It’d be an understatement to say that the Stanley Cup title that the Chicago Blackhawks won this summer looks a whole lot better than the last one, when you take into consideration the work they were able to do with their roster this summer, which focused more on retaining players long term, than cutting them loose.
Unlike the last time the Hawks took home Lord Stanley, they were able to hold onto their championship goaltender. This time around, it was the man who replaced Antti Niemi, for all intents and purposes, as the “future” between the pipes for the Hawks, in Corey Crawford.
Crawford rebounded from what can be considered something of a sophomore slump in 2011-12 to turn in an outstanding 2013 campaign. He was half of a Jennings Trophy winning goaltending tandem, and likely should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That led to Crawford, who was set to become a restricted free agent next summer, receiving a long-term deal from the Blackhawks. He signed for six years on a deal that makes him one of the higher paid netminders in the game. Now he gets to take all of the scrutiny that comes along with such a contract.
Even after winning a Stanley Cup, Crawford had doubters. He always has. The Stanley Cup Finals are a perfect example of that, as his glove hand drew so much attention from both fans and main stream media, across the country, alike. A lucrative long-term deal will only magnify whatever issues Crawford may have.
Which aren’t many. The bottom line is that Crawford really is the real deal. His 2011-12 season was more of a confidence issue than anything. He has the tools to be successful. We saw what a confident Crawford can do in the 2013 season. That doesn’t mean that he won’t face criticism. A deal like the one he received ensured that there will be an uproar somewhere in the Windy City the first time he gives up more than three goals in a game. Which is going to happen, because it happens to literally every goaltender on the planet.
Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see how Corey Crawford fares now that he has gotten paid. Last year was no fluke, but he’ll be playing under a much larger microscope now that he’s being paid like he’s one of the league’s elite.