Should Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure be in the 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame class?

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bure.jpgOn Tuesday, the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce the 2010 inductees
and this year should boast a very impressive class with a number of
great players entering their first year of eligibility.

Yet there is seemingly just one lock for the Hall of Fame this year,
as Joe Nieuwendyk is sure to be a first-ballot inductee. The 1999 Conn
Smythe winner was a three-time Stanley Cup champion with three different
teams and personified the leadership, production and class that you
would expect to be present in a Hall of Fame player.

After Nieuwendyk, however, are a number of players sure to draw
debate. It’s unlikely that Pierre Turgeon, Mike Ricci, Arturs Irbe or
Peter Bondra make in in their first year of eligibility. It’s possible
that Tom Barrasso, Ron Hextall, Andy Moog, Felix Potvin, Dave Andreychuk
or even Dino Ciccarelli finally get the call.

But two names, Pavel Bure and Eric Lindros, will be the subject of
most debate. Brandon and I have two differing opinions on Bure and
Lindros, and we’ll each give our argument for both below.

James:

Pavel Bure was Dominique Wilkins on ice. He scored highlight reel goals, possessed locomotive speed and an excellent sense of “The Moment.” Maybe he didn’t persist with Recchi-like longevity, but he dazzled like few others.

Eric Lindros was supposed to be “The Next One.” Few will forget – and many will never forgive – that Lindros held out as the No.1 pick of the Quebec Nordiques, only to be traded for a bunch of players including Peter Forsberg. The Lindros family over-involvement and squabbles with Bobby Clarke certainly did not impress.

But during his years in Philadelphia, Lindros was an irresistible force. With fellow power forward John LeClair and hockey trivia filler Mikael Renberg, Lindros formed the feared “Legion of Doom” line, perhaps the last combo of players to earn a spectacular nickname. As a young Penguins fan, I grew to despise Lindros, but that perhaps that only underscores his greatness.

Bure and Lindros couldn’t have been more different – everything from their playing styles and national origin are complete opposites. They do, however, share at least three traits: they both fell short of a Stanley Cup, had injury ravaged careers and most importantly … they both deserve to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

There are only a handful of players in each generation who can change the course of a game or playoff series by sheer force of will. Bure and Lindros were two of those players, even if they didn’t do it for 15 years. Still, if you really need it, there are some numbers that help their cases.

Both Bure and Lindros fell well short of 1,000 career points, but they both averaged more than a point per game in the regular season (Bure: 779 in 702 GP; Lindros: 865 in 760 GP) AND in the playoffs (Bure: 70 in 64 GP; Lindros: 57 in 53 GP).

In the trap-ravaged, obstruction era of the NHL Bure still managed two 60 goal seasons (92-93 and 93-94), as well as 59, 58 and 51-goal seasons. Keep in mind, two of those 50-goal seasons came as the only real offensive threat on profoundly awful Florida Panthers teams. And Bure also managed one of the greatest scores a Russian athlete could hope for: Anna Kournikova. If that’s not HoF worthy, what is?

Hall of Fame voters tend to fixate on arbitrary milestones that reward longevity instead of brilliance. There are some players who manage a combination of both, but when it comes down to a choice between the two, I’ll take the stars that shined the brightest rather than the longest.

After the jump, Brandon tells us why they shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

lindros.jpgBrandon:

I understand the love for Eric Lindros and
Pavel Bure for this year’s HOF class; I can’t argue that when they were
at their best they were two of the most exciting offensive players in
the NHL. Yet when you look at all of the players eligible this year I
can’t help but come up with a lengthy list of players who deserve to be
in the HOF over these two. Before I get to that, I’ll argue against each
separately.

