Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I NOW Consider Mark Recchi A Hall Of Famer

One of the long running questions I have tried to address in this blog is when a player is good enough to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame. When has he accomplished enough in his career that no matter what happens until retirement he should make the Hall of Fame? I consider a player a Hall of Famer based on these standards. The last player I have considered establishing himself as a Hall of Famer is Eric Lindros. Today, I think Mark Recchi has established himself as a Hall of Famer.

The main reason Mark Recchi belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame is his career offensive totals. Mark Recchi has 520 career goals, 855 career assists for 1375 career points. There is no player who is eligible for the Hall of Fame who has more career assists or points than Recchi who is not already in the Hall of Fame. There are only two players with more career goals then Recchi who are not already in the Hall of Fame (who are eligible for induction). They are Dino Ciccarelli, who I have argued should be inducted and Pat Verbeek. Verbeek has only two more career goals and more than 300 less career points than Recchi. I would argue Verbeek should not be in the Hall of Fame.

If we look at the time period where Recchi got his points, when he first came to the NHL, in the 1988/89 season, hockey was in its highest scoring era ever. However by 1995, scoring began to decline significantly to numbers which are closer to the all time league averages (but after the high scoring 80's and early 90's we perceive this as low scoring). After adjusting Recchi's totals for the era he played, his totals will be reduced by a small margin (but many of the other top scorers all time played in high scoring eras and he would come out slightly ahead in relative terms).

Recchi lost about a season and a half to labor unrest. The 2004/05 season and the first half of the 1994/95 seasons were lost to lockouts. Undoubtedly, had the labor situation allowed Recchi to play he would have over a hundred more points. Instead of being the 21st highest scorer of all time, he might be as high as the 13th highest scorer of all time.

Mark Recchi continues to increase his offensive totals and he is doing so as a valued player to his franchise. He has 42 points so far this season and is currently the second highest scorer on the Atlanta Thrashers (they traded Marian Hossa who had more points in Atlanta than Recchi is likely to get this season). Mark Recchi has scored at least 40 points this season, which is something he has accomplished every year of his career except his first season (1988/89) where he only played in 15 games. Forty points in a season in today's NHL is a "line in the sand" that only a relatively skilled offensive player can do. It will not be achieved by aging players who are hanging around to pad their career totals.

I did wonder if Recchi might be beginning to hang around and pad his career totals without being a significant contributor to his team when the Pittsburgh Penguins waived him earlier this season. He was off to a relatively slow start, with only two goals in 19 games and Pittsburgh gave up on him. They wanted to give his roster spot to a younger, cheaper player. Atlanta has been happy to claim Recchi who has scored 34 points in his 46 games with the Thrashers this season. Recchi has been one of the better Thrasher players this season.

The reason Recchi required such high career totals before I considered him a Hall of Famer is that he was never considered the best player in the league. He was never on the short list of players who would be in that argument. He was never a serious Hart Trophy candidate. Throughout his career, he wasn't the best player on his team. However, this largely comes from having had some very good teammates in Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Eric Lindros (in his pre-concussion days) and Patrick Roy. Recchi certainly was a top player throughout most of his career and had he been on weaker teams in his prime he would definitely have been considered the best player on his team for many years. As it was, there are seasons where one could argue Recchi was the best player on his team, but was overlooked because other players had more media attention. The clearest example is the 1999/2000 season where Recchi led the NHL in assists with 63 and scored 91 points leading the Philadelphia Flyers in scoring. Most would have considered Eric Lindros the teams star, but concussions and injuries limited Lindros to 55 games, where he scored 59 points. Certainly, in Recchi's years in Montreal he was the best position player on the team, but with Patrick Roy in net it's not possible to claim he was their best player.

Throughout Mark Recchi's career he has had several achievements that showed he was a star for a long period of time. Three times he scored over 100 points in a season (with 123 points being his career best). He led the NHL in assists once. He appeared in seven NHL All Star Games. He was named the NHL's second all star team in 1992. He has twice won the Stanley Cup (1991 Pittsburgh and 2006 Carolina). In the Pittsburgh cup victory he managed 34 playoff points, which was second only to Mario Lemieux that year.

Mark Recchi is a Hall of Fame player. His career offensive totals are too high to leave him out of the Hall of Fame. He may have never been the best player in the NHL at any given point, but he was clearly an NHL star for a long period of time and he has the awards and accomplishments to back that up.

