Monday, June 06, 2005

Why Kevin Lowe is not a Hall of Famer

On June 8th the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its new honorees. Here are my picks. Here are two previous articles about why Mike Vernon and Glenn Anderson are not hall of famers in my opinion.

Today, I will discuss why Kevin Lowe is not a hall of famer. It is a hard case to make statistically that he is not a hall of famer. Its also hard to make the case statistically that he is a hall of famer. This is because Lowe is a defencive defenceman with little offensive value. The question is just how good was Lowe? He was clearly one of the better players on the dynasty Edmonton Oilers. Lowe was never considered good enough to be a Norris trophy nominee or a post season all star team. Was this a mistake by the writers who voted or was he legitimately never one of the more dominant defenders in any given season? Rod Langway was roughly a contemporary of his and they voted him two Norris trophies, so there does not appear to be any large inherent bias against defencive defenceman. Lowe did appear in 7 all star games - only 6 should count because the final one was as a commisioner selection (at that trime they voted in a couple veterans who were not deserving based on their play that season as a type of lifetimne acheivement award), I think a good comparison for Lowe was Mark Ramsey. Ramsey was a longtime Buffalo Sabre defenceman who was a 4 time all star game player. Does this show that Ramsey was not as good a player as Lowe? I'd argue that it may show the bias of the way all star games are selected. In 5 of the 6 all star games where Lowe was a standard selection, Glen Sather (his coach in Edmonton) picked the team. Mike Ramsey never had that kind of advantage. I think the Ramsey/Lowe comparison is a very good one. Both were consistent defensive defencemen with limited offensive value. Like an offensive player with limited offensive value, a defensive player with limited offensive value must be able to show dominant defence to be a hall of famer. This is shown (somewhat subjectively) by the fact Lowe was never voted one of the best defencemen at the end of any NHL season.

A further attempt to justify his defencive value might be made by his +/- rating. Any player who played lots of ice time in Edmonton, when Edmonton was a dominant team, would have a top +/- rating. Lowe is no exception. However, it is interesting that other defencemen ioften put up better +/- ratings on his own team. In different seasosn, Lowe was beaten in the +/- department by Paul Coffey, Charlie Huddy and Craig Muni. If Lowe was dominant enough for the hall of fame3, this should not have happened.

Kewin Lowe was a top defencive defenceman with one of the most dominant hockey teams ever. Like Anderson, he was very good but not as great as some of his other famous teammates. Also like Anderson, most of his value came in one direction, Lowe was a defensive player (Anderson was offensive). This makes his attaining hall of fame credentials harder because of his lack of achievement in some parts of his game. I don't think he measures up. I think the comparison of Mike Ramsey and Kevin Lowe is a good one. Neither are hall of famers. We tend to think a bit more highly of Lowe because he happened to play on a dynasty team. Had Lowe been a Buffalo Sabre, this argument would probably be unnecessary.

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