When one thinks of Hall of Fame caliber players in any professional sport, one usually thinks of an athlete that has outstanding numbers, a plethora of personal awards, played a big part in helping his/her team win a championship.
The Hockey Hall of Fame seems to be a different kind of animal. Over the past few years, there have been many debates about which players/personalities should be in, which players/personalities should not be in and what exactly the criteria for inducting someone into the hockey’s hallowed hall should be.
This is especially true when it comes to netminders.
In hockey, the goaltender is one of, if not the most, important position in the sport as it used to be that teams won and lost games and championships with their netminder.
That outlook has changed over the last decade or so as more defensive schemes have been developed and shot blocking has become more and more prevalent in the league. One goaltender that could end up being a victim of this is Detroit Red Wings’ netminder Chris Osgood.
There is no doubt that Osgood has quite an impressive resume. He won three Stanley Cups (two as the starting goaltender of the Red Wings in 1998 and 2008), racked up 401 career regular-season wins, sealed 74 postseason victories, a very respectable 2.49 career goals-against average, and 50 career shutouts.
On paper, Osgood’s numbers indicate that he should be a lock to get into the Hall of Fame. However, many argue that Osgood’s success was the product of the great play of his team in front of him. The Wings played sound defensively and had a high-octane offence.
Speaking of having over 400 career wins, former St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes’ netminder Curtis Joseph has 454 of them. On the all-time list, that puts Joseph fourth behind the likes of Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, and Ed Belfour, who was inducted last season.
More than likely, what the selection committee will look at is the fact that he did not win a Cup, is a dubious second in terms of the most career losses (352) and played for a plethora of teams. Joseph’s statistics should put him in the HHOF, but not having a Cup will certainly hurt his chances.
One goaltender that won multiple Cups, won a Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder (shared with Gump Worsley in 1968), played in three All-Star Games and has over 300 career wins (normally considered a benchmark for Hall-of-Fame goaltenders) with 355 and is still not in the HHOF is Rogie Vachon.
In the 1960s and early ’70s, Vachon won three Cups, two as the starter, with the fabled Montreal Canadiens. In the mid-’70s Vachon was one of the best goaltenders in the game for the up-and-coming Los Angeles Kings; he took them to the postseason five straight years and made the Kings a formidable opponent.
Yet even with multiple Cups and more than 300 career wins, Vachon is still not in the HHOF. He’s been eligible for 25 years, and with this much time having gone by already, he may end up being forgotten by the selection committee all together.
Besides Vachon, there are two other notable netminders who have over 300 career wins and at least one Cup. These netminders would be American-born Mike Richter and Tom Barrasso.
Richter, the New York Rangers’ franchise leader in wins (301), has more than a solid resume to be put in the HHOF. He has over 300 career wins, three All-Star Game appearances (1992, 1994, 2000) and an All-Star Game MVP (1994 at Madison Square Garden), a Stanley Cup (1994), a World Cup of Hockey championship and World Cup of Hockey MVP (both 1996), plus a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Unfortunately, Richter played for some pretty bad Rangers teams from 1997 to 2002, and that ended up hurting his chances to win more games between the pipes. Another factor that could be holding Richter back from being inducted into the HHOF is injury troubles, a problem of his in the early 2000s.
Barrasso is an interesting case. He won back-to-back Cups with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992, has 369 career wins, has won a Vezina Trophy (1984) and Calder Trophy (1984), and was an NHL all-star in 1985.
While his statistics make him a worthy candidate, it was his murky relationship with the media that may make the selection committee look the other way. Again, an interesting case when it comes to which goaltenders get inducted and do not get inducted into the HHOF.
Selecting goaltenders to be inducted into the HHOF is not as easy as one might think. It’s not just about the numbers anymore.