In the history of the National Hockey League, only nine players have scored 50 goals in a season on five different occasions.
This list includes some of the greatest snipers in the game: Gretzky, Bossy, Lafleur, Esposito and Hull.
And as you might expect, everyone on the list is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Well, everybody except for one person.
Pavel Bure remains the NHL’s pariah when it comes to induction in the Hall of Fame. On Tuesday, when the list of 2012 inductees is announced, Bure is likely going to be snubbed for a seventh consecutive time on the ballot.
And it’s time to start asking why.
Mats Sundin — who is a first-year nominee — has gained a lot of traction this week as a worthy candidate to stand alongside Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan when the inductees are announced on Tuesday.
But with all due respect to Sundin, how is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer in a world where Pavel Bure could be snubbed seven times?
The greatest snipers in hockey history have always had a Hall-of-Fame caliber centre to set them up: Bossy had Trottier, Kurri had Gretzky, and Hull had Oates.
Thus, the argument from Sundin’s most faithful supporters is that the Leafs superstar never had anyone to play with, which makes his 564 goals and 1,349 points even more impressive.
While that argument is completely legitimate, stop and think about who Bure played with during the course of his career.
Murray Craven? Viktor Kozlov?
You can’t name Pavel Bure’s set-up man because he never really had one. He was a one-man show, who dominated and dazzled like no other since Lafleur.
The most obvious knock on Bure is that his career was limited by injuries and therefore, he never hit any of the major statistical milestones like Sundin.
But shortened careers didn’t stop the voters from electing Cam Neely and Pat Lafontaine in recent years. Neither of those players reached the magical 500-goal plateau and like Bure, they also never won a Stanley Cup.
So if we’re able to judge a shortened career and validate it as Hall-of-Fame worthy, then Bure’s numbers are truly remarkable. He scored more goals-per-game (0.62) than Wayne Gretzky and ranks fifth all-time in league history in that category. The only two modern day players ahead of him on the list are Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux. (Incidentally, Neely and Lafontaine are 14th and 16th respectively on that list).
The Hall of Fame has a history of snubbing players for no apparent reason and then suddenly accepting them with open arms. Mark Howe was finally enshrined into the Hall last year, after retiring in 1995. Why did his numbers suddenly seem impressive in 2011 — after he was rejected the first 14 times he was eligible?
Nobody knows the answer.
It’s the same reason why a 600-goal scorer like Dino Ciccarelli had to wait eight years and why another 600-goal scorer in Dave Andreychuk doesn’t know when he’ll get a plaque.
But if there is an unwritten punishment or penalty being levied against Bure — like there was for Glenn Anderson — it’s time for that phantom barrier to be lifted.
Sundin is a Hall-of-Famer in my opinion, but the selection committee has made it clear that if you’re not a slam-dunk, first-ballot guy, you’re going to have to wait a while. And that arbitrary waiting period lasts anywhere from 3-to-15 years.
Bure has spent enough time sitting in the waiting room; it’s time for someone like Sundin to take his place.