The Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed four new members yesterday when Pat Quinn, Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon and Sergei Makarov were officially inducted during a ceremony in Toronto. It’s an interesting class, one that had to wait patiently for their time to come.
That was especially true for the three players. Lindros had been eligible since 2010, Makarov since 2000, and Vachon since all the way back in 1985. All three had made regular appearances on lists of the Hall’s biggest snubs for years before they finally heard their names called.
They won’t be on those lists any more, but there will be plenty of names to take their place. Fans love to argue over Hall of Fame selections; who should make it, who shouldn’t, how long it should take, and more. And we love to take up the cause of the noble snub, the player we’re convinced should be honoured but who doesn’t quite have an airtight case.
The list of those snubs is a long one, but they tend to fall into certain recognizable categories. So let’s take a look through some of the most common, along with the players past and present who’ve fallen into them.
The guy who racked up great stats by playing forever
They’ve got the numbers. But is that because they were a great player, or because they played for 20 years? These are the guys who make lots of appearances on the all-time leaderboards, but were rarely seen at the NHL Awards show.
The poster child: Of the top 25 scorers in league history, 22 are already in the Hall, most as first-ballot selections. Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne aren’t eligible yet, but will go in as soon as they are. And then there’s Mark Recchi, who had 1,553 career points but has already been passed over twice.
Other examples: Are we all just going to pretend that Dave Andreychuk didn’t score 640 goals, then seamlessly transition into being a defensive specialist who captained a Cup winner? Just let me know, and I’ll play along, but it feels like we should probably hold a vote or something.
Current player who may fall victim: Does Patrik Elias count as a current player? If not, it’s a tossup between Shane Doan and Patrick Marleau.
Ray of hope: The good news is that these guys tend to make it in eventually; the Hall just seems to like to make them sweat a little. Take Dino Ciccarelli, who scored 600 goals over a 19-year career, but had to wait almost a decade before getting the call.
The career cut short by injury
This is the flip side of the first category. These guys had high peaks and probably seemed like sure-thing future Hall-of-Famers at one point. Then injuries took their toll, and now voters aren’t sure what to do with them.
The poster child: Up until yesterday, it had been Lindros. Now, he’s probably passed that torch to Paul Kariya, who earned postseason all-star honours five times but never made it to 1,000 games because of concussions.
Other examples: Flyer forward Tim Kerr had four-straight 50-goal seasons and seemed well on his way to building a Hall of Fame resume when injuries derailed his career at the age of 27.
Current player who may fall victim: We’ll keep our fingers crossed that none of today’s current stars fall into this category, although history tells us we probably won’t be so lucky.
Ray of hope: While this was a packed category for a long time, the good news is that the Hall seems to be slowly but surely coming around on these guys. Pat LaFontaine and Cam Neely was among the first high-profile cases, which opened the door for Pavel Bure and Peter Forsberg, which eventually led to Lindros. Maybe Kariya is next.
The goaltender without a Cup ring
Modern analytics frown on using wins to measure a goaltender’s worth, but old school types (which includes most of the Hall of Fame selection committee) still lean on them. And no win is more important to a goalie’s legacy than winning a Stanley Cup. The Hall is already notoriously stingy with goaltenders, and they haven’t inducted one without a Cup ring since Eddie Giacomin in 1987.
The poster child: Curtis Joseph’s 454 wins are the fourth-most all-time, and every other eligible player in the top 10 is in the Hall of Fame. But despite some big seasons and five top-five Vezina years, Joseph has been snubbed since 2012.
Other examples: Ron Hextall came as close as a goalie can to single-handedly winning a Cup back in 1987. That earned him a rare Conn Smythe in a losing cause, but he never got any Hall of Fame love.
Current player who may fall victim: Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist both have impeccable Hall cases, except for their missing Cups.
Ray of hope: It’s probably going to be Luongo and Lundqvist, since you’d think there’s no way the Hall would really pass either guy over. And besides, it’s not like having a handful of rings guarantees you anything either, as Chris Osgood has shown.
The superstar centre from the Gretzky/Lemieux era
This may seem oddly specific, but stay with me. From the early 1980s through the mid-90s, the NHL was dominated by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. If they had an off year, you could also count on Mark Messier and Steve Yzerman. That ridiculous depth of legendary talent was great if you were a fan, but not so much if you were a centre trying to make a post-season all-star team or come within 100 points of an Art Ross.
The poster child: Jeremy Roenick racked up over 1,200 points over the course of a long career. But his peak years came in the early-90s, which explains why he never finished better than fourth in post-season all-star voting.
Other examples: Pierre Turgeon topped 1,300 points and Vincent Damphousse had over 1,200, but neither seems to have ever even made it into the Hall of Fame discussion.
Current player who may fall victim: None, unless Lemieux decides to try another comeback and wins the Art Ross as a 50-year-old. Which he probably would, by the way.
Ray of hope: Joe Nieuwendyk put up similar numbers to some of the other guys on the list, but he made it in on the strength of a Calder and a Conn Smythe.
The two-way forward
The hockey world has never known quite what to make of these guys. They don’t put up the big numbers that some of their colleagues do, even though they often play at least as important a role.
The poster child: Steve Larmer’s name comes up every year, but so far he’s yet to get the call.
Other examples: Rod Brind’Amour scored nearly 1,200 points, captained a Cup winner and won two Selkes, yet he never seems to get any Hall buzz at all. Guy Carbonneau occasionally does, but he’s still waiting despite three Selkes. So is Rick Middleton, who evolved into an excellent penalty killer as his career went on but doesn’t seem like he’ll make it in.