There are sixteen active players that I consider worthy of Hall of Fame induction regardless of what happens for the rest of their careers. Here is my list:

Ed Belfour
Rob Blake
Martin Brodeur
Chris Chelios
Peter Forsberg
Dominik Hasek
Jaromir Jagr
Nicklas Lidstrom
Mike Modano
Scott Niedermayer
Chris Pronger
Mark Recchi
Joe Sakic
Teemu Selanne
Brendan Shanahan
Mats Sundin

As more hockey is played this season and into the playoffs we may see this list grow. In the off season, there may be some retirements that shrink this list a bit.

Who is on your list of retired players who should be in the Hall?
When does Sergei Fedorov make your list? I don't think there were many years in the during the 90s that I'd have placed Recchi higher on a list of the best players in the league than Fedorov, a player who has more elite-level years than Recchi does (to make up for a couple hundred points).
A partial list of retired players I would consider Hall of Fame worthy would include Mark Howe, Dino Ciccarelli, Adam Oates, Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov, Boris Mikhailov, Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman, Luc Robitaille, Dave Andreychuk, Brian Leetch, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros, Manon Rheaume, Cassie Campbell, Danielle Goyette. I am not certain this is an exhaustive list - but its pretty close.


Fedorov is certainly one of the more qualified forwards who I leave off my list. If he can make an impact on his team in the future and continue to raise his career totals I will have to add him someday.

Lets compare him to Mark Recchi. The obvious differences are that Recchi has over 200 more career points while Fedorov has a Hart Trophy and a couple Selke Trophies.

Obviously winning hte Hart Trophy gives Fedorov a claim that some people thought he was the best player in hockey at a time (and Recchi doesn't have this), but I would also argue that most people did not think Fedorov was the best player in the game (he was merely the best that year) - so its not as big a difference as it first looks.

When Fedorov won the Hart, Gretzky won the scoring title. Mario Lemieux was around but he was struggling through injury. Eric Lindros and Jaromir Jagr were blossoming into NHL stars. Many argued that despite Fedorov's Hart, Steve Yzerman was the best player on the Red Wings. Ray Bourque won his fifth Norris Trophy that season and there was a considerable crowd that thought he was actually the best player in hockey. Patrick Roy was the best goalie in hockey and some argued he was the best player in the game and Dominik Hasek had just won his first Vezina. I am not trying to say that winning a Hart Trophy is not an achievement, however it is not to be confused with being considered the best player in the game (which to a large part nobody was calling Fedorov).

As an example of this, in 1997 the hockey News published a list of the best 100 players of all time. Sergei Fedorov was nowhere to be seen. Jagr was number 37 and Lindros was number 54. There was little mention that Fedorov should be there.

Fedorov is a more respected defensive player than Recchi. His two Selke Trophies show it, although since they both came in his two 100+ point seasons, I would argue the voters missed the mark woth their picks. That said, you never saw Recchi considered a Selke Trophy candidate.

Comparing the two offensively, Recchi had more 100 point years (3 to 2). Here is a list of all the seasons where Fedorov outscored Recchi. 1993/94, 1994/95, 1995/96, 1998/99, 2001/02 and 2002/03. That is six seasons with Fedorov being the scoring leader. There are 11 seasons where they both played in the NHL and Recchi was the higher scorer. In many cases he was the higher scorer by a large margin (and thats why he has more career points).

Fedorov only has one season he made a post season all star team (his Hart Trophy year he made first team). Recchi has one second team all star selection. Obviously first team is better, but its not a huge lead. In terms of NHL all star games, Recchi leads 7-6.

Much of the difference between Fedorov and Recchi is perception. Fedorov was flashier and had far more exposure in the playoffs although nobody could argue Recchi was not a good playoff performer.

I would argue Recchi has been a better player than Fedorov over their careers. Fedorov reached a higher height in 1994, but it was not as big a height as most Hart Trophy winners reach. Fedorov started in the NHL later than Recchi and dropped off far faster than Recchi and if you evaluate them based on their best five seasons (as opposed to best one) I think the edge goes to Recchi.

In no way does that make Fedorov a bad player, but I wouldn't put him in the Hall of Fame yet. I want to see a bit more. I am not satisfied with the way he has faded away in the last several years.
Manon Rheaume? You're joking.
Why not Manon Rheaume? Why not several of the star women hockey players who are retiring now? Had a man been as dominant a goalie versus other men as Rheaume was versus the women he would be a solid Hall of Fame selection.
Why not Manon Rheaume? Why not several of the star women hockey players who are retiring now?

Your first question answers the second. I have no objection to inducting dominant women's players into the Hockey Hall of Fame; especially long-term pioneers such as Cammi Granato and Danielle Goyette. Rheaume played for a much shorter time, and I'm not sold on her being so much better than her peers that she merits induction.