Pavel Bure was perhaps the most electric forward of
the 1990’s. What he could do with the puck was nothing short of
remarkable, and his combination of talent and speed was nearly untouched
during his heyday. But he was also a player who put up incredible
individual numbers while never enjoying team success. Through no exact
fault of his own, as hockey is ultimately a team sport, he never
experienced the overwhelming postseason success that you consider when
it comes to Hall of Fame players

He was never considered a great leader on the ice and was nothing
but a pure goal scorer; not exactly a knock on Bure but when thinking
about Hall of Fame players you have to consider factors other than just
his numbers. I will admit that when he did go deep into the postseason
— in 1994 he had 31 points in 24 playoff games with Vancouver — he
shined, but those moments weren’t often, especially later in his career.

If
I had my choice however, I would instantly vote Bure in over other
player in this debate: Eric Lindros.

Look, I know his numbers were
great. In his career he had more points per game that Mark Messier, Luc
Robitaille and Brett Hull. When he was healthy, especially early in his
career, he was perhaps the most dominant offensive player in the NHL.
Yet that was for just a short amount of time, as injuries and and a
horrid off-ice persona became the story of the latter part of his
career.

It’s true that he HOF seems to reward players who were
really good for a long time, instead of players who were great for a
short time. But you can’t sit there and tell me that Eric Lindros —
perhaps one of the worst on-ice leaders we’ve seen in the NHL —
deserves to be in the Hall of Fame over Dave Andreychuk (640 career
goals), or Andy Moog, Dino Ciccarelli and perhaps the most glaring
omission: Doug Gilmour.

The thought that Eric Lindros would be in
the Hall of Fame before Gilmour makes me frankly a bit sick.

Does
Lindros deserve to ultimately be in the HOF? Certainly, but I highly
doubt he makes it this summer anyways. He’ll get there eventually, and
I’d like to the think the voters decide that Bure will get there first.
I’d like to see others get voted in before either of those two, but
there’s no doubt that Bure would be higher on my list than Lindros

What
do you think?

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

NHL’s Thanksgiving playoffs rule unlikely to fit this season

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Erik Gudbranson looks at the standings almost every day.

Sure, it’s only November, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the playoffs and see which teams are atop the division standings.

”Every single point matters,” the Vancouver Canucks defenseman said. ”You want to stay with that group.”

For more than a decade, the status of that group at Thanksgiving has been a significant indicator of who gets to keep playing beyond mid-April. Since the salary-cap era began in 2005-06, 78.4 percent of teams in playoff position by the fourth Thursday in November have made it. It’s so notable that it is considered the NHL’s unofficial Thanksgiving rule.

In most years, the picture solidifies in mid-November and an average of 12-13 playoff teams are all but set by Thanksgiving.

Not so much this season, where there are 12 teams separated by eight points in the Eastern Conference and 12 teams separated by five points in the West, making the races too close to call at Thanksgiving.

”With the parity that’s in the league nowadays, I don’t know if that rule really applies anymore,” Calgary Flames winger Troy Brouwer said. ”Usually at some point a few teams break away from the pack and the rest of them, because of the three-point games and everybody’s playing so many divisional games, you never really gain a ton of ground on a team or lose a ton of ground on a team unless you’re continuously losing divisional games.”

Led by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the Tampa Bay Lightning are far away the best in the East, while the duo of Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schennhas the St. Louis Blues atop the West. The Toronto Maple Leafs are talented and the Los Angeles Kings are off to a great start, but there aren’t too many teams at the quarter mark that can feel too confident about making the playoffs.

”It’s pretty well a .500 league right now,” Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. ”The teams that have a little more depth like Tampa, who is in a good window, and St. Louis and probably L.A. … they’re the only ones that have really pulled away from anybody. The rest of us are right all there.”

A relatively flat salary cap over the past few seasons and the expansion draft that filled the Vegas Golden Knights with the best roster for a first-year franchise in history have served to level the talent discrepancy around hockey.

”There’s not much separation between teams,” Pittsburgh Penguins center Riley Sheahan said. ”The salary cap makes it a tough league to play in.”

But this isn’t just about the cap, which has been around 13 seasons. A lot of inter-conference play early is one theory for so many teams being packed together.

”We haven’t even started playing in conference, in division games,” winger Wayne Simmonds said after he and the Philadelphia Flyers played 17 of their first 22 games against the West. ”I think that’s where things will start to separate. When everyone’s playing the Western Conference or maybe different divisions, the separation you don’t see as much.”

