Emery showed Hawks enough to win job

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
8:08
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
There’s bound to be some raised eyebrows over the Chicago Blackhawks' decision to sign and keep goalie Ray Emery in Chicago while sending Alexander Salak to Rockford.

After all, Salak (1.94 goals against average) had better numbers than Emery (4.54) and simply looked better during the exhibition season. But that’s assuming the backup goalie competition was truly wide open.

It probably wasn’t. And that’s OK.

[+] EnlargeRay Emery
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireRay Emery didn't have the best preseason numbers, but he'll start the season as the Blackhawks' backup goaltender.
The Hawks will talk publicly about their decision over the next couple days but it’s obvious this was Emery’s job to lose and actual preseason results meant little. If he had been god-awful, that’s a different story. He wouldn’t be here. If he couldn’t handle it physically, he wouldn’t be here. But more than likely, Emery proved what they wanted him to prove. He can move and stop some pucks and, for now, stay healthy.

One thing is for sure, no one should be completely judged on a couple of preseason games with different players coming in and out of the lineup. And a weird goal, like the one Emery gave up when he came way out of his net Friday night against Pittsburgh, shouldn’t matter either. If everything was equal -- as in both players were of the same age, same experience, same contract status, same everything -- then maybe it does come down to a few games in the preseason.

But the fact of the matter is, as easily as you can make a case against Emery, you could make a case for him. None better is that this way the Hawks keep both Emery and Salak in the organization.

If they had chosen Salak as the backup, Emery would be looking for work elsewhere. Maybe he would have come back with his tail between his legs, looking for a two-way contract starting in the minors. But there was no guarantee of that.

This way Salak gets some playing time and the Hawks get a veteran goalie who, theoretically, can handle not playing weeks at a time. And if things go south for Emery then Salak should be ready. Despite being in different leagues, the two are still competing. Nothing brings out the best in players more than that.

As Hawks’ nation has seen over the last two years, goalie decisions are a fluid situation. But that’s only OK if there is some cushion in the standings. Maybe if the Hawks had gone to Corey Crawford as the starter earlier last season they wouldn’t have had to battle to the final day of the season to get into the playoffs. The point is, the back-up goalie position doesn’t sound like an important one, but when you consider he’ll likely play in at least 20 games, that’s 40 points at stake. Sounds more important now, doesn’t it?

You have to wonder if Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz has thought for a moment about the checks he’ll sign every two weeks to four different goaltenders -- no matter where they play. Crawford, Salak, Cristobal Huet and now Emery will make good money, but only two can play for the Hawks. All have one-way deals, meaning they will get paid the same NHL salary whether they play for the Hawks, in the minors, on injured reserve, in Europe or anywhere else.

Think about that, four goalies employed by the Hawks all making at least $600,000. If you care about these matters the question should be: Why did the Hawks give Salak a one-way deal? Did they have to entice him to leave Europe with a one-way deal? Did he really want to stay there rather than play and get paid in the best league in the world? Well, eventually play in the best league -- for now he’s in Rockford. Anyway, the answer to those questions should only be the owner’s concern.

The rest of the masses just want to know if Emery can stop the puck enough to win some games. And if he doesn’t, when will a switch be made? The good news is we’ll find out soon enough.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26