Rheaume's hockeyDB stat page doesn't show evidence of Hall of Fame quality play when she played professionally in men's leagues: 24 games, 7-6-2 record, with a sv% of .867 and a GAA of 5.01. Her international stats from '92-'96 are definitely better (8-0, .922, 1.06) but she faced fewer than 14 shots per 60 minutes. (I can't locate stats for the '98 Games, so I don't know if she was in goal for all five matches and can't give you complete stats.)

Women's hockey was not nearly as competitive during Rheaume's brief career - one example, which I will link, is the Central Ontario Women's Hockey League. In '96-'97 they had seven teams, three of which played very well, one of which was mediocre, and three of which were horrible. This of course helps explain why Rheaume would want to play in the ECHL, IHL, etc., but the problem is, she barely played when she did get there - 947 total minutes over five seasons.

Now there are more than one league, and university teams, and a lot more talent to draw from. A lot of these players are going to prove themselves, eventually. But it's going to take time. The best of these pioneers should be inducted as builders; Rheaume's crossing the gender line to play professionally, while noteworthy, was not nearly enough of a success for her to merit selection to the Hall.

This is a problem that occurred in the early days of organized hockey. There are many players who are in the Hall of Fame who played short careers because there was no opportunity to make a real living in the game. They played in leagues of low quality, so it is probably never going to be possible to sabermetrically show that they are on the level of the current players who make the Hall of Fame. But they are the pioneers. They are the players who were seen as the best in the world at the time.

Manon Rheaume was seen as the best female goalie in the world. That is why she had the opportunity to play in men's leagues. She was not a successful goalie in the men's leagues but she was the one who got the chance. She got the chance because she was a star. She was named the best goalie in the 1994 World Women's Championships. Her career prime came before there was the opportunity today to test her against the best women in the world. So it is definitely necessary to put "error bars" on any attempt to say how good a player she was. The mere fact she (and not somebody else) was chosen to be the first woman to pplay in ther NHL says something about her reputation among woman goalies (ie she was the best at the time - and had been playing against the boys and the men moreso than anyone else).
Fair point - but two other things to consider:

1. Granato and Goyette (and others) played longer careers, especially internationally. At age 40 Goyette is still on Canada's national team. Rheaume pretty much stopped playing after the '98 games, at the age of 26. If there were no opportunites for her, why have some of her peers done far more over the same time frame?

2. Rheaume's two games with the Lightning may not just have been because of her status as the world's best woman goalie, but also due to her willingness to give it a try where others were not. Also keep in mind that Tampa Bay was an expansion team and were at least partially giving her some exhibition time as a publicity stunt rather than as a full acknowledgment of her skill.

I am only a few months younger than Rheaume myself and have been following the game since I was a boy. I remember that she became known after Tampa Bay announced that she'd play for them; it never seemed to be a case of, "wow this lady is awesome, why doesn't some NHL team give her a tryout?"

I do see your point - she was the one they asked. I just don't think that's enough evidence of itself. Since she didn't play in any of the leagues that arose and grew over the past decade, we don't know whether or not she was truly the best among her peers, or just came along first. It's not like she played in total anonymity until she was 42 and we never got a chance to see her greatness. She could have kept playing and still be at a high level now, the way Goyette has. That's why I'd choose her over Rheaume for Hall of Fame induction.
Ed Belfour- No, he's been a good regular season goalie but, he's not a money goalie..good but not great, the hall is for greats!

Rob Blake- yes, deffinately

Martin Brodeur- No arguement there, much as I hate him. :D

Chris Chelios- Yes, i wish Montreal had never let him go.

Peter Forsberg- hmmmmmmm...Dominant player over several years, ok, ill buy that.

Dominik Hasek- You could make a case that he wasnt a money goalie, but, he's in!

Jaromir Jagr- yes!

Nicklas Lidstrom- No.

Mike Modano- A big YES! Imagine the career he could have had if it werent for all those long-term injuries.

Scott Niedermayer- a poor HOF year

Chris Pronger- Great defenseman in his prime, too much of a goon, so, no.

Mark Recchi- Good upper mid-level player, HOF class? No.

Joe Sakic- Deffinately, a classic leader!!

Teemu Selanne- Yes, but not first time up.

Brendan Shanahan- YES!

Mats Sundin- I hate the Leafs with a red-hot passion but, a BIG yes! (Man how I wish hed have come to Montreal in exchange for Koivu!)
who ever said that Lidstrom is not a first ballot hall of famer is has never watched the game. He is hands down on the top 5 defensemen to ever play the game.
who ever said that Lidstrom is not a first ballot hall of famer has never watched the game. He is hands down one of the top 5 defensemen to ever play the game.
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