Sunday, October 16, 2005

Future Hall of Famer Brett Hull Retires

Last night, future Hall of Famer Brett Hull announced his retirement. TSN's story is here. He joins four other players that I consider future Hall of Famers who retired in the off season: Ron Francis, Mark Messier, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens.

Brett Hull was born in Belleville, Ontario on August 9th, 1964. He was immediately born into hockey as the son of Bobby Hull. Hull didn't make a commitment to a hockey career until a bit later than most NHL players. At age 18, he joined the Penticton Knights of the BCJHL (which is a tier II Canadian league). He was out of shape, but showed incredible talent. He scored 104 points in only 50 games and made the BCJHL Interior Division first team all star. The next year in Penticton, Hull made significant improvement on those numbers. He scored 105 goals and 188 points (in 56 games). Both of those numbers led the league. Again, he made the Interior Division first all star team. Those numbers made him a big fish in a small pond in the NHL draft (which he had not been selected in as an 18 or 19 year old). He had huge success in a lesser league and was a couple years older than most players, but nevertheless, Calgary took a chance on him and drafted him as their sixth pick, 117th in the draft. Having graduated from juniors, Hull chose to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA. In his first year there, he was the named the freshman of the year in his conference (the WCHA). The following year, he continued to improve and made the WCHA First Team All Star. Calgary was interested in him as an NHL player. They signed him to a contract following his second NCAA season.

Calgary brought Brett Hull to the NHL for their playoff run in 1986 (the Flames made it to the finals). Along the way, Hull played in two largely uneventful games. Hull, who was Canadian born, played for the United States in the World Championships that year (his mother was American and he had dual citizenship - he was not yet geood enough to make the Canadian team). This established hull as an American for international play for his career. The next year, Hull spent most of his time playing for the Flames AHL affiliate in Moncton. He won the Red Garrett Trophy as the AHL rookie of the year and made the first team all star. He also played five NHL games that year plus four more in the playoffs. In his four playoff games, he managed three points. That showing was enough to earn him a regular NHL job in 1987-88. Hull got regular playing time, and scored at almost point per game rate. At trade deadline time, Calgary was gearing up for playoffs and traded some of their youth in Brett Hull and Steve Bozek to the St Louis Blues for veterans Rob Ramage and Rick Walmsley.

In his first season in St Louis, Hull established himself as a star. He appeared in his first of eight career all star games. The following year, he led the NHL in goals scoring 72 goals. He made the first team all star and won the Lady Byng trophy as most sportsmanlike player. In 1990-91, Hull scored 86 goals, again leading the NHL. He won the Hart trophy as NHL MVP. The players voted him their MVP - the Lester Pearson Award. Again he made the first all star team. The next year, Hull led the NHL in goals for a third straight year with 70 goals. He made the first all star team for the third straight year. Hull remained in St Louis until 1998. He was a consistent star for the Blues who scored at least forty goals a year in all (non-lockout) seasons. In 1998, he signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars.

In his first year in Dallas, Hull was instumental in Dallas's Stanley Cup victory. Hull scored the Stanley Cup winning goal (which was a disputed goal). In 1999-2000, he helped Dallas back to the Stanley Cup finals. Although they did not win the cup, Hull lef the playoffs in goals, assists and points. In 2001, Hull signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings.

In his first year in Detroit, Hull helped the Wings to a Stanley Cup victory. He led the playoffs in goals. Hull remained in Detroit for two more years as one of the team's better scorers. In 2004, he signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Hull lost his first season in Phoenix to the lockout. This season, he tried to comeback to the NHL. After five relatively unsuccessful games, Hull decided to retire.

Hull represented the United States internationally many times. He played in two Olympics, one Canada Cup and two World Cups. In the 1996 World Cup, he made the tournament all star team.

Hull is one of the best goal scorers of all time. He retires with 741 career NHL goals which is good for third best all time. His 1391 career points is good for 18th all time.

Hull wanted to play this season, but when he wasn't having the success he expected he announced retirement, rather than play poorly. Hull said

There's an old expression, and I don't know who said it - `The mind is willing but the body isn't. I wish no one had to do this because it's so hard, it's hard because you never think you're going to grow older and be unable to live up to the expectations you set for yourself.

and

I realized I wasn't who I thought I was. I wasn't Brett Hull at 30 or 35 even. I was 41 years old and after a year and a half layoff, I didn't have what it took to play in the new game that was so exciting.

I think he is legitimately sad to be leaving the NHL, but would rather retire then make a fool of himself. He has three children and a fiancee that he will be able to spend more time with.

With Brett Hull's retirement, there are thirteen players left in the NHL that I think should make the Hall of Fame regardless of what they accomplish (or do not accomplish) for the rest of their careers. They are:

Dave Andreychuk
Ed Belfour
Martin Brodeur
Chris Chelios
Dominik Hasek
Jaromir Jagr
Brian Leetch
Mario Lemieux
Nicklas Lidstrom
Luc Robitaille
Joe Sakic
Brendan Shanahan
Steve Yzerman

Likely, as hockey is played this year, there will be some additions to this list.

Comments:
No Sergei Fedorov or Joe Nieuwendyk or Rob Blake?
 
Not yet.

Fedorov lacks in his career numbers and has not had enough elite years yet.

Nieuwendyk needs better career numbers then Fedorov because he was never a Hart trophy winner. He isn't there yet.

Blake is close. However, he only has one 1st all star team year so far (meaning he was considered one of the two best defenders in the NHL) - so he needs some better career numbers or another big season or two.

I think I have a tough standard because I will only consider a player a Hall of Famer if he has established so much in his career already that even if he suddenly becomes a horrible player who sticks around the NHL for a few years playing badly and helping his team lose, I would not be tempted to drop him from my list. None of these three players have made that level yet. Maybe they will someday.
 
What about Housley and Oates? Think they will make the Hall?
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