It’s going to be tough going for last-place Buffalo and Arizona to make the playoffs and an uphill climb for should’ve-been contenders Montreal and Edmonton. The Thanksgiving rule may be moot for this year, but a brutal start is tough to dig out from.

”You can’t make the playoffs in November, but you can knock yourself out,” veteran Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. ”It seems like even when you’re down four points at the end of the year, the games get so much tighter and there’s more three-point games, it seems like, toward the end of the year. Teams are playing a lot more defensive and safe. It seems like it’s easier to pile up points now than it is to try to catch up at the end.”

It’s not impossible, though, as the 2007-08 Capitals are one of 38 teams to get it done after looking like they’re cooked. They fired coach Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving Day, replaced him with Bruce Boudreau and went from 8-7-6 to a Southeast Division title.

Boudreau, whose Minnesota Wild are 13th in the West but just two points out of a playoff spot, doesn’t think much about the Thanksgiving rule.

”If you look at it as this is a truism and you’re not in at that time, you have a tendency to (think), ‘Aw man, we’re not going make it,’ and I don’t want anybody on our team thinking along those lines,” Boudreau said. ”But it’s going to be close.”

It’s so close that while Sheahan said you can ”start to drive yourself a little crazy” by focusing too much on stats and the schedule, there are no guarantees. Half the playoff teams turned over from 2015-16 to 2016-17, and of the 16 teams in position now, seven didn’t make it last spring and one didn’t even exist.

The standings are packed, so much that one victory or one loss can shuffle them like a deck of cards.

”It gives you that extra incentive to be ready every single night,” Gudbranson said. ”You have to be when you can gain one extra point and jump from 10th in the West to a solid wild-card spot – and vice-versa, it can go the other way.”

What fantasy hockey players should be grateful for

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Ah, Thanksgiving. A time when families come together to overeat, try to ignore the more problematic elements of the holiday’s roots, watch lopsided football games, and get into arguments.

Not great, honestly, but kudos to my family specifically for at least adding pierogies to the mix.

With the American version of the holiday upon us (it’s in October in Canada … weird!), it seems wise to share gratitude for the players who are powering our fantasy hockey teams to greatness, or at least to help us avoid total mockery at the water cooler.*

Going for seconds, thirds

So far, 2017-18 has been The Year of The Top Lines. It can be seen mostly blatantly in noting that Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are battling for the top scoring spot in the NHL, while Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jaden Schwartz are also in the top 10.

Much like the satisfaction of eating homemade sides instead of canned vegetables, the real winners have been the less-obvious members of lines who have been incredible values, and some of whom might deliver for a full season.

Schenn is an obvious example, with his 30 points in 22 games (not to mention 20 PIM and +19 rating) making him a blistering steal. His Yahoo pre-season ranking was 85th, and he likely went lower depending upon your given draft.

Sean Couturier might be the most delirious example so far, though. His yahoo ranking was 262, yet he’s ranked 18th by the same standards, as it’s clear that he’s taken the bull by the horns when it comes to getting an increased offensive role with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on his wings. Vladislav Namestnikov has been glorious, and it sure seems likely that’ll he remain with Stamkos and Kucherov as long as he’s healthy.

Micheal Ferland might spell his name in a funny way, but you’ll make fun of him less often if he’s on your team and manages to stay with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan over the long haul.

On that note, there are still some things to sort out. Will Kyle Connor be the guy that gets to play with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele more often than not? Can the Stars get a consistent third player (aside: we need a third [blank] to go with “second banana”) to dunk in opportunities from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, at least with Alex Radulov seemingly not being the right fit?

Really, the questions about duos makes you appreciate stable trios that much more, especially if you have one or both of them on your teams. You don’t see reasonable answers to the glorious combo of the Dany Heatley – Jason Spezza – Daniel Alfredsson very often in the salary cap era, after all.

Hopefully most of those top lines can at least maintain some of this ridiculous energy, as the dog days of the season will probably cause at least some regression. Sorry, didn’t mean to ruin the holiday spirit.

