Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I NOW Consider Chris Pronger A Hall of Famer

Earlier this season, I added Peter Forsberg, Joe Nieuwendyk and Rob Blake to the list of players who should make the Hockey Hall of Fame regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers. Today, I add Chris Pronger. Here is a rough explanation of my hall of fame standards.

Chris Pronger was a highly rated junior picked second overall in 1993 by the Hartford Whalers. He was projected from the beginning as a player who had a very good chance of becoming a star and made the all rookie team in his first NHL season. He matured into a superstar after being traded to St Louis. There he won the 2000 Norris Trophy and Hart Trophy as NHL MVP (only the third defenceman along with Bobby Orr and Eddie Shore to win MVP). He twice led the NHL in +/-. He made first team all star in 2000 and has twice made the second team all star. He has been a regular representative for Team Canada in World Cups and Olympic hockey tournaments. Thus far, he has four NHL all star game appearances.

I induct him today after he played a great playoff leading his Edmonton Oiler team to within one game of the finals. I believe he deserved the Conn Smythe trophy instead of Cam Ward. I think he was a more valuable player and far more instrumental to his team's playoff success. I think it is very likely, that in the future we will remember the 2006 playoffs more for Pronger's play in bring the Oilers to within one game of the cup than for Cam Ward being the winning goalie. At any rate, Pronger had an outstanding playoff. He was the top defensive player in the playoffs. His presence kept the biggest stars on the Oilers opposition from scoring. In fact, I would argue that Eric Staal did not win Conn Smythe because of Pronger's defence shutting him down in much of the finals. Not only was Pronger valuable defensively. He also led the Oilers in points and +/-. I don't see how that is not a playoff MVP. This capped off a bit of a comeback for Pronger. A wrist injury had limited him to five games played in 2002/03. His 2004 return season was good enough for second team all star and his 2006 season should have been good enough for Conn Smythe. He has clearly shown that he has recovered from his injuries and is still among the best players in the game. This gives him several seasons as one of the better players in the game, one as MVP. That is enough to secure a hall of fame position regardless of what happens for the rest of his career.

Interestingly, Chris Pronger is the only player who is currently active that I consider a hall of famer who has never won the Stanley Cup. The last time there were players in that position, it was 2004. Adam Oates retired and Dave Andreychuk finally won his cup, leaving a list that had all won the Stanley Cup at least once.

Here are the currently active NHL players who belong in the hockey hall of fame regardless of what happens for the rest of their careers:

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

The NHL awards are still to come. It is possible that they may cement a player's legacy as a Hall of Famer. If that does not happen, most likely we will see a couple retirements shorten this list this summer.

I agree on Pronger. Just for discussion... would you now include Brind'Amour, given what has to be a fairly likely Selke Trophy, a Stanley Cup as a Captain, and a hell of a solid career?

If not, what's missing?

Please put aside hate for the guy that lifted the cup instead of your own Captain.
Brind'Amour is missing several elite seasons. I would call his 2005/06 season his career best year which is suprising because he is 35 years old and most players peak at far younger ages. He is a probable Selke winner, captain of the Stanley Cup champions and one can make a solid case for him being a Conn Smythe winner (though I would not have supported it). His career best offensive year came way back in 1993/94 when he scored 97 points. But he did not have nearly as much defensive value yet.

If Brind'Amour does not have a stretch of several years where one can make a good case that he is the best in his position in the league (even if we cheat a little bit and call his position "defensive forward" he doesn't have that) then he will have to get in based on his career totals. Currently, he is the 73rd highest scorer all time with 981 career points. Some of the more recent players who are in that neighborhood include Brian Propp, Rick Middleton, Kirk Muller and Rick Tocchet. While all were good players, none are hall of fame calibre.

I think for Brind'Amour to get in to the hall of fame he would most likely do it by continuing to score and moving up the all time scoring charts. If along the way he won a couple more Selke trophies it would go along waytoward making his case and reducing how many more points he would need.

I'd bet Tochett would be willing to put money on the question...
One more I think you're leaving out.

Mike Modano.

Great site, by the way.
Mike Modano is definitely on the radar screen. He has a Stanley Cup. He has been one of the better centermen for a long time (though never the best). His biggest career individual award is once making the second team all star (in 2000). I am probably waiting on his career totals increase. He is currently the 42nd highest scorer of all time with 1183 career points (which puts him well ahead of Brind'Amour and slightly younger than Brindy). Some players look like hall of famers who have scored that many points. People such as Brett Hull (though Hull has a Hart trophy and a huge number of more goals) have had hall of fame careers (he's not actually there yet - but he will be first time he is eligible). Most players around that career total have not. Vincent Damphousse, Bernie Nicholls and Dino Ciccarelli are the three people who are immediately ahead of Modano in all time scoring and none are in the hall - though I argue Ciccarelli should be (his goal totals are the main thing that differentiates him).

Want a partial list of players who I am watching because they may be on the bubble? Sergei Fedorov, Teemu Selanne, Pierre Turgeon, Mark Recchi, Mats Sundin, Eric Lindros, Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Zubov, Mathieu Schneider, Curtis Joseph (there are others too). I could give my reasoning for why I wouldn't induct any of them yet and what it would take for them to get to that level, but for the most part it would be repetitive. They were not dominant enough in their prime. Few were seriously considered the best in their position for any significant period of time. Those that were have not had a significant enough career and will have to build on their career achievements.

Obviously, there is no hard rule about when a player should be inducted into the hall, but I feel I have put some thought into this issue and have set a relatively consistent line. The one thing I will not do is project a player into the future. Even if it seems overwhelming likely that they will achieve some important milestone, I won't give them the benefit of the doubt until they do.
Given the season Rob Brindamour is having this year (near the top in points) I think he is inching ever closer to the elusive hall. Also I think Mark Recchi should be considered. His second cup ring last year and the leadership he is lending to young penguins squad help his case.
I don't think Mats should make the hall of fame, no mvp, no cups, no 1st team all star selections, no 50 goal seasons, no conn smythes, just consistent good seasons and that shouldn't be a ticket to the hall.
I agree on Pronger. What about Marty Brodeur. In my perspective he's a hall of famer. What do u thinl
What about JR? 495-675-1170, three All Star games.
Sorry, 9 All-Star games for JR. Around him on the points list- Federko, Bossy, Bobby Hull, Selanne, Goulet, Cicarelli, and Damphousse.

I think he should be in.
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I agree with you. They have their moments and it would be fair to take these moments under consideration for the hall of fame.
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