I have a pet theory that seems to hold pretty strong: If you want to win the Stanley Cup, you need at least one future Hall of Famer on your roster. Now, there’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy here because winning it all looks pretty good on a Hall of Fame resume – especially if you do it more than once. But even teams that had unlikely runs to glory manage to check off this box.
The 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, for example, won it all with a huge contribution from rookie goalie Cam Ward, who wasn’t even the starter when the tournament began. Now, Ward is not a future Hall of Famer, but right winger Mark Recchi is already in, while center Rod Brind’Amour is a bubble guy right now. You can go all the way back to 1927, when the Cup became an exclusively NHL affair, and find Hall of Famers on the champions.
Some recent winners don’t have any current Hall of Famers, because the players aren’t eligible yet. But we can assume that Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Drew Doughty will all be there at the end of the day.
So where does that set us up for Game 7 of the 2019 final? The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues have already proven to be top outfits in the playoffs, but one seems to have a distinct advantage in the Hall of Fame metric. Let’s break it down.
Locks: Kick it off with the captain, Zdeno Chara. If the Bruins go on to win the title, one of the enduring narratives of the final will surely be Chara playing half the series with the broken jaw. That’s magic for Hall of Fame voters, but it’s clearly not the only feather in his cap: Chara is one of a kind. He’s the biggest player in the history of the game (6-foot-9, buddy) and it’s hard to think of many players who could match his physical strength. He has a Norris Trophy and has already captained Boston to one Cup; a second would only further cement his legacy.
Speaking of legacies, Patrice Bergeron has a pretty solid one himself. At this point in his career, I think it’s fair to call him one of the best two-way players in the history of the game. The four Selke trophies speak to that, but he’s also a member of the international Triple Gold Club (world juniors, worlds, Olympics) and will likely end his career with more than 1,000 points (he’s at 813 right now).
Bubble Guys: Bergeron’s wing man, Brad Marchand, is pretty devastating himself. Marchand is a two-way fiend and at 31, is coming off his first-ever 100-point season in the NHL – so he’s not slowing down with age. He has two world junior golds, one at the worlds and one at the World Cup of Hockey. His reputation as a dirty player will likely hurt his chances at the Hall, however. Another player to consider is goaltender Tuukka Rask, the likely Conn Smythe winner if Boston triumphs in Game 7. He’s already top-50 all-time in wins (265) and at 32, has at least several more productive seasons ahead of him. Rask’s career .921 save percentage is quite impressive and he has a Vezina Trophy.
Worth Noting: Their careers have just begun, but David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy look like they will have huge impacts on this team for years.
St. Louis Blues
Bubble Guys: If Alex Pietrangelo is going to carve out a Hall of Fame argument, it’s going to come through sustained excellence rather than headline-grabbing deeds. The big defenseman is a two-time second-team all-star and he has won gold at the world juniors, World Cup of Hockey and Olympics. Captaining the Blues to a Cup this year would really help his case, but he’s going to need longer to prove his worth.
While Ryan O’Reilly has been Bergeron’s equal this year, his only individual hardware so far is one Lady Byng Trophy. He does have two golds from the worlds and one from the World Cup of Hockey, but a lack of NHL playoff success (until right now) will hurt his chances. On the other hand, if O’Reilly can reel off a bunch more seasons like the one he just had, maybe he’s a candidate down the road.
Worth Noting: If Vladimir Tarasenko can get back to being a 40-goal guy instead of a 30-goal guy, he may be able to put up important numbers. Jordan Binnington’s only a rookie, but he’s off to a pretty good start (though Matt Murray did it his first two seasons with Pittsburgh).
So yeah, by my metric the Blues are a little behind. But Game 7 could make the difference for some of these players – it could put them on another level, at which point it’s their job to continue performing at that pace for years to come. Either way, I’m sure whichever teams wins the Cup will be way more focused on what they just accomplished rather than anything beyond that in the future.