(UPDATE: The 2018 HOF class will be made up of Gary Bettman, Martin Brodeur, Jayna Hefford, Willie O’Ree, Martin St. Louis, and Alexander Yakushev.)
On Tuesday afternoon we’ll find out who makes up the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class, and outside of one lock to be inducted, the rest of the group is up in the air.
The one lock is Martin Brodeur. You don’t need a rundown of his resume to understand why he’s destined for the Hall. There are two former NHL players who are in the “probably, most likely” category to join him: Daniel Alfredsson and Martin St. Louis.
‘Alfie’ played 1,246 games, scored 444 goals and posted 1,157 points. He won the Calder Trophy, King Clancy Trophy, an esteemed Mark Messier Leadership Award, and was a six-time All-Star. Internationally, he won Olympic gold and silver medals and two silvers and two bronze medals with Sweden at the IIHF World Championship.
The undrafted St. Louis established himself with the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping the franchise to its first Stanley Cup championship in 2004. That same year he won the Hart, Art Ross and Pearson Trophies. Later in his career he would win three Lady Byng Trophies. Playing for Canada, he was part of gold medal winning teams at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and 2014 Olympics. After 1,134 NHL games, he finished with 391 goals and 1,033 points.
Both have a solid case: Strong NHL totals, individual hardware and international success.
Now it gets interesting. There are some good cases to be made to have another NHL player or two join Brodeur, Alfredsson and St. Louis. Here are our favorites for Hall inclusion.
Boris Mikhailov — The man Herb Brooks loved to remind his “Miracle on Ice” team looked like Stan Laurel had a decorated career playing for CSKA Moscow and representing the Soviet Union internationally. Domestically, Mikhailov scored 429 goals for CSKA and recorded 653 points, leading them to 11 Soviet League titles. On the international scene, the long time captain captured two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships. And remember that it’s not the NHL Hall of Fame, but the Hockey Hall of Fame, even if the voters sometimes forget that.
Sergei Zubov — His 771 points puts him in the top 20 of all-time among defensemen, as does his .72 points per game average. He has the 12th-most playoff points for defensemen with 112. Only Sergei Gonchar has more goals and points than Zubov among Russian blue liners. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner, four-time All-Star, and gold medalist at the Olympics and World Junior Championship. If Nicklas Lidstrom hadn’t dominated so much, how much more love would have been sent Zubov’s way?
Alexander Mogilny — He was the first Soviet player to defect west and when he arrived he quickly made his mark. His 76-goal 1992-93 season tied him for the league’s goal scoring lead with Teemu Selanne as he ended up with a 127-point campaign. A year later he was named the first European captain in NHL history by the Buffalo Sabres. When it was all said and done, the six-time All-Star had scored 473 goals and recorded 1,032 points. He’s a member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club, which means you’re a winner of the Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Championship.
The Hall of Very Good
There seems to be a desire to have no middle ground between those in the Hall and those on the outside looking in. You’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re a plug. It’s OK to have some very good players left on the outside. That’s what should make the Hall of Fame so special. There are a number of very good eligible players currently awaiting the call who may never get the honor.
Jeremy Roenick — 513 goals, 1,216 points, nine-time All-Star, silver medals at Canada Cup and Olympic Games. JR’s elite level status only last for a few seasons in the early 1990s. After three-straight 100-point and 45-plus goal seasons, his production settled into the “very good” range in the mid-90s. While he certainly has the “fame” part down with the personality he’s shown during and after his NHL career, as well as his influential role in the 1996 movie Swingers, he did not win any individual hardware, so it’s likely he’ll continue to have a tough time finding a way in.
Keith Tkachuk — 538 goals, 1,065 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, Olympic silver medal. Like Roenick, Tkachuk’s numbers are good, but he’s in a range where there are a handful of players with similar stats. While Joe Mullen’s inclusion may help Tkachuk or Roenick at some point in time, right now, he’s just on the outside with his Team USA buddy.
Pierre Turgeon — 515 goals, 1,327 points, Lady Byng Trophy, five-time All-Star. A very good player for a very long time. But other than a Byng, no other individual honors to help him standout from the rest.
Theo Fleury — 455 goals, 1,088 points, seven-time All-Star, gold at the World Junior Championship, Canada Cup and Olympics, silver at the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey, 1989 Stanley Cup winner. You’d love to see Fleury get in just looking at how he made a successful career out his talents, but he’s right there for me.
Doug Wilson — 237 goals, 827 points, 1982 Norris Trophy winner, eight-time All-Star, Canada Cup gold. You don’t hear the San Jose Sharks general manager’s name much when these discussions come up. But examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. Top 20 in points, top 10 in points per game. Like Andreychuk this year, there are always some surprise inclusions every few years. Would it be a surprise if Wilson’s name is called one of these days?
Chris Osgood — 401 wins, 50 shutouts, three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Jennings Trophy winner. A good goalie on some great Detroit Red Wings teams for a long time. How much has that hurt his candidacy?
Curtis Joseph — 454 wins, 51 shutouts, Olympic gold medal (though he was replaced by Brodeur after one game.) A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, Joseph had himself a fine career but unlike Osgood didn’t win a Cup. Is he Hall of Fame class or Hall of Very Good class?
In the Builder category there’s been a push from the Pittsburgh area for Jim Rutherford, who’s won three Stanley Cups with two different franchises. The other other modern-era NHL general managers with more rings are Sam Pollack, who won seven; Glen Sather, who owns five; and Bill Torrey, who won four straight with the New York Islanders.
But the long overdue honor should be for Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the NHL. While O’Ree’s NHL career wasn’t very long (45 games), his legacy is what he’s done beyond the ice. Not only did he serve as an inspiration for other black players, his work with the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone program has introduced the game to kids who may not have had a chance to play the sport. This year, the league started the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award to honor his work, with late Humboldt Broncos coach Darcy Haugan receiving the honor at last week’s NHL Awards.
In the women’s category, we’re still a year away from Hayley Wickenheiser being eligible, so 2018 should be Jayna Hefford‘s turn. The Canadian forward won four Olympic golds and four IIHF World Championships. In club play, she scored 352 goals and recorded 636 points in 329 games between the NWHL and CWHL. The CWHL would honor her by introducing the Jayna Hefford Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding player in the regular season.
Considering the amount of deserved women still waiting for the call, if the HOF voting committee decides to vote two in this year, American Jenny Potter should get some consideration. She won one Olympic gold an four golds at the Worlds. She would score 34 goals and record 93 points in 71 games representing her country. A four-time All-American at Minnesota-Duluth, she moved on to the professional ranks and would be part of the first U.S. team to win the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup while a member of the Minnesota Whitecaps.
“The Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee consists of 18 individuals (Ed. note: 17 this year following the death of Bill Torrey) appointed by the Board of Directors, whose mandate is to nominate and elect candidates as Honored Members in the Player, Builder and Referee/Linesman categories. Player and Referee/Linesman candidates must have concluded their respective playing or officiating careers for a minimum of three playing seasons.”