Fantasy Hockey Poll: Future Hall of Famers
In a time when hockey news and stories were virtually non-existent, last month's inductions into the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) received even more attention than they normally would. That made me ponder: how many future HHOFers might be playing in today's NHL? And when I start thinking about something, you get to vote on it!
Rather than list "no brainer" guys, I tried to focus on players who are either borderline cases or who seem like they have a career trajectory that could ultimately lead to voters finding a place for them in the HHOF. If you don't see a guy on the list, either it's because I thought he's a shoo in, or that he simply didn't measure up to the other 20 guys. I realize there could be a lot of debate on this subject; but let's try to focus on the task at hand, which is using your instincts and predictive hats to decide who among these 20 are HHOF material. Oh, and if you think 20 choices (not even including no brainers) is too many, consider that in 1998-99, no fewer than 45 future HHOFers were active in the NHL! And in seasons that followed, there were almost always at least 30+ lacing up the skates in any given campaign.
Here now, are the 20 voting choices, listed in alphabetical order. A link to the voting poll is at the end of the column.
Nicklas Backstrom – With a sophomore season of 88 points and then a third-year with 101, it looked like Backstrom was on a fast track to superstardom, with an eventual spot in the HHOF all but assured. Since then he's been solid but unspectacular and now sits at below a point per game for his career. Still, he has a Stanley Cup and has been a very consistently top tier player, so perhaps when all is said and done he'll have stats that lead to his enshrinement.
Jamie Benn – Arguably the league's best power forward for a stretch of five seasons, Benn's issue is his numbers outside of those years are far from superb, leaving him well below the point per every game career mark, and likely to fall even further below it as his production seems to have become a victim of the rough and tumble style he played all these years. Still, with an Art Ross Trophy, being named a first-team NHL all-star twice and a second-teamer once, perhaps his stretch of dominance will be enough to put him in the Hall.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Yes, his 2019-20 was a disaster; however, many forget he's had poor seasons in the past and recovered, most notably to win a second Vezina Trophy. And looking at past winners of multiple Vezinas, most are in the HHOF. But he'll likely either need to have a long enough career to rack up more wins or see a return to his past dominance to make the cut.
Brent Burns – A journeyman for nearly a decade, once put back on defense by the Sharks Burns exploded and put together a four-season stretch of hockey that was pure dominance in nearly all measurable categories. But like Benn, will it be enough? Maybe not, as at 35 he finally looks to be slowing; so perhaps his numbers just won't cut it overall. Or perhaps his six seasons as an NHL all-star plus one Norris win and two seasons as a finalist will put him over the top?
John Carlson – It looks as though Carlson could be entering a Burns-like period of scoring, as he is on a team that is more than happy to give him free rein to pile on blueline points. But time will tell if he can keep this up and, in doing so, will get a Norris or two to add to his Stanley Cup for his HHOF resume. And let's not forget he's a two-time all-star and a was named second-team NHL all-star once, plus he was a solid, steady d-man even before upping his scoring.
Drew Doughty – Yes, his career-high is only 60 points; but with Doughty, it's never been about his name dotting the scoring sheet during the regular season. Instead, his resume includes two Stanley Cups (scoring 34 points in 46 games those seasons), a Norris Trophy, two Norris finalist seasons, five straight all-star game appearances, and being named as a first-team defenseman for the NHL all-decade team for 2010-2019.
Ryan Getzlaf – Likely to reach the 1000 point career mark this coming season, Getzlaf has been a steady and largely unsung achiever. Yes, he has no Trophies on his mantle, but his name is on the Stanley Cup and he's consistently played great during the second season, with 120 points in 125 playoff games. His downfall might just be how poorly the Ducks have played the past few years; either that or voters might look at how he fared despite that challenge and have it result in a stronger case for him to make the Hall.
Claude Giroux – Without a scoring title or Cup to his credit, the odds could be against him. But he's only 32 and could easily play another 5+ years, in which case he could finish well over the 1000 point mark. And if he spends his entire career in Philly, which is among the NHL's highest-profile markets, that could help out his case quite a bit, as might him being a six-time all-star.
Erik Karlsson – Sadly it looks like injuries and being on a poor team might have slowed Karlsson, whom we can't forget was truly dominant for many years. As a defenseman, he led Ottawa in scoring in five seasons, with the gap between him and the second-place skaters cumulatively being 41 points! Still, he only has two Norris Trophies and was not a finalist any other years. Will it be enough to put him in the HHOF, which, let's remember, isn't the Fantasy HHOF?
