2010's Hockey Hall of Fame class opens up the waiting list

It’s coming sooner than you think. Not just the end of the season, but also the announcement of the newest class of hockey’s Hall of Fame on June 22nd. The Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo got the buzz started today wondering aloud if this is the year Dino Ciccarelli finally gets into the hallowed halls in Toronto.

So could this be Dino Ciccarelli’s year? There are 18 600-goal scorers in the history of the league and Ciccarelli and Dave Andreychuk are the only eligible 600-goal scorers who aren’t in the Hall. How about Phil Housley (highest-scoring American defenseman ever), Doug Gilmour or Adam Oates (1,400-points each)?

In a year where the incoming eligible class is light on seemingly automatic elections (Joe Nieuwendyk might be the only one), this is the first time in a couple of years that both Dino Ciccarelli and Adam Oates have an honest-to-goodness shot at busting through. Both players were eligible two years ago when only Glenn Anderson and Igor Larionov were elected, but they’ve been hammered by hugely amazing Hall classes in 2007 and 2009 that were teeming over with automatic first-ballot guys.

What about this year, though? The Hall of Fame only allows four players to be elected in any year (hence the pecking order getting backed up) so if you consider Nieuwendyk to be an automatic in (564 goals, 1126 points, three Stanley Cups, Calder Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy) then what of the rest? Here’s a look at the main candidates both those mentioned by Russo and otherwise after the jump.

Dave Andreychuk – Played over 1600 games during both the high-scoring 80s and the non-scoring 90s. Captained Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. Finished his career with 640 goals and 1,338 points. Two-time 50 goal scorer and two-time 40 goal scorer. He’s the perfect example of having a long-lasting steady and outstanding career and also manages to stay out of the talk of having played too long, something which folks hold against…

Adam Oates – He played 19 seasons and over 1,300 games amassing the sixth-highest assist total in NHL history with 1,079. He’s 16th all-time in points with 1,420 and has been the key set-up man for two recent Hall of Fame inductions in Brett Hull and Cam Neely. Some folks seem to think Oates was a coat-tail rider and not a winner (2 Stanley Cup finals appearances, no wins) others are unashamed to point out that Oates won in college (1985 National Championship with RPI) and that Brett Hull and Cam Neely may not have legends to build on without Oates’ passing. For Oates, perhaps assists not getting noticed is a bigger problem.

Doug Gilmour – Gilmour is the folk hero of Toronto, even in spite of his greatest career win coming in Calgary in 1989. Gilmour became a folk hero to Maple Leafs fans for his efforts in doing everything possible to try and get the Leafs to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993 only to be derailed by Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings (and maybe even Kerry Fraser). His points total alone should get him in the Hall yet… Here we are still waiting.

Dino Ciccarelli – Of the guys I’m talking about who have been waiting to get in the Hall, Dino has been waiting the longest. He’s one of two 600-plus goal scorers not yet in the Hall of Fame (Andreychuk the other). He’d finish his career in anonymity with the Florida Panthers but manages to be left off of ballots thanks to having off-ice skirmishes with the media as well as an ugly incident on the ice while with the Minnesota North Stars as he clubbed then Leafs defenseman Luke Richardson in the head with his stick.

Phil Housley – He’s perhaps the second-greatest American defenseman of all time (behind Brian Leetch) and he spent the better part of his career in relative obscurity always ending up on losing teams (one Cup finals appearance with Washington in 1998).  What hurts his case is a career -53 rating. Think of him as America’s answer to Paul Coffey and perhaps you can make a stronger case based on that. Of course, Coffey also managed to win a boatload of Cups so… Just forget it.

Pierre Turgeon – Bet you didn’t think you’d hear this name again, eh? 19 seasons, 1,294 games and 1,327 points makes for a pretty respectable career – even playing for the Sabres and Islanders for the early part of that. Of course, Turgeon’s highlight package is almost always centered around being destroyed by Washington’s Dale Hunter after scoring a goal in the series-clinching win in the first round of the playoffs in 1993.

I could go on much longer, as well as dipping into the candidacies of two of the all-time outstanding Russian NHLers who continue to wait for their possible call (Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny ring a bell to anyone?) but asking the voters to get motivated to elect a truly great Russian player might be like asking them to get the vote right in the first place.

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    Here are your officials for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final

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    The NHL has announced its officials for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.

    They are as follows…

    Referees: Wes McCauley, Brad Meier, Dan O’Halloran, Kevin Pollock

    Linesmen: Scott Cherrey, Shane Heyer, Brad Kovalchik, Brian Murphy

    Overall it’s a pretty experienced group of officials as O’Halloran, Pollock and Meier are among the eight most experienced officials the NHL has in terms of games called in their careers.

    McCauley is near the top of the NHL in terms of penalties called per game, while Pollock is near the bottom of the league and seems to fit more into the “let them play” style of officiating. O’Halloran and Meier are not much higher, so you probably should not expect this to turn into a special teams series.

    Of course, no matter who the referees are, by the end of Game 2 most of the coaches, players and fans from each side will probably not be happy with any of them.

    All referee data via Scouting The Refs

     

    Blackhawks sign Michal Kempny to one-year contract

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    The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Saturday morning that they have signed defenseman Michael Kempny to a one-year contract that will cover the 2017-18 season.

    The 26-year-old Kempny was a restricted free agent this summer. Financial terms of the deal are not yet known.

    During the 2016-17 season, Kempny’s first in the NHL, he appeared in 62 games for the Blackhawks and scored two goals to go with eight assists.

