The Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed its newest members on Monday, including four players on the men’s side. Teemu Selanne made it in as a first-year candidate, and was joined by Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi and Dave Andreychuk in a class that didn’t feature any jaw-dropping surprises.
In the days after a new HHOF class is named, it’s natural to start looking ahead to future years and speculate over who’ll be up next. Martin Brodeur is a sure thing for the class of 2018, and Martin St. Louis will have a strong case, too. Daniel Alfredsson, passed over this year in his first chance, will have a good shot as well.
And then we’ll get to the leftovers, that group of players who’ve been eligible for a few years now and have yet to get the call. That’s a group that included Andreychuk and Karia until Monday, and it features certain big names every year, like Jeremy Roenick, Curtis Joseph, Theo Fleury, Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Zubov. At least a few of those guys will get in eventually, it’s just a case of when.
But then there’s another group: Players who would seem on the surface to have decent HHOF resumes, but who for whatever reason often get left out when new classes are discussed. The actual HHOF selection committee debates are kept secret, so we don’t know if any of these guys are getting serious consideration, but the buzz around their candidacies sure seems to have faded.
In recent years, we’ve seen guys like Mark Howe and Rogie Vachon make it after waiting for decades, so there’s always hope. Here are five guys who have been up for induction at least five times and may be falling off your HHOF radar (if they were ever there in the first place), but might have a stronger case than you think.
Eligible since: 2013
The case for: He scored 538 goals, which ranks 32nd on the all-time list. More importantly, with Recchi and Andreychuk going in this year, Tkachuk is now the highest scoring eligible player who hasn’t been inducted.
He was also a second-team all-star twice, which doesn’t sound great but is two more than Andreychuk ever managed, and he would have won the Rocket Richard if the award had existed in 1997. And he did all that while establishing a reputation as one of the better power forwards of the 90s and beyond.
The case against: Tkachuk is one of those guys who spent his career being viewed as very good but not quite elite. You could say the same of Andreychuk and Recchi, but they stuck around long enough to rack up numbers that couldn’t be ignored, while Tkachuk is a tier below. He also never won a Cup or even had a long playoff run, which probably shouldn’t matter but does.
Bottom line: Tkachuk’s name hasn’t seemed to generate all that much buzz in recent years, but it feels like Andreychuk and Reechi going in could change that. At some point, somebody has to be the top scorer who isn’t in the Hall, but having it be a guy who played much of his career in the Dead Puck era would seem odd.
Eligible since: 2010
The case for: If you view Tkachuk as a guy who was good for a long time but never truly great, LeClair presents the other side of the coin. He didn’t hit the milestones you expect from a scorer in a HHOF conversation – he didn’t come all that close to 500 goals or 1,000 points. But when he was at his best, he may have been the top left winger in the league.
He was a first-team all-star twice, and made the second team three times. Those five total selections match Kariya, which is fitting since the two players’ peak years overlap. LeClair hit 50 goals three times and 40 twice more, plus another dominant year in the lockout shortened 1995 season. In fact, between 1994 and 2000, he finished just one goal behind Jaromir Jagr as the league’s top scorer. That’s getting a little clever with arbitrary end points, granted, but it drives the point home that for an extended period, John LeClair was one of the very best goal-scorers in the league, period.
The case against: He just didn’t do it long enough. Injuries cost him most of his 2000-01 season, and he was never really the same after that. If your best HHOF argument is that you scored goals, you’re going to need more than 406 to get in.
Bottom line: We’ve already inducted guys whose careers were derailed by injuries, including Kariya, Pavel Bure and Cam Neely (a guy LeClair ended up outscoring). If you’re someone who feels that a player’s peak performance should count for more than their long-term totals, LeClair should at least be in the discussion.
Eligible since: 2010
The case for: Now that Andreychuk’s getting in, Turgeon becomes the all-time scoring leader among eligible players who hasn’t been inducted. And it’s not even close – he’s well over 100 points head of the next highest scorer on the list, Jeremy Roenick.
And before you point out that he racked up a lot of those points in the high-flying 1980s, he actually ranks even higher – 28th all-time – once you adjust for era. The guy could score.
The case against: The guy couldn’t do much other than score; he didn’t exactly rack up Selke votes over the course of his career. He didn’t get many awards votes, period, beyond a lone Lady Byng win that probably doesn’t help his cause. He was a player who put up some impressive numbers but was never a guy you built your team around, as evidenced by his having played for six teams, none for more than five seasons.
Bottom line: Much like Tkachuk, Turgeon may get a boost back into the discussion now that the eligible guys ahead of him have gone in. But without or a dedicated fan base to advocate for him, I don’t like his odds.
Eligible since: 2013
The case for: Everyone seems to agree that Marian Hossa should be a HHOF shoe-in, based on his two-way play, Cup rings and 1,134 career points. If so, why isn’t Brind’Amour in the conversation? After all, Hossa never won a Selke as best defensive forward, while Brind’Amour won two. He also finished with more points than Hossa, with 1,184. And while he didn’t win three rings, he did get one, and he got to lift the Cup as team captain. (And he turned that opportunity into one of the greatest moments in Gary Bettman’s tenure.)
None of that is to say that Brind’Amour was better than Hossa. But the gap isn’t as wide as you might assume, and if one guy is an absolute lock, the other should at least be one the radar.
The case against: Brind’Amour was never a first or second-team all-star, and only came close once. He never got serious Hart consideration, finishing in the top ten just once. Like a lot of guys on the bubble, he’d feed into the “Hall of Very Good” criticism that the HHOF often hears.
Also, the existence of this photo has to work against him.
Bottom line: Brind’Amour’s probably not a Hall of Famer, and his odds of ever getting in seem remote. But given his career numbers and two-way play, it’s weird that his name almost never comes up at all. That may be changing, and maybe Hossa’s eventual coronation revives his candidacy in the same way guys like Eric Lindros and Peter Forsberg reopened the way for Kariya.
Eligible since: 1996
The case for: Here are the all-time scoring leaders among defensemen for the other five Original Six teams: Ray Bourque, Nicklas Lidstrom, Borje Salming, Brian Leetch and Larry Robinson. Those aren’t just five Hall of Famers, they’re five no-questions-asked Hall of Famers. And yet here’s Wilson, who leads the Blackhawks all-time list by a mile, and his candidacy seems to be all but forgotten.
Wilson wasn’t just a guy who stuck around long enough to compile numbers without ever being truly great; he won a Norris Trophy, and finished in the top four a total of four times. He was a three-time post-season all-star, and played in seven all-star games. He finished in the top ten in Hart voting twice, even though defensemen rarely get much MVP love. Most notably, he ranks 15th all-time in scoring by defensemen, and 13 of the 14 guys ahead of him are already in the Hall.
Here’s the list of guys who won a Norris and rank in the all-time top 25 in defensemen scoring, but aren’t in the Hall of Fame: Wilson. That’s it.
The case against: Wilson’s offensive numbers are inflated because he played in the 80s; after all, nobody is lobbying to get guys like Gary Suter or Steve Duchene into the Hall. Wilson’s individual honors give him a stronger case than those guys, but after 21 years and counting, it’s clear that the committee just isn’t interested.
Bottom line: I have to admit, Wilson’s case is a lot stronger than I realized. While his long stint as Sharks’ GM might keep his name in the mind of committee members, enough time has passed that he’s clearly a longshot at this point. But there’s a surprisingly decent argument that he shouldn’t be.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008; you may know him from Twitter as @downgoesbrown. His e-book, The 100 Greatest Players in NHL History, is available now. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.