In any conversation of who are the greatest players to ever don a Minnesota Swarm sweater, Callum Crawford is undoubtedly one of the first names to come up. The forward hasn’t yet completed five full seasons in Saint Paul and he has already made his way to the pinnacle of the franchise leaderboard in points (402) and assists (268) in a Swarm uniform, and is only eight tallies short of accomplishing the same feat in goals scored.
While Crawford’s impact on the scoreboard is unmistakable, the nine-year pro assumes a much greater role within the Swarm dressing room, where he is an assistant captain, a teacher and mentor to his teammates. Days after he notched his 500th career NLL point in Calgary, Crawford shared his thoughts with MNSwarm.com, where he talked about his evolution as a playmaker, the development of his teammates and what his team needs to do to kick things into gear as the 2014 season winds down.
Hollerud: You eclipsed the 500-career point mark last weekend and you sit only eight goals short of becoming the Swarm’s all-time goal leader. To what do you attribute all the success and notoriety you’ve enjoyed in your career so far?
Crawford: The majority of my success is definitely team success. Something I’ve reiterated anytime that I have talked about personal accomplishments is that it’s the ability to get to play with some great players and helping them succeed, and having them help me succeed as well. I’ve kind of turned into more of a distributor than a guy who is going to go out and do everything himself, so I need guys who are goal scorers for me to get points and vice versa.
I’d also say personally it’s just about knowing that there’s always room for improvement. I’m a guy who’s always asking questions, and reviewing tape and always wanting to get better, and as long as I’m striving to get better, I’ll always have the opportunity to do some pretty good things in my career.
Hollerud: You mentioned that you are more of a set-up man, was that the identity you intended to build with your game or did that come about more organically in your career?
Crawford: When I first came into the league I was more of a one-on-one guy, who got the ball, buried my head, and went to the net as hard as I could. I didn’t really have a great ability of seeing the other side of the floor and I missed a lot of open guys. I did have some personal success in doing that but I never wanted to be that player that nobody wanted to play with, and I really paid attention to what coaches and other players had to say and I tried to take what was my biggest flaw at the time–seeing the other side of the floor and distributing the ball–and make it one of the strong points of my game. I truly believe the best players in the world are the ones who make the people around them better, and that’s what I strive to do.
Hollerud: Even with all your assists, you have shown time and time again, such as in the last Buffalo game, that you can be relied upon to deliver huge and timely goals. How are you able to consistently produce when the lights are at their brightest?
Crawford: I think partially it is the faith from the coaching staff and the other players on our team, that they are comfortable with the ball in my stick at any point in the game, much like I am comfortable making a pass to any single guy in our offense with the game on the line–a lot of it is trust. But then a big part of it is that I play with some great guys who give me the opportunity to have success as well.
Hollerud: What is your take on how this team has played so far this year?
Crawford: We’ve just been inconsistent unfortunately. Honestly, we show some greatness in games; every game including the last one we play really well in three quarters and then have a lapse in one quarter. We just haven’t been able to get both sides of the ball performing at the same time and that is a huge key to success in this league. Sometimes your offense will need to pick up for your defense and score a few extra goals, and vice versa, but this year we really haven’t been able to do that yet.
Hollerud: Many point to the your team’s youth and relative inexperience as a reason the Swarm have struggled. In your position as assistant captain, how would you evaluate the young guys’ development thus far?
Crawford: Great. If you watch all of our first-year players, and even our second-year players, they are getting better every time they get out there. Guys like [Scott] Jones, who I honestly think has a better game every single time he steps on the floor, which is awesome to see because he is a great player and he showed such great things in training camp, and he’s consistently improving which is great.
Same thing for guys who are in their second year; in a lot of sports you hear of guys having sophomore slumps, and I don’t really know about any of our guys who are having a slump. The way they have been able to handle themselves in the locker room and on the floor shows such great maturity–seeing guys like [Kiel] Matisz and Shayne Jackson developing as leaders–there’s things they are doing outside of scoring that are signs of maturation. The stats may not be there but you can see these guys growing and that this team is moving in the right direction.
Hollerud: Last Saturday at Calgary was another example of a game you guys played so well throughout, but just couldn’t finish the job. While frustrating, what can you guys take from losses like that where you are in contention from wire-to-wire?
Crawford: We’ve done a good job of taking the positives from games, but [Saturday’s loss] wasn’t one of those times to sit back and say: “we did this well but couldn’t get it done.” The coaches really held us accountable after the last game, which was great, as there is no time to think about next time or else this season will be lost. We’re not out yet but we can no longer only play three quarters or take five minutes off here and there. Part of that is maturity and part of that is gutting-up and doing it.
Hollerud: It is pretty obvious how big the upcoming series against Rochester is for you guys and your playoff hopes, so what are the keys for you guys to find some success against the defending champs this weekend?
Crawford: Consistency, we have the tools to be successful and we all know it. Every player in our offense has the ability to put the ball in the net; it’s time for us to do it. There’s not much more to talk about or analysis to be done, it’s just time to be accountable and go out there no-holds-barred and do whatever it takes to win. It truly is our season on the line and we need to win. There’s no recipe for it, it’s just our time to show up, punch in, put our hard hats on and go to work.
Hollerud: After this weekend’s home-and-home, you have three straight at The Hive to end the regular season schedule. How crucial is it to play in front of your home crowd when you are in a situation where you need to string wins together?
Crawford: Playing in front of our home crowd will hopefully give us that extra step to be successful. I’ve said it time-and-time again that our fans are our sixth man out there, they feed us and provide our energy. Getting the chance to save our season in front of them is our best chance for success and we’re excited to be able to do that.