Trading goods

I can’t really go too long without thanking GM David Poile and others for spicing up the season with some trades. Don’t scoff at this being mentioned in fantasy, as trades can make the process more exciting *and* create new gems.

In six games with the Nashville Predators, Kyle Turris has five points, but I’m most thankful – and intrigued – to see gains from Kevin Fiala (six points in his past five games) and Craig Smith (six in his past six). Fiala and Smith will probably be more worthy of adds in deeper leagues, but it’s a situation to watch, preferably with popcorn.

Turris could also boost guys like P.K. Subban and Roman Josi in a delightful domino effect, so again, a nod of gratitude to Poile.

Big saves

Quite a few goalies are saving their teams’ bacon (or honey-baked ham, to fit the theme?), with Corey Crawford, John Gibson, and Mike Smith coming to mind, in particular. Imagine where the Anaheim Ducks would be without Gibson?

Also: thanks to Braden Holtby, who’s navigating the Capitals’ struggles to remain the new Henrik Lundqvist as far as reliable fantasy hockey star goalies go.

Avoiding turkeys

Finally, all but one owner in each league can be happy to avoid Brent Burns, an awesome, caveman-looking scoring sensation who’s been on a puzzling scoring slump. Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good, even beyond getting a piece of those red-hot lines.

(And hey, maybe you’ll be thankful when you trade for Burns at a discount rate, only to see him bounce back?)

* – For those who grumble about this being a lame gimmick for a fantasy hockey column, allow me to respond with this hex: I hope your Crazy Uncle shares extra ridiculous, patently offensive theories this time around.

And, if *you* are in the crazy uncle role, I hope that a know-it-all nephew totally schools you, to the point that even like-minded family members are giggling at your stammering responses.

Yeah, that’s right. I went there. Maybe all the gravy is making me edgy.

Enjoy the holiday, hockey fans.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Golden Knights shine, gold from Subban

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Player of the Night: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers.

It hasn’t been the easiest start to the season for Twitter legend Roberto Luongo, nor has it been for the Twitter debate generators known as the Florida Panthers.

Bobby Lou hasn’t been healthy at times, making it easy to ignore that even at 38, he’s quietly managed a save percentage that climbed to .931 after today’s outstanding performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Luongo made 43 out of 44 stops to help Florida edge Toronto in a 2-1 shootout win, to the amusingly over-the-top celebration of the Panthers, who might have done so because there were probably a ton of Maple Leafs fans in the house:

Nick Bjugstad won the game with this saucy shootout score, by the way:

Honorable mentions go to tonight’s other standout goalies, plus Nathan MacKinnon, who received plenty of praise here.

Fight of the Night: William Carrier vs. Mike Liambas.

Is it fair to call this fight “methodical but entertaining?”

Quip of the Night: P.K. Subban, always entertaining, though he should reduce the height-shaming.

Pest of the Night: Nazem Kadri?

Highlight of the Night: John Tavares continues to impose his will, this time setting up the Islanders overtime-winner:

Factoids of the Night

Another milestone for the Vegas Golden Knights, who lead the Pacific Division:

Brock Boeser is another worthy mention for player of the night, as the young Canuck keeps scoring and scoring, this time helping Vancouver beat Pittsburgh (again).

Connor McDavid continues to impress, and maybe shuts up a critic or two for one night:

The Canadiens? Well, at least they got a point.

Scores

Wild 5, Sabres 4
Oilers 6, Red Wings 2
Panthers 2, Maple Leafs 1 (SO)
Bruins 3, Devils 2 (SO)
Islanders 4, Flyers 3 (OT)
Canucks 5, Penguins 2
Capitals 5, Senators 2
Rangers 6, Hurricanes 1
Blue Jackets 1, Flames 0 (OT)
Lightning 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Predators 3, Canadiens 2 (SO)
Avalanche 3, Stars 0
Sharks 3, Coyotes 1
Golden Knights 4, Ducks 2
Jets 2, Kings 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.