The 20 year old Sawchuk came up to Detroit after two solid seasons in the AHL and 4-3 with a 2.29 average and a shutout. Then, for five seasons he was out of this world.
Sawchuk's Goals against average of 1.94 was over half a goal better than the league average and he recorded an amazing 57 shutouts over those five years. Then, the Wings traded him to Boston in favour of an up and coming Glenn Hall. Hall had played the last three seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western League and the Wings wanted him to take over for Sawchuk even though Hall was only two years younger. Sawchuk would play adequately the next season but in January of '57 he left the Bruins due to exhaustion and nerves. He returned to live in Detroit and missed the remainder of the year. Detroit re-aquired him in July of that year for Johnny Bucyk. Sawchuk's career numbers after his initial trade to Boston are rather pedestrian as seen below. His Average is still under the league average, but not by much, and his record was under .500. Even his playoff numbers were the polar opposite of his outstanding first five seasons.
In reality, after the glorious start to his career, Sawchuk became Kirk McLean. Check out McLean's career numbers compared to Sawchuk's final 15 years. McLean's record was slightly worse and his average was as close to over the league average as Sawchuk's was under it.
Sawchuk made only two Second All-Star Teams and finished in the top three in GAA only three times over his last fifteen seasons. McLean garnered one Second Team selection over his 16 seasons. In truth, the numbers Sawchuk put up over his first five years were probably enough alone to have him considered one of the all-time greats. I just find it strange how
the last fifteen years of his career were nowhere near the calibre of his start.