    With Kempny added back into the mix for next season the Blackhawks now have seven defensemen under contract as Kempny joins Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Gustav Forsling, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Rozsival.

    Veterans Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

     

    Canucks GM wants Miller back, bringing rebuild into question again

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    For one fine trade deadline, it seemed like the Vancouver Canucks and GM Jim Benning saw the light.

    They actually moved veterans for assets, and interesting ones in that. They were, gasp, considered one of the winners of the trade deadline. There was the indication that a rebuild might finally be in action. Better late than never, right?

    Well … maybe that was just a brief reprieve.

    The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma reports that Benning threw the word “competitive” around when describing why he wants to re-sign 37-year-old Ryan Miller and why he isn’t looking to trade valued defenseman Chris Tanev and declining blueliner Alex Edler.

    Sensible if debatable

    His reluctance regarding moving the two defensemen is easier to understand. Tanev, 27, is in his prime at a nice cap hit ($4.45 million through 2019-20). A competitive team would want him, and if Benning is convinced the Canucks are close to being just that, then it makes sense.

    Edler staying is a little simpler. He has a no-trade clause and doesn’t want to go.

    Now, one can argue that Tanev would be best served being moved for high-quality pieces. And perhaps Benning should at least try to convince Edler to accept a trade.

    A strange direction in net

    But Miller?

    “As we’re transitioning these young players into our lineup, I feel that if we have solid goaltending on a night-to-night basis, we can be competitive,” Benning said Thursday, according to Kuzma.

    Now, that story discusses why Miller may or may not accept a return, but one would guess that he won’t have a ton of offers. At least not offers that would involve a chance for more “platoon” or even starter-type work rather than explicitly labeling him a backup.

    Really, that’s beside the point, because it’s confounding that Vancouver wouldn’t want to go in a younger direction.

    You can read that sort of discussion as the Canucks once again wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They seemingly want to “reload” instead of “rebuild.”

    Perhaps there’s some smoke-screening going on here. Maybe Benning’s more interested in moving parts than he lets on; it could be that he wants to drive up Tanev’s price by playing coy about moving him.

    Still, on their face, the comments don’t exactly inspire confidence for a fan base that must be getting a little irritated by management that, to many, seems delusional about this team’s potential.

    Penguins’ Sullivan believes resiliency is ‘strength of this team’

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    PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

    On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

    A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

    This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL’s marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

    So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

    “Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim,” Crosby said. “We’ve just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We’ve done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength.”

    And they’ll have to do it one more time in the final against swaggering Nashville if they want to become the first team in nearly 20 years and the first in salary-cap era to win back-to-back championships.

    It’s a daunting task. When the puck drops in Game 1 on Monday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins will be playing in their 108th game in the last calendar year, and that doesn’t count another half dozen for those who played in the World Cup of Hockey and a handful of exhibition games.

    Pittsburgh, however, has survived to do something even Chicago and Los Angeles – who have combined for five of the seven Cups awarded since 2010 – could not in putting itself in positon for a repeat.

    Credit coach Mike Sullivan’s ever-prescient tinkering with the lineups, including his decision to throw Kunitz back into the fray with Crosby as Game 7 wore on, an experiment that ended with Crosby feeding Kunitz for the winner 5:09 into the second overtime .

    Credit goaltender Matt Murray, thrust back into the lineup when Marc-Andre Fleury‘s hot play that helped carry the Penguins through the opening two rounds finally cooled.

    Credit a maturity – or maybe it’s wisdom – from the team leaders who watched the first half of the decade come and go with plenty of gaudy regular-season numbers but no Cup banners to join the one they captured in 2009.

    Pinning down what changed is difficult. General manager Jim Rutherford’s ability to remake the team on the fly to build one of the fastest lineups in the league helped. So did Sullivan’s ability to cut through the noise when he replaced the professorial Mike Johnston in December 2015.

    Yet the Penguins understand there’s something else at work too, a resiliency and accountability they lacked while falling to lower-seeded teams every year from 2010-14.

    “I believe that the resolve and the resilience of this team is the strength of this team,” Sullivan said.

    Both were on full display in Game 7.

    Kunitz, who missed the first-round series against Columbus with a lower-body injury, returned to see himself bumped from the first line to the fourth, scored his first two goals of the playoffs. Conor Sheary, a blurring revelation last spring who suddenly found himself a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 against the Senators, returned to set up Kunitz’s first goal .

    Justin Schultz, who has assumed the as the minute-hogging, puck-moving defenseman role held by the injured Kris Letang, returned from his own health scare and scored a go-ahead goal in the third period.

    If the Penguins were a force of nature last spring while earning the franchise’s fourth Cup, this one is more of a throwback. More blue collar. More anonymous.

    Some of the key cogs that helped Pittsburgh get to this point – rookie forward Jake Guentzel, 37-year-old playoff newcomer Ron Hainsey and career grinder Scott Wilson – weren’t even around last spring. Yet they and so many others not named Crosby or Malkin have become equal partners in pursuit of a title.

    “This year it’s been back and forth, it’s been tough,” Kunitz said. “We’ve had great individual performances. We had great goaltending. It’s something every night.”

    It hasn’t been pretty. So what? Perhaps the biggest sign of the team’s growth is it has abandoned the pursuit of style points for something far more tangible. Like a 34-pound piece of hardware, one Pittsburgh has no intention of handing off anytime soon.

    More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey