Last week, the Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed in a bumper crop of over-qualified newcomers into its ranks with the election of first time nominees Steve Yzerman, Brian Leetch, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. With such a bumper crop of first time nominees, it should come as no surprise that the voting committee was not able to clear any of the other worthy names from the backlog of eligibles. In that sense at least, the Hockey Hall of Fame election process is perhaps unique in professional sports in that there is a hard limit of how many new inductees can gain entrance in a given year.
The strength of this year’s honorees helps to keep other past hockey heroes such as Doug Gilmour (again), Phil Housley (and again), Pavel Bure, Mike Richter, Alexander Mogilny, Dave Andreychuk, Adam Oates, Dino Ciccarelli and others on the outside looking in. It seems clear to many, including ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, that some of these names would already be honoured were it not for this rule. On Gilmour, he writes “For my money, it's time to get Gilmour in. That's long overdue...For those who argue a Hall of Famer had to be among the best players at his position for a few years, let's just say Gilmour didn't take a back seat at center behind many players not named Gretzky and Lemieux during the early 1990s. He's a Hall of Famer no matter how you cut it.”
With 240 members (player’s wing only) prior to this year’s election, we might look at the eligible candidates through Tom Awad’s GVT scores. A reasonable first test might show that the top 100 in GVT should be no-brainers, the second 100 are solid Hall of Fame candidates and the players between 201-300 are marginal at best. Below 300 would be a seemingly poor candidate. We may need to expand this criteria, similar to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS score for the Baseball Hall of Fame to account for players who compiled outstanding statistics in shorter careers, such as Eric Lindros, who is up for election next year as well as pre-expansion plasyers, who played shorter seasons through no fault of their own.
This back-of-the-envelope method is somewhat validated by the presence of plaques in Toronto for almost every eligible player in the top 50. This now includes Stevie Y (17th, 363.8 total GVT), the Golden Brett (22nd, 327.6) and Brian Leetch (41st, 282.7). Through the close of the 2008-09 season, Lucky Luc also ranked a more than respectable 57th with 265.7 total GVT.
The only players to rank ahead of Robitaille that are both eligible and not yet elected are Phil Housley (46th, 276.5) and Kingston’s own Doug Gilmour (56th, 266.1). Housley may encapsulate the perfect storm of missing intangibles preventing his induction. He was small for a defenseman (5-10’’, 185lbs), was far more dominant on the offensive end than in his own zone (338 G, 1232 Pts, but a -53 for his career), and, as recently documented here by Gabriel Desjardins, he was the only player to ever jump straight from Minnesota high school hockey to NHL rinks. If all that wasn’t bad enough, Housley is also the reigning record holder for most NHL regular season games played without earning the privilege of sipping champagne from Lord Stanley’s mug. The Housley in '10 campaign starts here.
Based solely on cumulative GVT scores, the best candidates for next year’s election should be the aforementioned duo of Housley and Gilmour. The other prime candidates line up as follows:
Rank Player Career Total GVT
63 Adam Oates 255.7
67 Joe Nieuwendyk* 250.9
77 Alexander Mogilny 234.3
79 Eric Lindros* 231.9
87 Dave Andreychuk 218.0
97 Mark Howe 207.5
107 Dino Ciccarelli 202.3
111 Pavel Bure 199.1
First time eligible in 2009-2010
This forward looking retrospective should not take away any of the professional pride and elation felt by the newly honored. The four aforementioned players will also be joined in Toronto by longtime New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, elected under the Builder’s category. Lacking in biting insight their reactions may be, but it is only fitting to give them the last words.
From Stevie Y: “This is a tremendous class of players...having Lou Lamoriello go into the class with us is a tremendous honor for me. With Brett, Luc and Brian, tremendous players, (it's) a very special group and a real thrill for me."
Leetch: “I'm certainly humbled, excited and proud. Congratulations to the rest of the guys being inducted today. It's just an amazing thing.”
Lucky Luc: "Being with all those great people, three of my teammates, is certainly very special. To be there too with Lou is very special. I just wanted to play in the NHL and I got lucky that I got to play for one franchise for a long time."
The Golden Brett: "It is hard to put into words what this means to me, especially since I'm joining my father (Bobby) in the Hockey Hall of Fame."
Lou the Builder: "It's just a great class and I'm honored to a part of this great day and certainly these great players."
As befitting all things hockey in Cabbagetown, Brian Burke’s acceptance of the post of GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs was met with heavy expectations. Although the season was still young when he took the reins, the Leafs were expected to finish out of the playoffs for a franchise-record 4th year in a row. Faced with building for 2009-10 and beyond, Burke was challenged with clearing out some of the deadwood and ridding the organization of the malaise that had permeated the Blue and White since early in the John Ferguson Jr. reign of terror.
Hamstrung by no-trade clauses in the contracts of some of the Leafs’ most marketable assets, Burke’s early influence on the roster consisted of signing journeyman forward Jeff Hamilton from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, claiming former Senators’ goalie Martin Gerber off waivers as a late-season replacement for the injured and extremely ineffective Vesa Toskala, jettisoning the underachieving Nik Antropov and the over-achieving Dominic Moore for 2nd round selections and playing nice with Tampa, giving them cap relief by paying out the contracts of the injured Olaf Kolzig and Jamie Heward and getting a 4th round pick for the privilege. In another move fashioned early by the new GM, where he began to put his mark on the roster, was the acquisition of Brad May to provide some toughness to the team. Beaming with pride, Burke was quoted as saying, "Brad will provide character, toughness, and he is a proven winner. We look forward to the veteran leadership that he will give our team."
