This is part two of my "After the Rafters" series where I evaluate a player from Blackhawks history to analyze if they are deserving of one of the following statuses: a statue, the rafters, "One More Shift." Earlier this week, I discussed Patrick Sharp's candidacy for jersey retirement. Today, the focus is phenomenal goaltender and key piece in the two of the Blackhawks three Stanley Cup Championship runs, Corey Crawford.
"CRAW-FORD CRAW-FORD CRAW-FORD!" I can still hear the sound of his name being chanted in stadiums by opposing fans as a way to "get in his head." It rarely was effective. It usually just reminded the Blackhawks fans that Crawford was an imposing figure there in net. He was not just good, but a great goalie. Whenever he was in net, Hawks fans could watch in confidence knowing they always had a chance to win. It was this dominance in net that led the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups in his tenure, one in 2013 and another in 2015. So where does Crawford stand in terms of his eligibility for jersey retirement?
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2003 NHL Draft, Crawford didn't get a legitimate chance at being a NHL goalie until the 2010-11 season. That season, the Blackhawks were trying to fill in the void Antti Niemi left after the thrilling 2010 Stanley Cup run. He was sharing the load with veteran Marty Turco, who, by then, was a far cry from his Vezina runner-up self from almost ten years prior. So with a struggling Turco, Crawford had an opportunity to shine and he did. In 55 games started, Crawford led the Blackhawks to a record of 33-18-6 with a .917 save percentage (SV%) and 2.30 Goals Against Average (GAA).
He never looked back. For the rest of his career, only two seasons did he start fewer than 40 games. One of those seasons was the 2012-13 season when there was a lockout. Speaking of the lockout season, that was probably the best season in Crawford's career and the best season for the Blackhawks on the ice. This was the team that went the first 24 games of the season without a regulation loss. This was the team that finished 36-7-5, Crawford responsible for 19-5-5 of that total. In 2013, he had the second best SV% of his career at .926 and the lowest GAA of his career at 1.94. This means opponents were scoring on average fewer than two goals every game. He was absolutely dominant.
Since his emergence in 2010-11, Crawford never recorded a record under .500 in a season until the 2018-19 season. In fact, if you exclude the lockout season and the injury-filled season of 2017-18 when he only started 27 games, Crawford never had a season beneath 12 games above .500. When he was on, he was nearly unstoppable. An absolute stalwart. In his career he was a 4-time All-Star, a 3-time Vezina finalist (top 10 finish), and 2-time Jennings Trophy winner. He also made the All-Rookie team in the 2010-11 season.
As for the postseason, he had an overall record of 52-42 with a .918 SV% and 2.38 GAA. That includes the final three playoff appearances by the Blackhawks in which they went 7-13. Even amidst that, his SV% never fell below .902 and in the 2020 postseason "bubble" situation, was the only time his GAA was above 3 where it ballooned to 3.31. This was largely affected by a lackluster defense by that time for the Blackhawks. If you focus on the. "Stanley Cup Era" exclusively, he was 45-29, which is even more impressive.
After the 2020 season, general manager at the time, Stan Bowman, announced the team would not resign him and Crawford went onto sign a contract with the New Jersey Devils. He never played in a single game for them due to various "personal issues" and after a couple months of absence, he announced his retirement from professional hockey.
All in all, Crawford was a stud. I think he truly is one of the best goalies in Blackhawks history (right after Tony Esposito) and therefore is very deserving of his number 50 to hang in the rafters. I wouldn't quite put him at "statue" level, but the number 50 certainly should never be worn again by any Blackhawks player. Don't believe me? Crawford ended his career at 260-162-53. His 260 wins is the third most in Blackhawks history. His 52 postseason victories is the most of any goalie in Blackhawks history. Lastly, he is the only goalie to have won multiple Stanley Cups. He is more than deserving. I will be disappointed if Corey Crawford never gets his number retired. But if not, at least we'll always have this: