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?

Lehtera: Trade from Blues to Flyers will be ‘good for me’

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Let’s be honest. Jori Lehtera felt like a bit of an afterthought in the trade that sent Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues and some significant picks to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Just consider the PHT headline: “Flyers send Schenn to Blues, take on Lehtera’s contract.”

That’s certainly a fair way to look at it, as the Flyers received the 27th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft and a conditional first-rounder in the deal. Would they have gotten such a haul for Schenn if they didn’t absord Lehtera’s $4.7 million cap hit, which expires after 2018-19?

Again, it’s easy to lose track of the human factor, as Lehtera was moved from the only NHL team he’s ever suited up for. While he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford that the news brought out both good and bad emotions, the 29-year-old believes that he’ll benefit on the ice.

“I have no idea why (the Blues traded me), but I think it’s better for me that I got traded, so I don’t really care why,” Lehtera said. “That’s the business part of hockey. It’s always tough to leave when you know all of the guys and the city. But hockey-wise, it’s going to be good for me. I didn’t play well at the end, but I think a new start will be really good for me.”

It’s been an interesting few years for Lehtera.

His numbers have dropped from his nifty rookie season (14 goals, 44 points) to 2015-16 (34 points) and finally last season (22 points).

Context matters, naturally, as centering a line of Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko inflated his numbers, especially earlier on.

Still, that couldn’t have been a promising trend for both the player and the team.

The challenge will be to really make a mark with Philly. With Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula, Sean Couturier, and possibly even Nolan Patrick in the way, Lehtera would have plenty of competition down the middle. It wouldn’t be shocking if he was asked to move to the wing on occasion.

Lehtera certainly has plenty to prove, but he also gets a chance to make a positive first impression. If he can make an impact, then he’ll make Flyers GM Ron Hextall look that much brighter in the process.

Report: Avalanche will soon have AHL affiliate in Colorado

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There are upgrades that improve teams in dramatic ways, and then there are moves that improve quality of life.

Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Avalanche will make a tweak that would likely be a big plus in the quality of life category: starting in 2018-19, the Colorado Eagles will be their AHL affiliate. The Eagles will be bumped from an ECHL team to the AHL.

At the moment, the Avs’ affiliate is the San Antonio Rampage (pictured). So, yeah, there will be a nice advantage in a) calling players up and b) management having more opportunities to keep an eye on prospects.

The Budweiser Events Center is about a one-hour drive to the Pepsi Center according to Google Maps, depending upon traffic. So yeah, that’s an easier situation than traveling from Texas.

The Avalanche haven’t made this news official; Chambers cites two anonymous sources. With the change coming for 2018-19, it’s possible that confirmation might not come for a while. More from Chambers:

The Avs, citing their contract with the Rampage, declined comment, but vice president Jean Martineau confirmed the team’s contract with San Antonio ends after the 2017-18 season. Eagles general manager Chris Stewart could not be reached for comment.

Will Rangers fans warm up to Vigneault this season?

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

From the way many New York Rangers fans discuss Alain Vigneault, you’d think he was presiding over the era of 1997-98 to 2003-04, when the Rangers missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons.

Impressive results

From a sheer win-loss standpoint, Vigneault’s been a success, even if the Rangers haven’t been able to win it all. The Rangers’ points percentage has been at .628, almost as strong as his .632 mark with the Canucks, when AV took Vancouver within one win of that elusive Stanley Cup title.

(Breaking: things haven’t gone so smoothly for Vancouver since he left town.)

The Rangers are 192-108-28 under Vigneault. They made an unexpected run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and also brought them to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Plenty of critics

Of course, Vigneault wasn’t on the ice winning those games, and many would (understandably) attribute the Rangers’ successes to the players, most notably Henrik Lundqvist. In the eyes of many, this team’s successes come despite Vigneault.

Again, the criticisms are often as harsh as they are widespread.

Sometimes people find his defensive pairing decisions maddening. If you want to make some Rangers fans wince, just utter the name Tanner Glass. SBNation Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter provides a portal into such angst, with headlines like “Rangers demise started at the top” and failing grades for his playoff maneuvering.

Twitter can honestly get a little weird with the AV vitriol, although … maybe that’s to be expected? Consider this a random example that’s on the more, well, SFW spectrum:

Not everyone is bashing Vigneault, mind you, but his critics can sometimes resemble a chorus.

