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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    Boeser channels Bure, leads NHL rookie scoring

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    Brock Boeser has no intentions of letting Clayton Keller or Mathew Barzal walk away with the Calder Trophy.

    Boeser, 20, has been lights out over the past four games for the Vancouver Canucks, scoring six times during his current four-game goal-scoring streak (he also has points in five straight) as Keller’s stock has cooled.

    The Arizona Coyotes 19-year-old rookie has failed to score in each of his past eight games after a blistering start that saw him score 11 times in 16 contests.

    Keller’s slump has allowed Boeser to grab hold of the rookie scoring lead, which he did on Wednesday, scoring twice — the second time he’s done so in as many games — in a 5-2 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    He’s now one point ahead of Keller and Barzal, the latter of which is heating up as well with points in his past four games.

    As you can see by the above video, Boeser’s release puts his name on a pedestal with few others in the NHL. The Athletic’s Justin Bourne wrote glowingly of Boeser’s shot ability on Wednesday.

    Don’t see the Alex Ovechkin or Patrik Laine in that shot? Here’s more proof:

    Boeser’s scoring prowess has him in the conversation with another talented Russian in Pavel Bure.

    Bure, who won the Calder Trophy in 1992, scored 34 times for the Canucks that season. Boeser is on pace to hit the 40-goal mark, which would smash that record.

    Boeser is the first rookie to score in four consecutive games this season. According to the NHL, only one rookie in Canucks franchise history has scored in more than four consecutive team games – Dennis Ververgaert had a six-game goal streak in 1973-74.

    Boeser is scoring on nearly 21 percent of his shots, and while TSN’s Scott Cullen points out that that number isn’t likely to hold, his 2.8 shots per game are still very much conducive to goal scoring.

    And winning. Boeser has three game-winning goals for the Canucks, who are 11-8-3 this season, two points out of first place in the Pacific Division in the Western Conference.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck


    Free falling: Flyers lose sixth straight as growing pains emerge

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    The Philadelphia Flyers feel they are right there, which is an interesting statement from a team that’s lost six straight and eight of their past 10.

    Ah, the lies we tell ourselves in times of trouble.

    The Flyers did fair better on Wednesday night in a 4-3 shootout loss against the New York Islanders, which prompted goaltender Brian Elliott to make the declaration that his team just needs to turn the corner.

    It’s tough to turn when you’re falling backwards, however.

    Indeed, finding positives when few appear to be in sight in a skid like the Flyers are in is a tough ask in the City of Brotherly Love. Flyers fans have had to come to terms with a few things this season.

    It must pain fans to see Brayden Schenn lighting the lamp over and over again in St. Louis. Schenn was traded to the Blues in the offseason. The return looked half decent for a team looking to rebuild with a youth movement.

    The Blues gave up two first-round picks for Schenn along with Jori Lehtera. And while it remains to be seen what the Flyers gain from the trade in future drafts, Lehtera has been an utter disappointment, one magnified many times more by Schenn’s incredible start.

    Lehtera was a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s game, the second time in his past four games he’s watched rather than played. He’s sitting on two assists this season in 14 games. Schenn, by comparison, 10 goals and 30 points, including 19 in his past eight games.

    It hasn’t been all Lehtera’s fault. Oh, no.

    The Flyers penalty kill has been atrocious. They rank 28th in the league at 75 percent and have allowed seven goals in their past 13 kills over the past three games.

    Andrew MacDonald can’t return soon enough, especially after one of their better penalty killers tried to behead a man last week.

    Scoring could be better as well.

    Claude Giroux has gone six games without a goal, this after scoring nine times in his first 16 games. Jordan Weal has just one goal in his past 18 games and was bumped to the fourth line on Wednesday. And ever since he 17 times in 64 games two years ago, Shayne Gostisbehere has only eight goals in his past 95 games and none in his past 13.

    Ivan Provorov has been a godsend for the Flyers on defence (and Travis Sanheim is starting to blossom), but Gostisbehere’s offensive prowess from the backend would be a welcomed addition again.

    But the real reason for the Flyers struggles this season might just be something they can’t control: youth.

    The Flyers iced 11 players under 25 years of age on Wednesday night. Their top defenseman, Provorov, is 20 years old. Their second line centre, Nolan Patrick, is 19.

