Hockey Hall of Fame – Future Class or Future Snub?
This past Monday, five individuals were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. There has been little debate on whether or not the class of 2013 is worthy of induction. Fred Shero was a revolutionary coach who earned two Stanley Cup rings with the Flyers. Geraldine Heaney has been credited by many as being the Bobby Orr of women’s hockey. Brendan Shanahan’s grit, determination, and goal-scoring ability helped Detroit to three Stanley Cups. Chris Chelios was one of the most durable players of all-time, and a stalwart for Team U.S.A in international play. Finally, Scott Niedermayer was an exceptional leader and natural winner, being the only player to ever win the Memorial Cup, Stanley Cup, World Jr. Gold, Olympic Gold, a World Cup, and a World Championship.
Looking at next years’ class, we can see that Dominic Hasek and Peter Forsberg are locks to be inducted – here are two players where we don’t even need to have the debate. However, instead of rehashing their candidacy, I’d rather look at a few candidates who will generate some more discussion on both sides concerning the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ as to their inclusion into the hall.
Every year during induction time though, there are certain players who are debated over as to whether or not they should have a spot in hockey’s shrine. Whether it be due to a lack of a Cup ring, injuries, off-ice problems, or not enough total points scored, there are hockey greats who cannot get a decisive “yes” vote to be recognized in the building on the corner of Younge and Front. Let’s look at the pros and cons for a few of the debated names.
Eric Lindros: When he was healthy, “The Big E” was one of the most dominating players in the game. Lindros led the Oshawa Generals to a Memorial Cup in 1990, and followed that with a 149-point season in 1990-91 with the Gens. Upon his first season with the Flyers, Lindros racked up seven straight seasons with at least 70 points, including a 115-point season in 1995-96, a Hart Trophy and Pearson Award in 1995, and a trip to the finals in 1997. His international accolades are impressive as well: two World Jr. gold medals, a Canada Cup, and an Olympic gold in 2002.
But the last half of Eric’s career was riddled with injuries and a reduction in points. Concussions plagued Lindros, and from 2001 until his retirement in 2007, Lindros scored more than 70 points only once.
Is he a HoF’er? This is a tough one. A career shortened due to injury should not be a con against him, but many will point to it as a flaw for Lindros. Pavel Bure and Cam Neely are both inducted, two careers shortened due to injury, and Lindros played in more games and scored more points than both of them. Could it also be Eric’s poor off-ice reputation of the past (refusal to play in Quebec/feud with Bobby Clarke) and the failure to live up to being “The Next One” that causes detractors for his case? The consensus seems to be a no, but I say he deserves consideration.
Sergei Makarov: Though he did not debut in the NHL until 1989-90 with Calgary, Makarov was one of the most feared offensive threats in Russian history. As part of the KLM line with Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov, between 1978-1989, Makarov scored 710 PTS in only 519 GP with CSKA Moscow (an impressive 1.36 PPG). Upon his arrival into the NHL he notched 86 PTS in his first year with the Flames, and even though he was past his prime, he four of his first five seasons with at least 65 PTS.
Is he a HoF’er? Though Makarov may not have dazzled in the NHL, he was still dominant overseas, and the Hall of Fame is not just for exceptional NHL play. The argument could be made against him that CSKA was a stacked team in a weak league, but Makarov’s international resume is outstanding, and he proved he could play at an equal standard with North American players. Not only did he win countless gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships, but also his performance in the 1987 Canada Cup with 15 points in 9 GP was quite impressive. I think he deserves to be in the Hall.
Pat Burns: The late coach’s admission to the Hall has stirred debate, but for the most part, the debate is to why he is not in yet. Burns has a Cup to his name, three Jack Adams awards, and his 501 career wins are good for 16th all-time, and in 12 full seasons, his teams missed the playoffs only once. Not only does he have the stats, but he was also a man who was truly beloved by the people and the players wherever he went.
Is he a HoF’er? The only reason I can muster as to not have Pat be inducted would be that just making you beloved does not qualify you to automatically be in the Hall. Not only was he loved though, but he has the great numbers as well. Burns should be in for sure.
Paul Henderson: Though Henderson had a decent career in the NHL and WHA, coring a combined total of 760 PTS in the two leagues, but he will always be remembered for scoring the game winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series for Canada. Though he played a combined 17 full seasons in the NHL and WHA, Henderson never scored more than 66 points in a season, and never won any major awards.
Is he a HoF’er? Does one history defining moment gain acceptance into the Hall? Henderson was an average player, though I’ve heard the point that this was such an important moment for Canadian hockey, possibly the most important, that Henderson deserves to be inducted. As I said with Makarov though, the Hall of Fame does not celebrate the achievements in simply NHL or Canadian hockey, but the entire world. If they let Henderson in for a defining moment, do players from other country gain acceptance based on this as well? Look at the Czechs and Vladimir Dzurilla and his performance in the 1976 Canada Cup. His role in taking the Czechs to the finals was a major moment for the nation, so much so that The Hockey News ranked this the best Czech team ever, ahead of the 1998 Olympic gold medal team. Dzurilla had good international record as well, but that was his defining moment for his nation. Should a player get in for one defining moment, I say no.
Chris Osgood: “Ozzie” is up for induction next year, but already the debate has begun. Osgood is 10th all-time in wins with 401, has the 7th best all-time GAA, two Wlliam Jennings trophies to his name, and of course the three Cups with Detroit. What is even more impressive is that while Cup #2 came in 1998, #3 happened 10 years later, in which Osgood went 27-9-4 in the regular season, and 14-4 in the playoffs, with a 1.55 GAA and a .930 SV%.
Is he a HoF’er? There has been criticism directed at Osgood in that he was simply a decent goalie on great Red Wings teams, and that when he was with the Islanders and Blues, his stats were sub par. But the point about Osgood being on good teams reminds me of another goalie, Grant Fuhr. Fuhr garnered four Cup in Edmonton with Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey, etc. in front of him (though his stats in Edmonton are by no means excellent), struggled in Buffalo and Toronto, and had a few respectable seasons with the Blues, yet he still finished with 403 wins, and got into the Hall. Osgood was one of the better, reliable goalies of the late 1990s/early 2000s, he should be in, and has the numbers to back it up.
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Main photo Credit: David Leeds /Allsport