Glass floor

Of course, any passionate fan base will have its qualms with coaches. People have been discussing “the pros and cons of Alain Vigneault” for ages.

It’s easy to get caught up in your favorite team and ignore the notion that virtually every coach has “their guys.”

In this case, “their guys” means marginal players whose elevated roles leaves fans shaking their heads. Jon Cooper seemingly favored Andrej Sustr and arguably never really trusted Jonathan Drouin. Maple Leafs fans weren’t always thrilled to see, say, Roman Polak getting serious minutes. The list goes on and on.

A turning point?

With that in mind, the 2017-18 season could be an especially fascinating chapter in the love-hate affair between Rangers fans and Vigneault.

Frankly, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton took measures to protect Vigneault from himself, and those changes might just leave fans begrudgingly agreeing with more AV moves than usual … or it might send some over the edge if old habits die hard.

As much as people criticize individual moves, Vigneault made a strong argument that he’s a versatile coach in 2016-17, taking a more modern approach with the Rangers. It mostly worked, and now this team has better tools to improve their transition game.

To an extent, it’s addition by subtraction, as Dan Girardi‘s time mercifully ends, and with it the motivation for AV to give him big minutes. This opens the door for more mobile defenders to get time, such as promising young blueliner Brady Skjei.

The actual additions are most important. Kevin Shattenkirk stands, on paper, as a massive upgrade, especially if he slides into a pairing with Ryan McDonagh (who some believe has been dragged down by Girardi for years).

Another key will be how Marc Staal is used. If the emphasis shifts from Staal to Shattenkirk, McDonagh, Skjei, Brendan Smith and maybe even Anthony DeAngelo, stats-minded Rangers fans might be pleased.

Maybe most importantly for the mental health of some fans, that lure to put Glass in the lineup is also gone.

***

To some extent, criticisms are just the nature of the beast for coaches in professional sports. Vigneault’s been around long enough to realize that.

Even so, the highs and lows of Vigneault can sometimes be quite dramatic, making him a polarizing subject for fans. This season should be especially interesting to watch from the perspective of Rangers fans, whether AV makes changes or continues to frustrate them in familiar ways.

Rick Nash at career crossroads in contract year

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has indeed done a great job managing the team’s salary structure. In that context, it might be tough to justify the idea of extending an aging power forward who will be 34 when his current deal expires next summer.

There are more than a few people who believe that the Rangers would be wise to bring Rick Nash back, however. Just recently, Josh Lipman made such an argument for Fansided and a similar thought surfaced from Jackson Heil of The Hockey Writers.

Of course, wherever Nash goes, he figures to see a decrease in pay – maybe a drastic drop – from the $7.8 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

For Nash, it’s a fork in the road during what’s been a somewhat odd career.

Nash is closing in on 500 career goals, as the winger already produced 416 in 989 regular-season games. He’s become quite the specialist in New York, scoring 127 goals vs. 97 assists in 315 contests with the Rangers.

On those playoff questions

As Rangers fans likely know too well, there have been some playoff headaches.

It’s wrong to say that Nash has never enjoyed postseason success. In 19 games during their 2015 run, he managed 14 points. He also had four points in what was otherwise a miserable five-game series for the Rangers against the Penguins in 2016.

His strange run of bad luck resurfaced this past postseason, so for all we know, Nash might not ever fully silence critics regarding his supposed lack of “clutch play.”

Best option available?

When people picture Nash’s future, many envision him hitting the free agent market in 2018.

The Rangers might not be so wise to outright dismiss bringing Nash back, though. New York boasts some nice forwards, but it’s plausible that Nash could remain one of their most reliable snipers, even at an advanced age. Lipman points out that Nash easily outclasses other Rangers during his time with the team from a sniping perspective; while he generated 127 goals during that time, the second-most prolific scorer was Derek Stepan, who only managed 90.

It’s worth noting that, despite being limited to 67 regular-season games in 2016-17, Nash still scored 23 goals. Nash generated 42 goals as recently as 2014-15, which was one of his only healthy campaigns with the Rangers.

Now, it’s rarely safe to assume that a player will become more durable as he ages, so that’s another concern to consider.

Still, if the price is reasonable, Nash brings a lot to the table.

The 2017-18 season stands as a year that could have a huge impact on Nash’s future. The Rangers should at least keep an open mind about being a part of his future beyond this next season.