Rosters for the 2016 NHL All-Star game were released earlier this week, and with the implementation of the 3-on-3 format, we all knew there would be some worthy names left off each division’s roster. One of the more noticeable omissions — especially for Chicago Blackhawks fans — was Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. The day the rosters were announced, Patrick Kane — who will captain a Central Division squad that includes Jonathan Toews — expressed unhappiness over Crawford’s snub.
Credit to Crawford: He hasn’t made a big deal about being left off the roster. In fact, I’m not sure he’s said much of anything about it. It might bother him deep down, but he’s clearly more worried about helping the Blackhawks win games than possibly helping his division win a nearly pointless exhibition. (The winning team’s $1 million prize, which hopefully will go to a bevy of charities, pushes it slightly above pointless status.)
And that’s where we have to look at both sides of the coin as far as Crow being left off the roster. There are pros and cons to his omission, and that’s what we’re going to take a look at in this post.
As far as cons, let’s get the stats and comparisons out of the way early. The All-Star game is meant to showcase a league’s stars, but all professional sports leagues’ All-Star games are typically popularity contests. That explains how former Blackhawk John Scott, now with the Arizona Coyotes, is captaining the Pacific Division team despite having been waived almost as many times this season (three) as he’s found the back of the net in his career (five).
(To address the Scott point, I am not among the group that thinks his inclusion in the game is making a mockery of it or anything like that. Scott seems like a genuinely nice guy, and he speaks for a different segment of the NHL populace. It’s cool.)
An extra wrinkle was added to the popularity contest aspect this season when the 3-on-3 tournament format was announced. With rosters constricted based on a four-team divisional format, along with the NHL’s desire to get at least one player from each team involved, not all of the best players through the halfway point of the season were going to get chosen.
So, let’s look at all eight All-Star goaltenders’ stats and compare them with those of Crawford.
Ben Bishop: 32 games, 15 wins, 13 losses, 3 OTL, .924 save percentage, 2.06 goals-allowed average, 1 shutout
Roberto Luongo: 33 games, 19 wins, 11 losses, 3 OTL, .931 save percentage, 2.06 goals-allowed average, 3 shutouts
Devan Dubnyk: 33 games, 17 wins, 11 losses, 4 OTL, .920 save percentage, 2.33 goals-allowed average, 4 shutouts
Pekka Rinne: 34 games, 16 wins, 12 losses, 6 OTL, .907 save percentage, 2.43 goals-allowed average, 2 shutouts
Braden Holtby: 33 games, 26 wins, 4 losses, 2 OTL, .933 save percentage, 1.90 goals-allowed average, 2 shutouts
Cory Schneider: 34 games, 17 wins, 12 losses, 5 OTL, .927 save percentage, 2.06 goals-allowed average, 3 shutouts
Jonathan Quick: 33 games, 23 wins, 9 losses, 1 OTL, .924 save percentage, 2.09 goals-against average, 3 shutouts
John Gibson: 16 games, 8 wins, 5 losses, 2 OTL, .929 save percentage, 1.76 goals-allowed average, 4 shutouts
Not on a roster
Corey Crawford: 33 games, 21 wins, 10 losses, 2 OTL, .925 save percentage, 2.22 goals-allowed average, 6 shutouts
A lot of numbers to look at there, but one thing is abundantly clear: The Central has the weakest pair of goaltenders by 2015-16 statistics. It’s really not close, either, although that could change if Gibson is forced to miss the game due to an injury he suffered last night. Dubnyk and Rinne made it in based off two things: past success and a desire to diversify the representatives on each team.
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Because who would you take ahead of Crawford, based solely on stats for this regular season, if we were just choosing one giant team? Holtby, for sure. Maybe Luongo. I would still take Crow before Quick. Hell, I’d take St. Louis’ Jake Allen before at least one of Dubnyk or Rinne based solely on 2015-16 stats. So an obvious con to this snub is the stats prove Crow should be going to Nashville.
Another con is he won’t get to spend time with a couple of his teammates and some more NHL friends, along with his family, taking in the atmosphere and perks associated with being an All-Star. Sure, Crow has done it before, and he’s also won two Cups so far — which bring with them their own perks and atmosphere — but I’ll bet being part of an All-Star game never gets old. Why else would Scott go? He’s well aware he isn’t really an All-Star, but he’s doing it for the experience and his family. And I’ll bet if you ask Jaromir Jagr, he’ll say it’s one of the more fun things he’s done in the NHL.
A final con to this, though it’s not as glaring, is Crow doesn’t get to put his skills on display for a larger audience in this event. The reason this isn’t as glaring, of course, is because Crow has gotten to do that in multiple playoff runs with the Blackhawks. Still, this would be him against some of the game’s best (and Scott), and that’s a whole different dimension. For a guy who struggles to get respect, it’d be a nice moment for a showstopping display.
But, again, it’s likely Crow isn’t worried about a lot of this. And that’s where we get to the pros associated with him being left out of the All-Star game.
First, the guy gets to rest up. Part of the reason Crow has been able to rack up these stats so far is the defense is front of him isn’t providing much support. Crow is tied with multiple others for the second-most games played so far in net with 33. On top of that, he’s faced the fourth-most shots in the league at 966 — behind only Ottawa’s Craig Anderson, New York’s Henrik Lundqvist and Florida’s Luongo. Backup Scott Darling has made just nine starts this season, and two of those were within the last 10 days. Crow has been a busy man, and some time off the ice (minus any practicing) will be good for him. He can also avoid any injuries that might result from freak plays in the All-Star game.
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Second, let’s take a look at the stats for the six 2015 All-Star goaltenders after the All-Star game:
Corey Crawford: 27 games, 14 wins, 10 losses, 3 OTL, .927 save percentage, 2.27 goals-allowed average, 1 shutout
Carey Price: 30 games, 20 wins, 6 losses, 4 OTL, .939 save percentage, 1.74 goals-allowed average, 7 shutouts
Roberto Luongo: 25 games, 11 wins, 9 losses, 4 OTL, .917 save percentage, 2.38 goals-allowed average, 0 shutouts
Marc-Andre Fleury: 27 games, 12 wins, 11 losses, 4 OTL, .919 save percentage, 2.33 goals-allowed average, 4 shutouts
Jaroslav Halak: 25 games, 13 wins, 8 losses, 4 OTL, .918 save percentage, 2.47 goals-allowed average, 2 shutouts
Brian Elliott: 24 games, 13 wins, 9 losses, 1 OTL, .904 save pecentage, 2.66 goals-allowed average, 2 shutouts
Besides Price being a freak of nature and Crow being generally solid, most of those stats are pretty pedestrian. In Elliott’s case, they’re downright bad. Not getting a break at the time of the All-Star game effects players in different ways, and while Crow seemed relatively unaffected by falling into that category last season, he wasn’t facing nearly as much of a workload as he has this season.
The final pro we can link to Crow’s snub is his ability to use it as motivation if he so desires. And considering Crow hasn’t said a whole lot about something that seems to bother his teammates and fans a lot more, the guess here is he does use this as motivation. Crow has typically gone through ups and downs as a full-time goalie in the regular season, but he’s almost entirely been on an upswing this season. If you give a guy like that extra motivation, you might want to tell his future opponents to watch out.
Overall, it’s unfortunate Crow doesn’t get the recognition he deserves in the All-Star game. But it’s probably going to be better for him and the Blackhawks, short-term and long-term, that he isn’t headed to Nashville.