Puck Muckers And The 2008 Hall
Wednesday - November 21, 2007
The 2007 class for the Hockey Hall of Fame - Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Ron Francis and Al MacInnis - was a nobrainer.
With Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Dave Andreychuk and Brian Leetch up for enshrinement, the 2009 class won’t leave much room for discussion either.
Which leaves next year for a rare chance to complain about who was let in and who was denied. How will international success play into the decision? Will a couple of borderline goalies make the cut? Is this finally going to be the year for a Russian legend after a decade of waiting?
Glenn Anderson (retired 1996) - Anderson’s career was a mix of big expectations and overlooked accomplishments. The four-time All-Star came into the league with comparisons to Guy Lafleur and Rocket Richard, but without their skating or stick-handling ability. Even though he scored 1,099 points in his 17-year career, Anderson has always been overshadowed by his more-famous teammates. Anderson lifted the cup five times - four with the legendary Oilers team - and finished fifth in playoff goals scored (93), fourth in points (214) and seventh in assists (121).
Pavel Bure (2003) - Bure may have begun his career in the worst way possible: He was too good too early. After his rookie season in the NHL, Bure put together back-to-back 60 goal seasons, and expectations ran wild as it seemed he was living up to his “Russian Rocket” nickname. Bure’s problem was not a strong game but a weak body. The next season he played in only 44 games and 15 the year after. When healthy, he remained one of the league’s top scoring threats, but that wasn’t often enough as his playing time bounced around from the full 82 games during the 1997-98 season to only 11 the next. After 13 seasons, Bure was finished, but still lit the lamp 437 times and scored 779 points in 702 games.
Dino Ciccarelli (2003) - There may not have been a tougher man in the NHL. Standing only 5-feet-10-inches tall and weighing only 180 pounds - he may have been shorter and lighter - the slight forward made his living in the toughest area on the ice. Primarily a pest in the crease, Dino scored 608 goals, chipped in 592 assists and spent 1,429 minutes in the penalty box while battling much larger men. Former player Neil Sheehy summed up Ciccarelli’s style saying, “He’s like a fly that won’t go away. He’s buzzing around your nose and mouth, you keep swatting at him, but he won’t go away.” His behavior on the ice won him a legion of fans, but his bad boy behavior off the ice won him a ticket out of Minnesota.
Doug Gilmour (2003) - Nicknamed “Killer” by former teammate Brian Sutter, the diminutive Gilmour was one of the game’s best two-way players, and to this day remains an icon in the center of the hockey universe, Toronto. Playing with an intensity that gave birth to the nickname and made believers out of scouts who saw his 5-foot-9-inch, 150-pound frame as being to small for the NHL, Gilmour willed himself to 450 goals, 1,414 points (No. 16 all time) and 964 assists (No. 12). Most impressive was his +132, meaning his teams scored 132 more points when he was on the ice then not.
Phil Housley (2003) - Housley was a six-time All-Star who finished as the 19th greatest assist man in history. While not necessarily a monster number, when compared to his fellow defense-man, the St. Paul native was one of the best. Fourth in goals, fifth in assists and fourth in points, Housley was one of the greatest American defenseman, but was shut out of the Norris Trophy by Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Chris Chelios and Brian Leetch.
Igor Larionov (2004) - Recognized as one of the game’s smartest players, the Russian Gretzky was one of the world’s best even before embarking on his 14-year NHL career. As the star of the famed KLM line on the dominating Central Red Army team, Larionov won two Olympic gold medals and four World Championships. In his eight years with CSKA Moscow, the team was the USSR champion every year. Though misused quite a bit during his NHL career, he still managed 169 goals, 475 assists and 644 points while compiling a +/- rating of 104.
Sergei Makarov (1997) - Before Larionov there was Makarov. The seven-time World Champion helped open the door for Soviet athletes into the NHL. Makarov scored 710 points in 519 games for the Central Red Army team and Traktor Chelyabinsk while winning 11 national championships and leading the Soviet League in scoring nine times. He also claimed one Olympic gold medal and one silver medal. Makarov played five full seasons in the NHL ending with 134 goals and 250 assists.
Adam Oates (2004) - For the guy who was jokingly called a “stumpy, heavy-footed, poor-shooting and no-skating kid” by his college coach, Oates went on to become one of the NHL’s greatest passers, racking up 1,079 assists (sixth all time). Though his point totals increased each season with Detroit, it was in St. Louis where he broke out. Feeding Brett Hull on his wing, he had two straight 100 point scoring seasons, while Hull racked up 228 goals in 231 games. His 1,420 points puts him No. 15 on the all-time list.
Goalies Mike Richter (2003), Rogie Vachon (1982) and Mike Vernon (2002). While Richter had 301 wins in 15 years with the Rangers, and Vachon was the anchor for three Stanley Cup teams, Vernon leads the group with 385 wins - good for 10th all time. Though he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1997, he is best known for his fight with fellow goalie Patrick Roy that same season.
The Hockey Hall of Fame allows just four entrants per year, which offers plenty of room for debate. Vernon was the best goalie of the bunch, but was always good but not great, and was traded the following year to make room for Chris Osgood. Bure burned out to fast, and Anderson has been hidden behind Hall of Fame teammates Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri. Housley was outstanding but may have to wait a few years, and Makarov’s short NHL career may have already cost him. That leaves Oates, Larionov, Gilmour and Ciccarelli in the class of 2008.
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