Where Does Corey Crawford Rank Against the Most Elite After Four Seasons?

Jason S. PariniCorrespondent IIJune 6, 2014

FILE - In this June 24, 2013 file photo, Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, in Boston. The cup will make a special visit to Saint Mary's University in Winona, Minn. on Friday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Arguably the most scrutinized athlete in Chicago right now, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford feels more than just the weight of his gear each time he steps on the ice. He also feels the eyes of over 20,000 amped Chicago Blackhawks fans ready to belt out "Chelsea Dagger" or cry "fail" at any given second.

At 29 years old, Crawford made his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season. However, Crawford didn't become the full-time starter for the Blackhawks until the 2010-11 season. Fresh off a Stanley Cup championship, thanks largely to Antti Niemi, Crawford already had enormous pads to fill.

And fill them he did. 

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

"Crow" led the Blackhawks to the 2013 Stanley Cup championship in only his third full season in the league. The strike-shortened 2012-13 season was one of the most successful campaigns in franchise history, as the Blackhawks set a record for the best start to a season.

Crawford and the Hawks put on an impressive run this postseason, fighting back from a two-game series deficit against their division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, and defeating the Minnesota Wild in six games before being sent home in a thrilling seven-game series against the Los Angeles Kings.

So why is Crawford so often criticized by so many hockey fans? Many will argue that it is his occasional soft goals, while others cite his poor decisions to turn the puck over or leave the goal open.

Regardless, Crawford should certainly be considered among the league's elite. His solid performance in the Blackhawks' first-round comeback against the St. Louis Blues is a small example of Crawford's reliability. The man is human. Every goalie will let in his share of soft goals throughout his career, from Patrick Roy to Corey Crawford.

So just how does Crawford measure up? When it comes to great goaltending, two names come to mind first: Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. In terms of Blackhawks goalies, two names also stand at the front: Tony Esposito and Glenn Hall.

In no way is Crawford among any of those names, at least not yet. After all, he has only been in the league for four full seasons. However, Crawford's statistics are quite impressive when compared to Roy, Brodeur, Esposito and Hall. Here are their regular season statistics through the first four full seasons of their careers: 

Regular Season Statistics Through First Four Full Seasons
Corey Crawford11456.6702.30.9169
Glenn Hall120112.5172.54-24
Tony Esposito13658.7012.18-34
Martin Brodeur11766.6392.27.91422
Patrick Roy10151.6642.91.8949
Statistics Courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com

Although Crawford was largely blamed for the Blackhawks' early playoffs exit in 2011, he has still been impressive in the playoffs otherwise. After all, Crawford played only two full seasons before hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2013, making him only the second Blackhawks goalie to win a Cup since Glenn Hall in 1961. Hall had been in the league for five full seasons before winning the Cup in his sixth year in 1961. Hall and the Blackhawks failed to make the playoffs in his first season in Chicago in 1957-58, despite being named to the NHL All-Star team.

Tony Esposito is another name that comes to mind when one mentions Blackhawks goalies. "Tony O" helped lead the Blackhawks to Stanley Cup Final appearances in 1971 and 1973, though the team lost both to the Montreal Canadiens.

To compare Crawford to goalies like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur is almost unfair to both sides. Roy won his first Stanley Cup in his first full NHL season at the age of 20 but didn't win his second until seven years later. Brodeur won his first Stanley Cup in his second full season in the NHL. Crawford won it in his third.

Here are Crawford's playoff stats compared to the four greats through four full NHL seasons:

Playoff Statistics
GoalieWinsLossesGAASV%Cup AppearancesCup Wins
Corey Crawford32232.29.91611
Glenn Hall8173.16-10
Tony Esposito27192.96-20
Martin Brodeur31142.75.89611
Patrick Roy35172.84.90221
Statistics Courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com

Note that Crawford is tied with Brodeur and Roy for championships through the first four seasons of their careers.

Still think Crawford is soft and unreliable?

Just face it, critics: Crawford is elite. Despite the Hawks missing out on a Cup in 2014, the team certainly has the potential to contend again next season. 

Fans of other teams should be worried about facing Crawford, despite the high amount of criticism that he faces on a regular basis. Until then, critics will continue to disrespect Crawford. Go ahead, fans. It's only going to give him another reason to continue to stand on his head.