Colorado, 1 start).
This season, within their respective teams, neither of them is on the list of the two goaltenders likely to enter the season in the NHL.
Crawford is 36 years old. Prior to signing a two-year contract with the Devils last fall, he had spent his entire career working for the Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he won two Stanley Cups (in 2013 and 2015).
In recent years, however, particularly during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, Crawford has suffered concussions which have required long periods of recovery. However, he seemed to have regained his composure last season, in which he made 39 starts and maintained a .917 save average.
The Devils saw Crawford as the perfect candidate to play a mentoring role and support their young goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. However, the plan is not going as planned.
Crawford did not attend the Devils camp this week. Management is discreet about the reasons preventing the veteran goalkeeper from setting foot on the ice. However, statements from several of his teammates suggest he is seriously considering his future.
His teammate Kyle Palmieri notably affirmed that the Quebec goalkeeper
is thinking and must make the best decision for himself and his family. Another sign of Crawford’s possible retirement is that his agent, Gilles Lupien, is declining requests for interviews regarding his client’s future.
The Devils said in a statement on Friday that Corey Crawford would
be absent for an indefinite period for personal reasons, without further details.
The situation is delicate both for the athlete (who has just initialed a lucrative 7.8 million contract) and for the Devils. While the team absolutely must find another reliable goaltender to start the season, they certainly don’t want word to start spreading throughout the NHL and prices skyrocketing. On the other hand, even if time is running out, the organization must respect its athlete and let him mature his decision.
This slow extinction of Quebec goaltenders is certainly not occurring due to a lack of expertise, as more than a quarter of coaches or those responsible for the development of NHL goalies are Quebecers.
Stéphane Waite (Montreal), Pierre Groulx (Ottawa), Sylvain Rodrigue (Edmonton), Frédéric Chabot (Minnesota), Jimmy Waite (Chicago), Frantz Jean (Tampa Bay) and Benoît Allaire (New York Rangers) act as goalkeeper coaches. In addition, a few weeks ago, Roberto Luongo was entrusted with the management of the new department of excellence of the goalkeepers of the Florida Panthers with his former mentor François Allaire. His brother, Leo Luongo, is also the Panthers’ club-school goaltender coach.
Quebec goaltenders made up about a quarter of the NHL’s workforce 15 or 18 years ago. How can we explain, then, that they are thus excluded from the portrait?
Experts, like François Allaire, believe that foreign hockey systems have made a dramatic catch-up since training techniques became readily available on the Internet. Everyone is on the lookout and every technical innovation is now copied and taught across the world in a matter of weeks.
It is also estimated that the Quebec and Canadian goalkeepers have been surpassed by the European goalkeepers, in particular, because they remained too attached to the technical development of their position at the expense of their athletic development.
Quebec coaches are sometimes surprised to find, for example, that their young high-level goalkeepers are unable to throw a ball because they have spent their summers on the rinks instead of playing other sports and developing a variety of sports. » basic sports skills such as running, balancing, jumping, swimming, riding a bicycle, throwing, catching, kicking a ball, etc.
We certainly won’t turn the tide in a snap. Quebec’s hockey culture has already started to change in this regard. And it will be necessary to continue in this direction so that the goalkeepers here end up regaining part of the lost ground.