Anze Kopitar – If you're wondering where Patrice Bergeron's name is, I consider him a shoo-in. So why then isn't Kopitar, who has more Stanley Cups (two to Bergeron's one) and was a more consistent scorer? Trophies, as Kopitar has two Selkes to Bergeron's four, plus Bergeron plays in the hockey hotbed that is Boston, whereas Kopitar is in sunny LA. Still, with Kopitar being only 32 years old and at just under 1000 points now, he should have enough in him to reach a scoring level that will open the eyes of Hall voters.
Ilya Kovalchuk – Remember when Kovalchuk was a superstar for all those weak Atlanta Thrasher teams? Me neither; and Hall voters might forget as well, what with Kovalchuk missing several seasons and now being back in the NHL and playing middling hockey. Then again, when the time comes, his years of dominance on a poor team, plus a Rocket Richard Trophy to his credit, could tilt the scales toward him being enshrined.
Nikita Kucherov – Yes, Kucherov is only 27; however, his point per game rate over the past three seasons is the likes of which the NHL hasn't seen since the high-flying 90s. And he has an Art Ross and Hart Trophy already. If he can keep up even a semblance of this pace he'll be a lock for the HHOF, with the magic word being if…..
Brad Marchand – The argument against Marchand is that if Theo Fleury isn't in, then how's there a path for Marchand to gain entry to its hallowed halls, what with a "ball of hate" reputation similar to Fleury's and stats which aren't better nor do they represent as long of a career. But Marchand, despite being 32, seems to show no signs of slowing. And if he adds a few more 100+ point pace seasons and the Bruins win another Cup, he might sway voters.
Patrick Marleau – Never a 90 point player and with no notable awards to his credit, Marleau nevertheless is a member of both the 500+ goal and 1000+ points club, most of whose members found their way into the HHOF. Also, he had 500+ consecutive games played streak, which might count for something and push him over the edge if he's otherwise a borderline candidate. Then again, he could be seen as an accumulator, namely one who tallied impressive career numbers but only because he played as long as he did, in which case he might not be HHOF material in the eyes of the voters.
Carey Price – Once likely considered a no brainer for the Hall, Price's recent seasons have not been up to par for a star netminder, let alone a potential HOFer, and they've definitely brought down his early gaudy numbers. Still, when all is said and done he should have a lot of wins, many for weak Canadiens squads. And playing in a hockey hotbed like Montreal is never a bad thing when it comes to helping impress HHOF voters.
Tuukka Rask – In addition to a Veniza and a Stanley Cup championship, Rask's stats show he's been an elite goalie his entire career. But there is a concern that while starting fewer games these days is arguably helping him and his team, it's costing him wins that voters might feel he needs to qualify for entry into the hallowed HHOF.
Pekka Rinne – A Vezina winner and four-time finalist, Rinne's issues are he's never won a Cup and, although elite, was not considered the best of the best. He's also in jeopardy of falling short of the 400 win plateau if indeed he cedes the #1 job for the Preds to Jusse Saros.
Eric Staal – Like Marleau, Staal's stats could tag him with the dreaded accumulator label. But in his case, he has a Stanley Cup, plus a 100 point season. He also played for weaker scoring teams than Marleau, which could be a plus if voters give him credit for that. Playing most of his career for a low profile squad like Carolina might hurt him too, however, as could the fact he didn't play his entire career for one team.
Steven Stamkos – He's never managed to cross the 100 point threshold, but he has two Rocket Richard Trophies to his credit, was named a second-team NHL all-star twice, and has appeared in six all-star games. Perhaps more importantly, he's playing as well entering his 30s as he was in his early 20s, making it likely he'll not only blow past 1000 career points but also stay above the all-important point per game career mark.
John Tavares – Stuck on some Islanders teams that were either not very good or not offensively focused, Tavares nevertheless shined, as a six-time all-star and, in 2015, being named a Hart Trophy finalist and first-team NHL all-star. Now with the high profile Leafs and still seemingly at the top of his game, Tavares need only string together a few more productive seasons to likely open the eyes of HHOF voters.
Now that you've read all these profiles, it's time to make like an HHOF voter and decide which of these 20 players already has made, or is likely to make, a sufficient case for induction into the Hall. If you think more than one player is deserving, that's fine, as you can vote for as many as you like. To cast your vote(s), click here.
Questions for Mailbag column
My next mailbag column will be in two weeks and I still have room to answer a couple more questions. To get yours to me, you can private message “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or, instead, send an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.
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