Why the Hockey Hall of Fame has to open its doors a little wider

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Once again the Hockey Hall of Fame voting committee has made their call and once again they’ve done a good job electing a group of players for the 2011 Hall of Fame class. There’s no way to take umbrage with any of Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour, or Mark Howe. They’re all outstanding players worthy of the Hall and for one player it’s been an excruciating wait to have his name called.

For Mark Howe it’s taken him 16 years to be elected to the Hall of Fame and while for some that might lead to an argument over whether or not he was actually worthy of the honor, in his situation, we’ll take it to mean something else. It’s time for the Hall of Fame to relax their limits on how many players to honor in a given year.

Any given year for the elections a maximum of four players can be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. These limits were put in place when the NHL was much smaller than it is now and the number of players playing hockey around the world were vastly smaller. With the number of great and immensely talented players that come through the NHL now and with so many of them with stellar cases for the Hockey Hall of Fame the backlog of players that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame that will have to sweat things out year to year is only going to grow.

After taking a look at some of the bigger snubs were after this year’s round of elections while taking a look ahead to next year, no matter what we’re going to see some guys being left out. For some of the guys that have been waiting things out, the wait might get a lot longer. For those coming up that miss out, they too could find themselves in the same position as Howe has being wrongly left out in the cold. Instead of keeping the number limited to the archaic four,  the Hall of Fame should as well and open it up so as many as eight could be elected in a single year. After all, the NHL and other leagues around the world and throughout North America have expanded to such great numbers, it’s only right that the Hall does as well.

Some of you will be critical of this saying that it’ll make the Hall of Fame into the “Hall of Decent Players.” Not so much. If nothing else, the Hall of Fame voting committee has shown their ability to restrain themselves some years and not electing their full number of those that could be elected. Not every year ends with a full complement of those eligible amongst players, builders, women, and officials.

For instance in 2010, Dino Ciccarelli was the only player elected. In 2008, just two players were elected in Glenn Anderson and Igor Larionov. Same in 2005 when just Cam Neely and Valeri Kharlamov were elected. Giving the voters the ample leeway to vote freely rather than hem and haw over numerous qualified players would at least open the doors to the hall that much wider for everyone that deserves to be in there to make it in there when they should.

For players like Dave Andreychuk (he of 640 goals), Adam Oates (16th all-time in points, one spot ahead of Doug Gilmour), Pavel Bure (a dynamic career cut short by injury) and numerous others, their calls to the Hall of Fame have yet to be made and there’s no good reason why. With the likes of Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Mats Sundin, and Curtis Joseph eligible for the first time next year the list will only grow longer one way or another.

Keeping these players out of the Hall of Fame is silly and does them a disservice. No one should have to sweat things out as long as Mark Howe did after having a Hall of Fame career. If the Hockey Hall of Fame wants to properly honor its players, letting more of them in when they’re eligible and approved to enter would be the right way to do it.

Video: Ovechkin joins elite company with this goal vs. Coyotes

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Barring a miraculous barrage of goals in the final stretch of games, Alex Ovechkin very likely won’t hit the 50-mark this season.

Now 31 years old, there has been talk that this could be the beginning of the decline for Ovechkin.

But on Saturday, he scored the 30th goal of his season, letting that famous Ovechkin shot rip from his favorite spot on the power play.

For Ovechkin, that’s 12 straight seasons with at least 30 goals scored. He has been consistently prolific since joining the league in 2005-06. He’s an elite player, as everyone has known for years, and he once again joined elite company with this latest goal.

Per the Capitals, Ovechkin joins Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky — he was good — as the only three players in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in each of their first 12 seasons in the league.

Sharp to undergo hip surgery, expected recovery is 4-5 months

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Patrick Sharp‘s difficult season is now over.

The Dallas Stars announced on Saturday that the 35-year-old forward will undergo hip surgery on Tuesday. The recovery time, according to the club, is between four and five months.

Sharp is in the final year of a five-year contract with a $5.9 million cap hit, per CapFriendly

“We are going to get the surgery done and let him heal. He’s going to train and let’s take a look at him,” said Stars GM Jim Nill, per NHL.com. “We’ve had conversations. If he comes back, he wants it to be Dallas. He thinks he’s a Dallas Star.”

Not only has Sharp dealt with injuries on the ice, but he is dealing with a personal matter off it.

