It feels good to have a reason to talk about the Blackhawks. Possibly learning from the mistakes of last off-season and the shenanigans of years prior, SB and company moved quickly to secure Crawford to a contract causing him to be the future of the Chicago net for a few years to come. The deal seems to have placed Corey at around 8 mil for three years, or 2.67 mil a year. He deserves it, but I also find it a bit above the number I expected. Kudos to the organization for realizing Crawford's commitment to the team over the past few years and his work ethic which landed him in these negotiations, but I have to ask where the money is coming from.
Player Eval #1: Corey Crawford gets his contract.
With the Seabrook deal and future deals coming up, the Hawks are obviously finding money somewhere. It might be in the possible change in salary cap regulations that the NHL has been throwing around, or in a move that SB hopes to make during the off-season. Money has been tight, and Stan seems unmoved by that fact.
I think we can all agree that Corey deserves his just desserts. While he may not have outright stolen many games over the past season, he did keep the Hawks in many that should have been out of reach. He was approaching the top of the goals against column in the NHL for a while before having a rough end to the season, and he managed to be pulled only twice. All in front of a inconsistent team. With doubts looming about the future of who would be the defender of the Hawk's game, Crawford wasted no time proving himself. Something the Chicago fans should be used to by this point, Q finally learned his lesson and backed Crawford for the last 2/3rds of the season.
34 consecutive starts might have taken its toll on Corey as his numbers dropped towards the end of the season (it might have been wise to rest him here and there a bit more), but he showed in the playoffs just how much of the real deal he is. Out playing one of the league's premier goaltenders and giving his flailing team every chance to upset the President Trophy winners. Crawford was huge in net and quite possibly silenced any fans left with doubt in their minds.
His strengths come from poise and positioning. Crawford has become excellent at setting himself up for the easy save. Out thinking his opponents and reacting quickly to changes in direction. He does not have the a great glove, nor blocker, and he has nothing on Niemi's ability to stop pucks threw traffic and down low, but he makes up for all of that in patience and work. At his best, he looked twice his actual size, cutting off corners and maximizing his angles to cause attackers to second guess themselves eventually to run out of time. When his game started falling in the later weeks of the season, it was largely a reaction to his frequent moves out of the net. He is not a chaser like Turco, and he lacks the speed of Niemi to make up for mistakes. I think that he will only improve over time and become ever more solid in his ability to out-think his attackers.
Since I am a teacher, I find it only fitting to give every player that I evaluate a final grade (although being an art teacher, I have little faith in the grading system).
Corey Crawfords final grade:
A. a solid A at that.