Thursday, July 07, 2005

I NOW consider Brendan Shanahan a Hall of Famer

One question I have spent a lot of time discussing (in lieu of actual NHL hockey) is which players should make the Hockey Hall of Fame. In February I posted this list of currently non-retired NHL players that I consider hall of famers regardless of what they do or do not do in the future. I am ready to amend that list today and add Brendan Shanahan.

Shanahan is clearly a very good player. His 558 career goals scored is good enough for 17th all time. He has been a part of three Stanley Cup champions. He has made the post-season first all star team twice and the second team once. He has appeared in seven NHL All Star Games. Clearly those are good numbers.

Why did I not induct him earlier? Shanahan played a significant portion of his career during one of the highest scoring eras in NHL history. His highest scoring seasons were in those conditions, so his career totals should be quite high to be impressive. During that era, he only once managed 100 points in a season (1993/94). He was never the best player on his team - although he did play on some very good teams with other Hall of Fame players.

Clearly he was close. He is one of the highest goal scorers of all time (although his career assist and point totals are not nearly as high). He has twice been named the best left winger in the league (although arguably in 2000, it was because no left winger had a truly great year). He has been a consistently very good player at all star level on a very good team and has had significant post-season success. I wanted to see him continue it a bit longer before deciding he was a Hall of Famer. Maybe he should rise a little higher in the career goal totals or something.

So what changed? Shanahan hasn't played any games lately. First, he has been very important in the lockout. In December, he held a hockey summit to discuss the way the NHL could improve its product. As a result, he got involved in CBA negotiating sessions. As a direct result of this, there will be a competition committee when NHL play returns and he will be a charter member. The lockout appears to now be at an end, and it is time to begin to put some historical perspective upon it. Shanahan was an important player in it. Even if the competition committee never accomplishes anything and is soon forgotten, it is a sign that he made a positive contribution.

Also, because Shanahan could not play for reasons beyond his control, I am a bit more lenient when judging his career goal totals. Had Shanahan played a normal season at this juncture in his career this past season, he would likely have passed Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur in the all time goal scoring list and moved up to 15th overall. Thats a pretty impressive career.

As of today, Brendan Shanahan is now a player I consider good enough for the Hockey Hall of Fame regardless of what he does for the rest orf his career.

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