From the Dallas Morning News:

But in battling through two concussions, hip pain, and his dad’s fight with leukemia, Sharp has shown significant fortitude. The Dallas chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Sharp Saturday as its candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given each season to a player who displays the attributes of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

“It shows what kind of person he is and what kind of hockey player and leader he is,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “I think that’s why he’s a winner at every level he’s played at. I think that’s why he’s a great leader for this team and a great guy for a lot of these young guys to look up to.”

Sharp was first sidelined with a concussion in October. He was then placed on injured reserve with another concussion in December.

He has been held to just 48 games, with eight goals — his lowest total since the lockout-shortened season — and 18 points.

‘That was embarrassing,’ says Boudreau after Wild lose to Canucks

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The Wild continue to struggle and fans on Saturday expressed their frustration.

Think about this: The visiting Canucks are terrible at scoring goals, ranked 29th in the league in that category. Yet they managed to score four goals in the second period against the Wild. So bad was Minnesota’s performance to that point that there was a Bronx cheer directed at goalie Darcy Kuemper after he made a save on a harmless shot and fans later booed the Wild off the ice into the intermission.

It’s bad when the Canucks, 27th in the overall standings, embarrass an opposing team.

The Wild failed once again to clinch a playoff spot after a 4-2 loss. That score flattered the home team, which got late goals from Ryan Suter and Eric Staal. Too little, too late. Afterward, coach Bruce Boudreau lit into his team.

“That was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed,” Boudreau told reporters. “To me, if I was the fans, I’d be booing even more because they pay good money for this.”

As far as the playoffs are concerned, the Wild are in, even if they haven’t yet officially secured a spot. Sports Club Stats is giving them a 100 per cent chance of qualifying for the post-season.

But prior to this month, Minnesota looked like a team that could do some serious damage in the playoffs. That’s not to suggest they are suddenly incapable of going on any prolonged run but they very clearly have some issues that need to be addressed over the next few of weeks.

“Yeah, it wasn’t good enough,” Jason Zucker told the Pioneer Press.

“We are leaving guys open. We aren’t winning battles. We are hanging our goalies out to dry. … I don’t think we’re prepared enough to start some periods and they score and we’re not being resilient enough to come back.”

Meanwhile, for the Canucks, this game should provide at least a glimmer of optimism for their fans. Less than 24 hours after his college season ended with a double overtime loss to Boston University, Brock Boeser signed an entry-level deal and made his NHL debut versus the Wild.

What a debut it was.

Boeser, a first-round pick of the Canucks in 2015, scored the winning goal and was tied for the team-lead in shots on goal with four alongside Reid Boucher, who also scored twice.

The unfortunate news? Jack Skille left the game with an ankle injury and didn’t return. The outlook doesn’t look good, as Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins said afterward, “I wouldn’t expect to see Skille in the line-up for a while.”

Only eight games remain in Vancouver’s season.

Another shutout for Bobrovsky as he steals one for Blue Jackets

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Sergei Bobrovsky continued to make his case for the Vezina Trophy on Saturday afternoon when he stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The win helped the Blue Jackets avoid what would have been their first three-game losing streak of the season.

In a game where his team was outshot by a 36-21 margin and managed just a single goal (an Alexander Wennberg tally in the second period), it would not be unfair to say that he probably stole a couple of points for his team as the Blue Jackets continue to compete with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.

Bobrovsky being the difference in a game is nothing new for the Blue Jackets lately because he has been a brick wall in their net for much of the season. But for as good as his performance has been overall, it is over the past few weeks where he has really started to establish himself as a Vezina Trophy front runner.

With his win on Saturday the Blue Jackets are now 9-0-2 in his past 11 starts.

Bobrovsky remains the NHL’s leader in pretty much every major goaltending category, collecting his 40th win (first in the NHL), raising his overall save percentage to .934 (also first in the NHL), his even-strength save percentage to .940 (also first in the NHL), and recording his seventh shutout (tied for second, just one behind Braden Holtby).

He has four shutouts in the month of March alone.

There are a lot of factors you can point to for the Blue Jackets’ massive turnaround this season, but none of them have been bigger at this point than the play of Bobrovsky.

He has already won the Vezina Trophy once in his career, and he is putting together a pretty convincing argument to win it again this season.