Pavel Bure

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.

Sharks defeat Hurricanes, but Vlasic exits game with lower-body injury

Marc-Edouard Vlasic
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Talk about the ideal start.

Patrick Marleau scored just 12 seconds into the first period and the San Jose Sharks had a 2-1 lead before Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was even four minutes old.

The Sharks held on for a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, Kevin Labanc‘s goal late in the second period standing as the winner, as the two teams traded three goals in the span of just over three minutes.

It remains awfully crowded in the Pacific Division. The Flames lead with 34 points, while the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers are all one point back.

The victory came with bad news for the Sharks.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer following the win.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.