Current player who may fall victim: The tide may be turning on this category. The era’s best two-way forwards – Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar – all seem like they’ll score enough to have a strong shot, and our growing understanding of the importance of possession is raising the profile of two-way players. And the technically-still-active Pavel Datsyuk seems like a slam dunk even though he didn’t get close to the 1,000-point mark.
Ray of hope: Bob Gainey and Clark Gillies both made it in, although the latter had to wait over a decade.
The skilled offensive defenceman
The flip side of the previous category, this is the defenceman who racked up strong offensive totals. But he rarely elbowed guys in the throat, so really how good could he have been?
The poster child: Doug Wilson. The long-time Blackhawks stalwart and current Sharks GM ranks 11th in career goals by a defenceman, and everybody who’s ahead of him is already in. But he’s been waiting for two decades.
Other examples: Sergei Gonchar fits the bill. So does Steve Duchesne. And I may or may not have included this category mainly because I know Dallas Stars fans will picket my house if I don’t work in a mention of Sergei Zubov, who they are all completely insane about.
Current player who may fall victim: It’s early, but I think we can all agree that Erik Karlsson will retire with 1,200 career points and three scoring titles and still have to wait to get in because the committee members saw him miss a poke check once in 2012.
Ray of hope: It took forever for Phil Housley to make it, but he eventually got the call.
The guy who was really good but never quite great
This guy was a very good player. If he was on your team, you were happy. If he was on the other team, you worried about him. But you never once went to a game and thought you were watching a future Hall of Famer.
The poster child: A few of the guys we’ll mention in other categories could show up here too, but let’s go with Keith Tkachuk. He checks most of the boxes you’d want in a Hall of Famer. He played forever, had 500 goals and 1,000 points, once led the league in goals, and was a dominant physical presence. Did you ever hear him referred to as a future Hall of Famer? Neither did I.
Other examples: This is probably the largest category on the list, covering everyone from John LeClair to Pat Verbeek.
Current player who may fall victim: We’ve already mentioned Elias, Doan and Marleau. For a while it seemed like Marian Hossa could end up here too, but his recent membership in the 500-goal club probably sealed the deal for him.
Ray of hope: A HHOF cynic might tell you that the place is already crawling with these guys. (And yes, there are HHOF cynics. They’re the people who love to use the phrase “Hall of Very Good”.) But the classic example may be Bernie Federko, who got in despite never finishing higher than 10th in MVP voting.
(By the way, this category has a weird spinoff that we need to mention: The really good who was never quite great except for one crazy year when he was completely unstoppable. You could slot Alexander Mogilny in there, but there’s no question that the poster child for this group is Bernie Nicholls.)
The good player whose numbers feel like they should be higher
You’re pretty sure you remember this guy being a big star, and he had a pretty long career. Then you look at this final numbers and… is that it? You sure you didn’t leave off a few seasons somehow?
The poster child: Petr Bondra was one of the best offensive wingers of his era. So how did he play for 16 seasons and not even crack 900 points? Apparently he eventually scored 500 goals, but that’s suspicious because it says here it happened when he played for the Blackhawks and nobody has any recollection of that ever happening.
Other examples: Markus Naslund didn’t crack 400 goals. Neither did Trevor Linden, even though he played his peak years before the Dead Puck Era. And maybe the toughest case of them all: Theo Fleury, who was a joy to watch and always felt like a future Hall of Famer, but who ended up falling short of the 1,100-point mark despite having his peak years in the high-scoring early-90s.
Current player who may fall victim: Henrik Zetterberg, who’s 36 and in his 14th season. Is it weird that you don’t remember him scoring his 1000th point? No, because he’s still about three good years away.
Ray of hope: Dave Keon played 18 NHL seasons, but didn’t crack 400 goals or 1,000 points. He was still inducted fairly quickly, and nobody batted an eye.
The women’s hockey star
We should really start letting them into the Hall someday. Wait, what? Since 2010 you say? Oh.
The poster child: Women’s eligibility is still relatively new, so there aren’t any candidates who’ve been snubbed for decades. And we can acknowledge that the women’s game is still developing around the world, so there’s not exactly a backlog of candidates. But it’s weird that the Hall hasn’t found space for even one female inductee in three of the past five years. Cassie Campbell, anyone?
Other examples: Danielle Goyette, Kim St-Pierre and Manon Rheaume come to mind, among others.
Current player who may fall victim: Please say they’re not going to make Hayley Wickenheiser wait any longer than it takes a room full of committee member to say “yes”.
Ray of hope: We’ve had a female inductee in each of the past two odd-numbered years, so maybe we’re due for 2017.
Let’s just say it. The HHOF is weird about coaches. They don’t induct many, and when they do they seem to like to wait until they can do it posthumously.
The poster child: Pat Burns, the only coach to win three Jack Adams, was somehow kept out until 2014, four years after his death.
Other examples: Bryan Murray has 620 coaching wins to go with a long career as a GM and isn’t in yet. Neither is Mike Keenan, whose 672 wins ranks seventh all-time. And hey, what about Don Cherry, whose Jack Adams and four-decade career as the most famous media star of his era somehow haven’t been enough for him to get a call.
Current coach who may fall victim: Three active coaches – Joel Quenneviille, Ken Hitchcock, and Barry Trotz – rank in the top 10 in career wins. Here’s hoping the Hall has smartened up by the time they’re up for consideration.
Ray of hope: The Hall acted in time to get Roger Nielson in before he passed in 2003.