Leafs Nation was justifiably underwhelmed by the early maneuvrings, but held out hopes for an eventful draft, especially considering Burke’s oft-stated man-crush on top prospect, and eventual #1 selection John Tavares. Surely, most fans thought, if he can’t trade up to #1, he will at least mosey on up to #’s 4 or 5, to select young blueliner Luke Schenn’s brother, Brayden. From the Globe and Mail (Canada), Burke was quoted as saying, “I will tell you quite candidly that I haven't gotten anywhere on this. But I don't get discouraged easily and in hockey terms it's still early. We will keep throwing some things at other teams and we have further meetings scheduled for [last night]. If we're not successful, we're going to pick and that's fine. Until they call out a couple of names we will keep trying to get the players we want.”
Throughout the televised first round of last week’s draft, held in Montreal, Brian Burke was broadcast deep in conversation with any number of the GM fraternity. However, the first round ended, and the Leafs held on to their original 7th overall selection, taking Tavares’ teammate, Nazem Kadri. Being not only the Maple Leafs top selection, but also the first Muslim ever drafted by the club (and the top drafted Muslim in league history) as well as the first player of Lebanese descent ever drafted, Kadri was not only expected to make a heavy impact on his new team, but to simultaneously represent a beacon of change in a new, more vibrant and multi-cultural society. He has already proven the ability to walk on (frozen) water.
As a much rumored deal between the Leafs and the Bruins centering on Tomas Kaberle and Phil Kessel changing sides, along with a a mysterious draft pick that fell through, Toronto was finally able to witness the Burke plan first hand as the NHL free agency period opened at noon (ET) on July 1st. It turns out that the ‘Pick and Shovel’ approach taken in the later rounds of the draft held true in free agency as well with the Leafs signing tough guy Colton Orr to a 4-year, $4 million dollar contract and then nabbing former Canadies blueliner Mike Komisarek for big money (5 years, $22.5 million). Komisarek, if nothing else (0.7 total GVT last year), knows how to block a shot, leading all NHL regulars in shots blocked per 60:00 TOI with 8.6.
At -5.3, Orr finished dead-last among all NHL forwards in GVT last year. Along with Toskala’s NHL worst -18, we can almost expect Burke to complete the trifecta with a push for Brendan Witt, last year’s worst defenseman with a -6.6 GVT. Until then, his intentions were clear enough with Wednesday’s trade of offensive rearguard and all-round boo-bird Pavel Kubina (along with Tim Stapelton) to the Thrashers for additional brawn in Garnet Exelby (4.9 shots blocked, 9.2 hits /60:00 TOI) in additional to 4th line mucker, Colin Stuart. According to assistant Leaf GM, Dave Nonis, "It was apparent from the time Brian Burke took the job, he wanted the Leafs to be tougher. We wanted players who would not just fight, but play hard. We think we accomplished that."
3. More From Today
In another case of business as usual in the NHL Free Agent signing period, most of the top available names went off the board within the first 12 hours (and before). Big ticket players, Marian Hossa (Chicago), the Sedins (back to Vancouver), Martin Havlat (Minnesota), Michael Cammalleri (Montreal), Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton), Marian Gaborik (NY Rangers) and others were taken off the board in the early going. In total, 48 players signed new contracts on July 1st.
By comparison, July 2nd was downright moribund, as only 16 players found employment for next season (and some beyond), highlighted by Cup winning puck blocker Rob Scuderi (Los Angeles), Nik Antropov (Atlanta) and future Hall of Fame candidate Mark Recchi re-signing with Boston. Still to come are contracts for a number of the top restricted free agents like Phil Kessel, Anton Babchuk and Travis Zajac and the second tier free agents, who will be looking at the teams who may have been jilted on Wednesday and still have cap room to spare. Those with dollars to burn may include Nashville, Atlanta, both New York teams and the embittered Coyotes, who are all currently under the cap floor of approximately $40.8 million.
Based on GVT, the top ten Group 3, Group 6 and Unrestricted Free Agents left on the board are as follows:
Player Position GVT
Martin Biron G 14.3
Alexei Kovalev F 10.8
Marc-Andre Bergeron D 9.8
Alex Tanguay* F 9.3
Ruslan Fedotenko F 9.3
Robert Lang* F 8.1
Saku Koivu F 8.1
Jeff Woywitka D 6.4
Antero Niittymaki G 6.2
Petr Sykora F 5.9
Based on 50 Games Played
The two former Flyers goalies may not sign until after Jonas Gustavsson makes up his mind between Dallas, Colorado, Toronto and San Jose. In this case, Colorado may have tilted the deck slightly towards the other teams by signing Craig Anderson to a two year contract, giving them two goaltenders signed to NHL deals for next season. We may also be able to expect the Canadiens to make a push at re-signing at least 2 of their former players from the above list. Stay tuned!
Ryan Wagman is an author of Puck Prospectus. You can contact Ryan by clicking here or click here to see Ryan's other articles.
Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Ryan by clicking here or click here to see Ryan's other articles.