For a franchise that hasn’t hoisted a Stanley Cup in 43 years, there are plenty of Maple Leafs alumni attempting to squeeze their way into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the next two years.
With the selection committee previously having passed over Joe Nieuwendyk and Doug Gilmour — Nieuwendyk once, Gilmour several times — the list of Toronto’s Hall wannabes will balloon in 2012 when Mats Sundin, Curtis Joseph and Gary Roberts all become eligible.
Keep in mind that, with former greats Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan and Jeremy Roenick also in the mix in two years, it will be extremely difficult to get elected into the Class of 2012.
Nevertheless, all things being equal, Sundin, Gilmour and Nieuwendyk belong in hockey’s most coveted shrine, which sits at the corner of Yonge and Front Streets in downtown Toronto. And legitimate cases could be made that Joseph and Roberts deserve serious consideration, too.
We’re not sipping any blue-and-white Kool-Aid here when offering this opinion. It is, to a large degree, based on statistical fact.
With 1,359 career points, Sundin:
a) is the highest-scoring Swedish-born player in NHL history.
b) ranks first overall on Toronto’s all-time scoring list.
c) is 26th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list, 149 points ahead of 2010 inductee Dino Ciccarelli.
Gilmour, meanwhile, finished 214 points ahead of Ciccarelli while Nieuwendyk, who served a stint in the Leafs front office when his playing days were over, won Stanley Cups with three different teams.
Joseph is an interesting case. While he was overshadowed by names like Roy, Hasek and Brodeur during his career, there are those of us who feel his entire body of work should warrant serious consideration, especially when matched up against some who already have been enshrined.
One of those is Gump Worsley, who shares with Joseph the record for most career losses by a goaltender with 352.
When comparing numbers between the two goalies, Joseph had more wins (454-335); shutouts (51-43), and a better goals-against average (2.79-2.91). The one significant area Worsley was better? Stanley Cups (4-0).
“He had an awesome career,” Gilmour said earlier this year of Cujo, his former teammate. “He made teams better. A great leader and a great guy.”
With 910 career points, Roberts would seem to be a statistical longshot to make the grade. But his recovery from a career-threatening neck injury was inspiring, to say the least. And, to use Gilmour’s own words, he made teams better.
In the end, it’s almost a certainty that all five will not make it. Perhaps none of them will. Either way, it will be a topic of discussion for years to come.
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