2011 Hall of Fame talk: The biggest snub and 2012’s staggering class of eligible players

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So, in case you missed it, the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees are: Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe and Joe Nieuwendyk. That’s a pretty impressive group of players, but that won’t stop the Twitterverse and other Internet complaint outlets from providing a steady flow of gripes.

From our perspective, Adam Oates might be the biggest snub. He received the fourth most votes in PHT’s informal poll of our own staff, media experts and hockey bloggers, making him the consensus pick for the most overlooked player.

That being said, there were plenty of other options for those wanting to vent their frustrations. Some think that great players from the USSR big red machine era – such as Boris Mikhailov and Sergei Makarov – won’t ever get their just due. Others are outraged that the selection committee is dragging its feet to posthumously honor former head coach Pat Burns while Fred Shero also continues to be a dark horse candidate in the “builders” category. Pavel Bure and Eric Lindros probably bring about the most arguments from a “quality versus quantity” standpoint. Our own Matt Reitz will talk your ear off about the merits of goalie Rogie Vachon.

There are a ton of seemingly worthy candidates for inclusion into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but perhaps that’s the point. If it was easy to get in – and some, like myself, would argue that it’s already too easy to get in – then it wouldn’t be much of an honor, would it? Still, it’s usually enjoyable to engage in these wildly subjective debates, so let us know who you think was the biggest snub by voting in this poll and telling us all about it in the comments.

Note: we know that you won’t be satisfied with all the choices provided, so please keep in mind that you can “write in” a candidate in the “other” field.

Now that you’ve decided which player (or builder) was the biggest snub, we have some rather bad news: they’re probably going to wait a while before they get into the Hall of Fame. As we discussed last year, the 2012 class of first year eligible players is pretty staggering.

Key 2012 first year eligible players:

  • Joe Sakic
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Mats Sundin
  • Brendan Shanahan
  • Curtis Joseph
  • Gary Roberts
  • Claude Lemieux
  • Olaf Kolzig
  • Bobby Holik
  • Michael Peca

Maybe a few of those players are a bit marginal toward the end, but Sakic and Shanahan will probably be first-ballot guys. Sundin shouldn’t be far behind (if he needs to wait at all) and Roenick puts the ‘fame’ in Hall of Fame. It’s possible that someone like Adam Oates – with his 1,079 assists and hearty helpings of goodwill – might be able to get in next year, but “fringe” candidates probably don’t even need to check their caller ID’s in mid-June next year. With Scott Niedermayer and Rob Blake eligible in 2013, they might just want to take two years off.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.