November 8, 2010
Debatable HHoF inductees
By DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency
So, what, exactly, makes a Hall of Famer?
Well, when it comes to the Hockey Hall of Fame, nobody really knows.
The selection process for inductees is so secretive, the protocol could have been drawn up during the Cold War. The statistical criteria players need to meet for potential induction are more closely guarded than the Colonel’s secret recipe.
Therein lies the rub.
By not giving the hockey masses semi-rigid guidelines to go by, the 18-person selection committee has forced us to guess what makes a Hall of Famer. And guesswork opens the door to heated debate over who deserves, or more importantly doesn’t deserve, to be included in the hallowed Hall.
For my money, Hall of Famers are the elite, the best we’ve seen, players who transcend the game. The Hall should be more exclusive than Augusta National’s membership list. At more than 345 members (including builders), exclusive it ain’t.
Which brings us to our Top 10 this week: The most debatable inclusions to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Talk amongst yourselves.
10. Larry Murphy (Class of 2004)
Maybe Murphy’s two-season stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs is skewing my perspective but it’s tough to get past the sight of the defenceman playing the role of a blue-and-white pylon most nights. Sure, Murphy was a whiz in the offensive zone — 287 goals and 929 assists in 1,615 games paints a vivid picture — and won the Stanley Cup four times. But he never won the Norris Trophy or was a first-team all-star. If Murphy’s a Hall of Famer, how come another one-dimensional defender like Phil Housley isn’t?
9. Rod Langway (2002)
Although I’m a big believer that a Hall of Famer shouldn’t be measured purely on stats, Langway is the perfect example of the selection committee having a dearth of talent to pick from in the early Aughts. A two-time winner of the Norris Trophy, Langway was a shot-blocking machine before blocked shots became an official stat and was the epitome of a defensive defenceman.
But, c’mon. It took Langway nearly 1,000 games to score 51 goals — more than half of them came in his first four NHL seasons, all with the Montreal Canadiens — and 278 assists. To put it in perspective, Tie Domi, the puncher with hands of stone, had 104 goals.
8. Glenn Anderson (2008)
There are a few players from the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s who are deserving Hall of Famers — that dude named Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey — but Anderson isn’t among them. Heck, Anderson wasn’t even a first-liner on the Oilers back in those days. I know, he won the Stanley Cup six times, scored 50 a couple of times, racked up nearly 1,100 points and blah, blah, blah. Doesn’t cut it, folks. Another member of the good-but-not-great club who was surrounded by superstars during the heyday of his career.
7. Grant Fuhr (2003)
Say what you want about Fuhr making the big save when the high-flying Oilers needed it. Or point to his five Cup rings if you will. Doesn’t matter to me. I need to see only two numbers to know Fuhr doesn’t qualify as a Hall of Famer — 3.38 and .887, his career goals-against average and save percentage. Even Fuhr’s win total, 403, seems bloated. Only once during his 19-year career did the flashy lefty win 40 games and he hit the 30-win plateau just three times. On average, he won 21 games a season, not exactly a total that should get you enshrined.
6. Cam Neely (2005)
Let’s get this out of the way first. I’m a huge fan of Neely, the player who, for me, defined the term power forward. I might even have cried the day he retired. But I’ve got to admit, he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. It wasn’t Neely’s fault he played only 726 career games, mind you. That’s down to injuries; a wonky knee (damn you, Ulf Samuelsson) and a bad hip. Although he scored 50 three times, including the 1993-94 season when he did it in 44 games, he wrapped up his career with just 694 points. Hate to say it, Sea Bass, but that’s simply not enough to be among the best ever.
5. Bill Barber (1990)
If Barber’s in the Hall of Fame, how come Dave (The Hammer) Schultz isn’t? You could argue the original Hammer Time had as much to do with the Broad Street Bullies pounding out two Stanley Cup wins during the 1970s as Barber did. Players didn’t come down with the Philly Flu because they had to face Barber, right? Seriously, though, Barber did have a very good career. He had 420 goals and
883 points in 903 games, all with the Flyers. And he played in the 1976 Canada Cup, which gives him bonus points. But if Barber is in, why not Rick MacLeish, who had comparable numbers and the same number of 50-goal seasons (one)? Nobody is grumbling about
4. Dick Duff (2006)
Some would argue Duff’s six Stanley Cup rings make him a logical choice for the Hall. If that’s the case, why did the selection committee wait 24 years after his career ended to make him a member? Listen, it takes a team to win the Cup and, yes, Duff was an integral player on the Toronto (two) and Montreal (four) teams that won it. But, honestly, he had only 572 points in more than 1,000 games, pedestrian numbers by today’s standards. Those aren’t stats that scream Hall of Famer, are they?
3. Bob Pulford (1991)
By all accounts, Pulford is one of the good guys in hockey. But being likable doesn’t make you a Hall of Famer, even if you have won the Stanley Cup four times (with the Leafs, no less). In 1,079 career games over 16 seasons, Pulford had 281 goals and 643 points. He played in an era (1956-72) when scoring was much lower but, geez, he never had more than 28 goals in a season. Even when you factor in Pulford’s coaching record — marginally above .500 at 363-330-136 — it’s not nearly enough for him to be among the game’s immortals. Pully is another guy who had to wait nearly 20 years to get inducted. That should tell you something.
2. Gerry Cheevers (1985)
There’s no question Cheevers’ famous “stitches” mask, which to a kid growing up watching hockey was the coolest thing going, should be in the Hall. But the man behind it? Nope. Not even close. Cheevers played just 418 games in the NHL, winning 230 times, and packed it in just before the pond-hockey era of the early ‘80s got under way. You can argue he had 99 more wins during a four-year stint in the WHA that carved his time with the Bruins in half. I’m not buying it. The WHL was an inferior product. You wouldn’t advocate including his AHL totals to his career stats, would you. This should close the argument with finality — notables like Kelly Hrudey, Felix Potvin and Pete Peeters all have more wins than Cheevers.
1. Clark Gillies (2002)
To many, Gillies is the poster boy for Hockey Hall of Famers who shouldn’t be. I’ll cut him a little slack because he has a great nickname — Jethro — but, wow, 319 goals and 697 points in nearly 1,000 games is enough to get you a spot in the shrine? That’s almost enough to convince me Barber was an obvious choice. Granted, Gillies was a big part of the Islanders dynasty that dominated the NHL from ‘79 to ‘83. A tough winger who played the role of bodyguard to Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier during the Isles’ four-year reign as Stanley Cup champs, Gillies was Cam Neely before Neely played in the NHL. But the sum of the whole doesn’t elevate Gillies to his status as a Hall of Famer.