This past weekend was cause for celebration in the hockey world. No, the lockout did not end. In fact, the continued lack of progress is a alarming given what is at stake. Yet the induction of four world-class hockey players into the Hockey Hall of Fame provided some good news for fans, players, and the NHL. Each year, articles and discussions are rife with debates about who deserves to get in. The four inductees – Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates – are all undoubtedly fantastic players and fit alongside many other names in the hall. But I do not think the right four made it in this year.
No one can debate the Sakic selection. The eigth all time leading point getter (1,641), Sakic won two Stanley Cups, a Hart and a Conn Smyth Trophy, and was a 12-time All-Star. End of discussion.
I can also get behind the Bure pick. Every sport has players that transcend their time period, and simply look like they are playing a different game. Sometimes, short careers limit these players from accruing statistics that compare to other Hall of Famers who have tenures twice as long. In football, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown come to mind. In baseball, Sandy Koufax is a good example. Bure might be the best modern example of this for hockey. The Russian Rocket was one of the most potent offensive talents in league history, as he ranks 6th all time in goals per game (.62), and had four seasons with at least 58 goals. He is also 11th all time in short-handed goals despite his short 12 year career.
Sundin, unlike Bure, is such a compelling candidate because of his longevity (he played almost twice as many games as Bure). He ranks 27th all time in points (1349), and epitomized consistency as he notched at least 70 points and played in at least 70 games every year in his career except his rookie season, his final season, and the lockout-shortened season.
However, I do not think he should have been inducted on his first try. Sundin won no Stanley Cups or other major postseason award, and seems like a worse version of Dave Andreychuk, who scored 76 more goals than Sundin, ranks first all time in powerplay goals, and won a Stanley Cup. Yet Andreychuk is still not in the Hall of Fame.
Adam Oates would seem like a fine choice, but let’s not forget that a much more deserving candidate got snubbed: Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan is 11th all time in points and still managed to finish his career 22nd all time in penalty minutes. Not to mention his three Stanley Cup rings. Oates, while a playmaking whiz (5th all time in assists), never won a championship, or any major individual award.
Hopefully added years on the ballot will help Andreychuk and Shanahan, two consummate hockey players and deserving Hall of Fame candidates.