Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Future Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille Retires

Last night, future hall of fame left winger Luc Robitaille played his final NHL game. He is the first hall of fame worthy player to retire since Mario Lemieux.

Here are my hall of fame criteria.

Luc Robitaille was born on February 17th, 1966 in Montreal, Quebec. He rose through the Montreal minor hockey system culminating in a 93 point season in 48 games as a 17 year old for Bourassa in northern Montreal. He moved to the QMJHL where he played with the Hull Olympiques. His first season was a very respectable 85 points in 70 games. Robitaille was seen a a tall skinny kid who played in the offense only QMJHL who lacked in defensive skills. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings late in the draft. He was chosen in the nineth round, 171st overall. Robitaille took a big step forward the next season. He scored 149 points and made the QMJHL second team all star. In his final junior year, Robitaille scored 191 points and made the first team all star in the QMJHL and was named Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year and made the Memorial Cup all star team. In 1986/87 Robitaille made the Los Angeles Kings. He scored 84 points in his rookie year and made the NHL all rookie team, second team all star and won the Calder trophy as the rookie of the year. He stepped forward to 111 points in his next year. He played in his first of eight NHL all star games and made the first team all star for the first of four consecutive seasons. He followed that up with three more very good years with 98, 101 and 91 points respectively. In 1991, he was selected to play for Canada in the Canada Cup. He had another big offensive year in the NHL that season with a 107 point season and made the second team all star. In 1992/93 he had the best offensive season of his career with 125 points and earned another first team all star berth. Robitaille played one more year in Los Angeles in 1993/94 before being traded to Pittsburgh for Rick Tocchet and a second round draft pick (LA chose Pavel Rosa).

Robitalle stayed in Pittsburgh for one season before he was traded to the New York Rangers with Ulf Samuelsson for Petr Nedved and Sergei Zubov.

Robitaille spent two years in New York but was unable to reach the heights he had reached in Los Angeles. He was traded back to the Kings for Kevin Stevens.

Back in Los Angeles, Robitaille appeared to be at home again and his game improved again. In 2000/01 he scored 88 points and again made the second team all star. After that success, Robitaille left again and joined the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent.

In his first year in Detroit (2002), Robitaille won the Stanley Cup. He stayed in Detroit one more season before returning to Los Angeles as a free agent.

Back in Los Angeles in 2003/04, Robitaille again experienced an increase in his offensive production. He stayed for one year after the lockout, but was a healthy scratch on a few occassions so Robitaille retired at the the conclusion of the season.

Robitaille retires as the tenth highest goal scorer ever with 668 goals and 1394 points (for 19th overall). He is the highest scoring left winger of all time. He has played the 16th most games ever in NHL history with 1431 games played.

Robitaille's retirement leaves the NHL with one less current player who I think is Hall of Fame worthy regardless of what happens for the rest of his career.

Here are the currently active players who are Hall of Fame worthy.

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

The end of the season will likely bring on another couple retirements. The playoffs may bring another player or two forward onto this list.

I have no problem with any of your Future Hall-of-Famers list - all are deserving to be in the Hall, no matter what happens between now and the end of their careers.

However, I'm not sure why Sergei Fedorov is not on that list. Comparing him with who I think are the two weakest candidates on your list in Andreychuk and Nieuwendyk, aside from his overall career totals (which are only just behind Nieuwendyk), his Hall of Fame credentials seem more worthy. Neither Andreychuk nor Nieuwendyk were ever the best at their position, Fedorov was, and was the best in the league as well. He also was twice the best defensive forward in the game to go along with his offensive credentials, a six time all-star and a consistent goal- and point-scorer over his career. He also has impressive team credentials with 3 Stanley Cups and two Olympic medals, and is a point-a-game player in his many playoff games, which is more than can be said for the other two.

Nieuwendyk had four amazing years to start his career, but has since not hit 80 points or 40 goals and has been, at best, a solid player a la Mats Sundin or Mike Modano. He's got a Calder, but since then has not won anything. He's got good playoff credentials, having won three Stanley Cups, and a Conn Smythe, but points-wise is not too impressive.

Andreychuk has longevity on his side, and that's about it - a two time all star, but never recognized at his position, and probably rightly so. Similar to guys like Dino Ciccarelli and Glenn Anderson (who does have the playoff resume Andreychuk doesn't) who aren't in the Hall.

So, anyways, if Sergei Fedorov stopped playing today - I have a feeling he'd be in the Hall based on several seasons where he was at the top of the game as one of the best all-round players in the league.
This all comes down to how we value a few elite seasons vs. longevity. Fedorov was certainly a good player in his prime which did not last long enough. I don't see him as much different from an Eric Lindros or a Chris Pronger who had MVP years and some more all star seasons, but it didn't last long enough.

Of course Fedorov can make it by combining that with longevity. He is working on it. He has over 1000 career points (which puts him well behind other non-Hall of Fame types like Pierre Turgeon and Mark Recchi). He might get there someday - in the not too distant future - but not if he cant do better than the 12 goal season he put up this year.

As for Nieuwendyk and Andreychuk, the strongest argument for them is their career scoring. Andreychuk is the 11th highest goal scorer ever. Nieuwendyk is 20th. For comparison Fedorov is 56th.

If Fedorov stopped playing today I wouldn't vote him. I think he is currently a borderline case at best.
Out of curiosity, where would you rank Luc Robitaille on your list (if you have one) of the NHL's all-time left-wingers?
Good question about Robitaille all time. I don't have a list immediately ready. He is clearly behind Bobby Hull, Ted Lindsay and Frank Mahovlich. So that puts him in at least 4th. There are a few more early players like Doug Bentley, Busher Jackson and Aurel Joliat that I am uncertain about. It would take a bit more thought to answer fully.
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