Chicago Blackhawks: Why We're Witnessing the Start of a Goalie Controversy

Matt BauerCorrespondent IIDecember 16, 2011

Chicago Blackhawks: Why We're Witnessing the Start of a Goalie Controversy

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    With the recent emergence of Ray Emery, and Corey Crawford's struggles, it's apparent the Chicago Blackhawks have a goalie controversy on their hands.

    It doesn't matter how many times people around the Hawks organization deny it, Ray Emery is working his way up the totem pole known as the goaltending depth chart.  His play speaks for itself, and there's obvious reasons head coach Joel Quenneville has been riding Emery's hot hand in between the pipes.

    Emery is likely to continue to start in net until he leads his teammates to a loss, and Crawford is going to continue to ride the pine.

    Things could be worse for Crawford, though—he could be Cristobal Huet.

Corey Crawford Is Not Locked Up Long-Term

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    Prior to the 2011-12 season, General Manager Stan Bowman awarded Corey Crawford with a three-year contract worth about $8 million. Crawford is set to earn $3.5 million in the first year ('11), $2.25 million in the second, and $2.5 ,million in the third year of his contract.

    Crawford ended the 2010-11 season with a stellar postseason performance against the Vancouver Canucks, before Chicago was eliminated in seven games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Craw's performance in the postseason was a reason that re-signing the 26-year-old netminder became a top priority for the Blackhawks' front office.

    It's obvious Bowman and Crawford both knew that Corey wasn't deserving of a long-term deal, and he still needed to prove himself before earning the big bucks—it seems to be paying immensely for the entire organization.

    If Crawford were to have signed a larger contract with the 'Hawks it'd be difficult for anyone associated with the organization to even consider a goalie controversy. But that's why Bowman has had as much success as the Blackhawks' GM, as he had in his brief tenure with Chicago.

Corey Crawford's Constant Struggles

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    Corey Crawford hasn't had the season many had hoped for after signing a three-year contract with the Hawks this past summer.

    Craw has stopped less than 90 percent of the shots he's faced in 2011, and he's allowed three goals per game; after denying 91 percent of the shots he faced in the 2010-11 season and allowing a mere 2.3 goals per game.

    Not every goal against has been Crawford's fault. There have been a number of instances in which Craw makes a series of three or more saves in an attempt to bail out his defense, but the 'Hawks defense failed to clear the puck, resulting in a goal for the opposition.

    Crawford has also made a number of breakaway saves on his opponents, because the guys in front of him had bits of a lapses.

    Whether or not Crawford is fully responsible for his struggles in the 2011-12 season, Ray Emery has gotten the opportunity to start in net and his teammates have responded in a positive way.

Ray Emery Is Taking Advantage of an Opportunity

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    Ray Emery has reaped the benefits of Corey Crawford's struggles, and Emery has taken advantage of every opportunity he has gotten to start in net for the Blackhawks this season.

    Emery may not make his job look easy, but he gets the job done.

    If Emery continues to play at the rate he's been, denying over 90 percent of the shots he's faced and allowing 2.7 goals per game, there's a chance that he'll get the nod in net more often than many would've expected prior to the beginning of the season.

    Emery wasn't guaranteed a spot on the Blackhawks roster prior to the season.  He was invited to tryouts and battled Alexander Salak for the backup role, and now Emery has a chance to continue to prove himself worthy as the starting netminder for the Hawks.

Ray Emery Has Always Had to Prove His Critics Wrong

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    The Ottawa Senators were the only organization that had tabbed Emery as their starting goaltender prior to the first game of the season, and that didn't last long. Ottawa waived Emery and bought out his contract following the 2008 season because of a number of incidents involving Emery off the ice.

    Emery spent the following year in the KHL, before he finally returned to the NHL when the Philadelphia Flyers signed him heading into the 2009-10 season.

    In Emery's 29 games played with the Flyers, he stopped 90 percent of his shots and allowed less than three goals per game, however, his season ended earlier then expect due to a procedure he had to undergo on his hip.

    After Emery's contract with Philly expired, the Anaheim Ducks jumped on the well-traveled netminder and signed him to a one-year deal. He only played in 10 regular season games for the Ducks, but he posted a record of 7-2, denied nearly 93 percent of the shots he faced and allowed an impressive 2.2 goals per game in an effort that led the Ducks to the playoffs after starting netminder Jonas Hiller was lost for the season due to injury.

    And now the feisty Emery is out to prove himself in the Windy City, and he's done a successful job thus far. In due time, he may reclaim the starting goaltender title he hasn't earned since playing in Ottawa.

Blackhawks' Season Wouldn't Be Complete Without Another Goalie Controversy

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    What's a Blackhawks season without a goalie controversy?

    The 'Hawks have had a goalie controversy in each of the past three season leading up to 2011-12.

    Last season Corey Crawford claimed the starting goalie title from veteran Marty Turco. 

    In 2010, Antti Niemi stole Cristobal Huet's starting job and proceeded to lead the 'Hawks to the organization's first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years.

    Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin fought all of 2009 for the starting job, which was originally Khabibulin's at the start of the season. Huet played 41 games in '09 and Khabibulin played 42.

    Now it's Crawford and Ray Emery's turn to fight for the starting gig. Only time will tell who will prevail.