Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I NOW consider Joe Nieuwendyk a Hall of Famer

Earlier this season, I added Peter Forsberg to my list of players who are currently active in the NHL and deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame regardless of what happens for the rest of their careers. Today, I think it is time to add Joe Nieuwendyk.

Nieuwendyk broke into the NHL as a star in the 1987/88 season when he won the Calder trophy and became only the second rookie (Mike Bossy is the other) to score 50 goals in his rookie season. He remained a very good goal scorer for a long period of time, but never made the jump to a perennial 100 point scorer or first team all star type of player. However, he was an integral part of three Stanley Cup champions (the 1989 Calgary Flames, the 1999 Dallas Stars and the 2003 New Jersey Devils). In fact, he won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 1999, when he led the NHL in playoff goals. He was chosen to represent Team Canada in the Olympics in both 1998 and 2002. He has had a long good career.

It is this season where he cemented his spot as a Hall of Famer. He came back from the lockout as a valuable player even as a 39 year old. Despite missing 16 games to back problems, he is currently the third highest scorer on the Florida Panthers with 28 points in 36 games. He is still a valuable player to his team. Even after missing a season to lockout, Nieuwendyk has been a good scorer. Nieuwendyk is continuing to move up the all time goals list. He is currently the 23rd highest goal scorer of all time with 546 career goals. This season, he has passed Stan Mikita and Maurice Richard. Those are some elite players to have outscored. Had there been no lockout, Nieuwendyk would likely have moved another couple positions beyond that up the all time goal scoring list

Here is my new list of current NHL players who should make the Hall of Fame regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers base upon my Hall of Fame standards:

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

As more hockey is played this season, more players may make this list. There are also players on this list who might be close to retirement including Dave Andreychuk and Steve Yzerman. Joe Nieuwendyk probably doesn't have much of a career left either.

Funny, I was watching the Leaf-Florida game last night and thought to myself that Nieuwendyk probably deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I hadn't thought of his name when we were discussing this a few weeks ago. For a key factor that has to be considered is not only his individual, on-ice achievements but his team success and his leadership of those team successes. Having won Stanley Cups for 3 differerent organizations in addition to his individual achievements makes him an all but certain Hall of Famer.
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