    These are the growing pains of a team getting younger, and it could get worse yet before it gets better.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    While Turris continues to roll, Duchene still stuck in first gear

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    Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, sometimes it isn’t.

    The two focal points of the biggest trade this season so far in the National Hockey League find themselves on opposite sides of the old expression.

    On the ‘grass isn’t’ side, we find Matt Duchene, now an Ottawa Senators player after getting shipped to Canada’s capital from the Colorado Avalanche in a three-team deal (that also included the Nashville Predators, but more on that in a moment) earlier this month.

    Duchene, unhappy in the Colorado Rockies, has now gone six games without a point in his new threads.

    On the ‘greener side,’ we find Kyle Turris, now a member of the Nashville Predators, who was shipped out of Canada’s capital after contract negotiations between his former team, the Senators, “did not see the light at the end of the tunnel.” 

    Unlike Duchene, (his trade partner?) Turris has found new life in Music City. In six games, Turris has two goals and three assists and scored this five-hole goal on Wednesday to help the Predators get past the struggling Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the shootout.

    Turris’ arrival on the Predators’ second line has been of great assistance to 21-year-old forward Kevin Fiala as well.

    Fiala has six points, including two multi-point outings, since Turris arrived on Nov. 5 and is well on his way to eclipsing his rookie season point total of 16 last year with two goals and 11 assists in 20 games this season.

    It was no secret the Senators wanted Duchene, badly, in the days leading up to the deal that finally got done. Turris and the Sens couldn’t reach an agreement on an extension and thus the 28-year-old became expendable. The results thus far, at least on the scoresheet, haven’t matched the steep price required to get Duchene.

    But it’s not all bad. Some consolation for Sens fans:

    And it’s not to say results won’t come.

    Duchene has 23 shots in those six games. There would be more concern if he wasn’t getting chances.

    An immediate winner in any high-profile swap is always hotly debated. Turris has had a strong start in Nashville, but he went to a team that is a few months removed from being in the Stanley Cup Finals and are looking like strong contenders once again.

    Duchene is a highly-skilled player who scored 30 goals two years ago. The chemistry with Bobby Ryan just hasn’t blossomed just yet. Give it time.

    The thing about trades is this: a clear-cut winner is often never determined a few weeks after the deal is made.

    Duchene summed it up rather succinctly on Tuesday in the Ottawa Sun:

    “I’ve said it many times, a season is full of peaks and valleys and 10 games from now, we could be having a totally different conversation.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Golden Knights can’t stop, won’t stop

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    There may not be a more intriguing story in the NHL this year than what is going on in Sin City.

    Defying all the odds, the Vegas Golden Knights — a team comprised of spare parts that general manager George McPhee picked out of a discard bin this past summer — sit on top of the Pacific Division at Thanksgiving after a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

    The league-wide off day due to the holiday should give you enough time to come to the realization that yes, indeed, your eyes are not deceiving you.

    Instead, the NHL has a brand new team that continues to re-write hockey history.

    The Golden Knights matched an NHL record for most wins by a team through the first 20 games of its inaugural season on Wednesday, moving to 13-6-1 on the year.

    They became the first expansion team to start a season 3-0-0 and first to win their first six of seven back in October. On Nov. 4, they tied a league record for shortest number of games played to achieve nine wins an inaugural season and continue to do things no other expansion team has done.

    How a team full of players not good enough to be protected prior to the expansion draft is doing so well is anyone’s guess.

    Chip on their collective shoulders? Perhaps. A little Las Vegas magic? Quite possible.

    What is certain is that the Golden Knights have little trouble scoring. And scoring helps with winning.

    James Neal, a former 40-goal man, leads the way with 11 goals. Only Filip Forsberg on the Nashville Predators, Neal’s former team, has as many. William Karlsson is second with 10. No one on his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, has reached double digits yet.

    David Perron, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula aren’t far behind with six goals apiece, and Vegas is eighth in expected goals for percentage.

    The math adds up to show the Golden Knights tied for fourth in goals for with 72. They’re also in the top third when it comes to least goals against, a remarkable feat given that they’ve had to dig deep — really deep — into their stable of goaltenders thanks to injury.

    Furthermore, If the playoffs were determined by possession metrics and began tomorrow, the Golden Knights would be one of the 16 headed to the promised land.

    Maybe Vegas just likes to win. And really, what do they have to lose?


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck