NHL Network recently argued about whether former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was a Hall of Fame goalie.
Corey Crawford backstopped the @NHLBlackhawks to two Stanley Cups and took home two William M. Jennings trophies.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) June 6, 2023
Amongst the panel, it was the same tired line of “excellent, but not Hall of Fame” caliber. While it’s a fair assessment that he played on a great team, where would Chicago have been without him? Is it worthy enough to warrant an argument for the Hall?
That’s where we’ll start.
Why not Crawford?
There’s a hat trick of harbingers that hurt Crawford’s Hall Call and most are completely out of his control. As the the crew mentioned, Antti Niemi winning the Cup in 2010 as the starter serves as one of the driving arguments against his candidacy. Only a year apart, Niemi was 26-7 in the regular season and split duties with Cristobal Huet between the pipes. In the playoffs, he was 16-6 and sported a .910 save percentage. Crawford appeared in one game that season.
The second argument? He played in front of an all-star cast of players. To wit, however, which goalie hasn’t and gone on to win Stanley Cups? Dominik Hasek finally won one in Detroit in front of arguably one of the greatest teams of all time. Martin Brodeur had one all-star after another in front of him. Patrick Roy as well. All three, too, played in an era where scoring was down in the clutch-and-grab era.
But they also stood out for individual performances and stealing games. Each of them has the game where their swagger took over and everyone’s eyes were only on them.
Crawford’s presence was nearly as legendary as the aforementioned three. Which brings us to the final one. Outside of the Jennings trophy, Crawford never brought home any hardware. This is the most fallacious of all because without Crawford in 2013, there is no parade in Chicago.
Crawford should have been the Conn Smythe winner.
Crawford Backstopped the 2013 Stanley Cup Win
It was understandable why Patrick Kane won the 2013 Conn Smythe award as the playoff’s most valuable player. There was nothing to sneeze at quantitatively, not to mention that his big-time goals were what really stood out.
But quietly rescuing the Blackhawks twice that playoff run was Crawford. The voters missed the real MVP. But flashy saves weren’t part of the repertoire. But his save percentage? .932. Goals against, though even that stat can be misleading. 1.84. But what about individual games?
Crawford was unbelievable when the Blackhawks’ backs were against the wall in their semifinal tilt with Detroit. Down 3-1, Crawford put up performances of 26 saves, 35 saves, and 23 saves in Games 5, 6 and 7 respectively. The latter of the three included a no-goal call after Niklas Hjalmarrsson had apparently buried the winner. The game headed to overtime and Chicago survived.
Perhaps the most notable game in that Cup run, though, was Game 1 against Boston where Crawford stopped 51 shots in Chicago’s triple overtime victory. When the Blackhawks went down again in the series 2-1, Crawford came through with several clutch saves in overtime to allow the Blackhawks a chance at winning the game. They did. Chicago would then go on to win the series.
He’d also have a hand in the 2015 Cup run, too, being especially clutch in the Stanley Cup Final.
But those memories or performances aren’t enough to buoy Crawford’s case for many when it comes to the Hall.
The Blackhawks Struggles Didn’t Help Crawford’s Case
But it’ll likely be the lack of eye popping numbers that keep Crawford out. He was more of a lunchpail goalie than a showstopper. Maybe the lack of flash didn’t help. His career wins only top out at 60th all time. His career save percentage doesn’t rank high enough either. But the team he played behind later in his career wasn’t the stacked squad he’s been accused of having.
Had Chicago still seen an open contention window, perhaps those numbers in the win column are higher. After all from 2017-2020 the team wasn’t nearly what it was. But Crawford’s numbers were still steady. Outside of the 2018-19 season, his save percentage was either in line with or better than his career average. He hovered around 30 or more wins until 2017-18, where if he hits at least 30 wins in those three season, that’s a swing of 44 additional wins. It catapults him to 304 which ties him for 36th all time and puts him a game short of Hall of Famer Billy Smith.
Crawford has a Hall of Fame case if different factors are considered. But timing and circumstances likely cost him the chance. Kane won the Conn Smythe when Crawford seemingly strapped the team on his back most nights that season. The Blackhawks sunk from 2017 until 2020, where only a playoff system influenced by the pandemic gave Chicago a chance at the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Crawford, playing for a team that influenced dynasty talks, and its stunning fall after the 2016-17 first round playoff exit slowed his chances at a call from the Hall.
Maybe the resume doesn’t glisten like others do. But a closer look beyond just the numbers sees a netminder who certainly has a compelling case.