It doesn’t have to happen right away, and shouldn’t happen before Steve Larmer gets his due, but the Blackhawks should retire Corey Crawford’s No. 50 jersey.
Crawford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion (2013, 2015) with the Hawks, announced his retirement from the NHL on Saturday.
Currently, the Blackhawks have seven numbers hanging from the rafters of the United Center: Glenn Hall (No. 1), Pierre Pilote (No. 3), Keith Magnuson (No. 3), Bobby Hull (No. 9), Denis Savard (No. 18), Stan Mikita (No. 21), and Tony Esposito (No. 35).
It's worth noting that Pilote and Magnuson's No. 3 jerseys were both retired on Nov. 12, 2008.
Crawford, who many believe should have won the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs over Patrick Kane after helping the Hawks capture the Cup with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage, would be a good fit up high at the UC with fellow goalies Hall and Esposito.
The argument against the two-time NHL All-Star is the same one people used to besmirch his value from the time he was a rookie until he was playing an instrumental role in winning two Stanley Cups, 'He's on a good team.'
True. While Crawford was with the Hawks, he shared a dressing room with four future Hall of Famers in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith.
But, you don't have to be a hockey historian to know that the famed '61 Hawks Cup-winning team wasn't too bad in front of Hall, who on his own relentlessly proved to be the greatest Blackhawks goalie of all time. "Mr. Goalie" had three future Hall of Famers in the room in Mikita, Hull, and Pilote. Al Arbour from the '61 Cup team was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the "Builder" category as a coach.
Esposito (418) and Hall (276) have more regular season wins than Crawford (260). But, Crow's 52 playoff wins are the most in franchise history and he's the only Blackhawks netminder to win multiple Stanley Cups.
Not found on paper is the fact that he delivered when the Hawks' golden age was in full throttle and when it began to deteriorate. His unrivaled mental approach allowed him to be both a calming presence and a spark plug when needed.
"I can’t say enough good things about Crow and the teammate that he was," Keith told Blackhawks media after Crawford retired on Saturday. "Everybody knows what he was able to do for us in net, especially during those playoff runs and the last several years here being the backbone of our team. But he was always a great teammate and just one of those guys you never had to worry about. He was always ready to play in those big games. We miss him around here, but all the best to him and his family in his next chapter in his life."
Crawford's style and personality weren't flashy, which also caused him to get lost in the fold and miss out on personal awards like the Conn Smythe and Vezina trophies, which would have catapulted him to the UC rafters without question and possibly opened the doors to the Hockey Hall of Fame for him one day.
In 2015, people remember Keith playing out of his mind in the postseason and the Blackhawks winning the Cup on home ice, but lost is the fact that Crawford pitched a 25-save shutout, the fifth of his playoff career, for the 2-0 Cup-clinching victory.
When the Lightning came to the United Center on Oct. 21 of 2018 with Crawford out, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper' praise of the now retired goaltender helped put his legacy into perspective.
"To me if you were going to make a list of the three guys in this league that are probably not talked about near enough, but at the end of the day you're going to look at it and say, 'Is this guy a Hall of Famer?' He's going to be one of them," Cooper said.
"Just looking from a far and having played these guys in the Stanley Cup Final, you can sit here and talk about Kane, Toews, Keith, all these guys, but it's Crawford that was the calming influence, especially in the games that we were pressing and games that maybe we could have pulled out that we didn't. It was Crawford that stopped us. And then all the guys took over after that. So, you're taking a look back at his resume, if he continues with a little bit more longevity here, it'll be hard to keep him out of the Hall of Fame conversation."