Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hockey Hall Of Fame Inductions

Yesterday, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted four new members. Added were players Igor Larionov and Glenn Anderson, builder Ed Chynoweth and linesman Ray Scapinello. Although this was a year with no first time eligible players, due to the 2004/05 lockout, I argued that there is enough of a backlog of Hall of Fame eligible players that the Hall should have added their maximum of four players. If I was on the Hall of Fame Committee, I would have argued for the induction of Igor Larionov, Adam Oates, Sergei Makarov and Dino Ciccarelli. Only one of those four selections (Larionov) was inducted. This is a sign to the better Hall of Fame candidate players who were overlooked that they might not make it. Next year will be a tough year for any of them to be added. There is a good crop of first time eligible players. There are five players who are first time eligible that I believe should be inducted. They are Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brian Leetch and Dave Andreychuk. Since only four can be inducted in a year, likely we will see four of that group (and not Andreychuk) making the Hall next year. Likely that means that those who missed out this year will miss out again next year.

Igor Larionov is a very good choice for the Hall. He was one of the best players in the world while he was in Russia playing with the Central Red Army. He came to the NHL at age 29 and had a very good NHL career for well over a decade afterwards. There are not enough of the early Russian players in the Hall of Fame and it looks like that problem may never be fully fixed, but adding Larionov is a step in the right direction. I would have liked to see Sergei Makarov join him.

Although I am not totally upset with the selection of Glenn Anderson, I disagree with it. I once wrote why Glenn Anderson is not a Hall of Famer and I stand by my argument. Basically, he was no better a player than other non-hall contemporaries such as Dave Taylor, Bernie Nicholls and Tim Kerr, except that he was lucky enough to play on a team that did very well in the Stanley Cup playoffs (and he scored very well with them). Defensively, he was not particularly strong. As soon as his offense deteriorated, his useful career was over. The strongest argument for Anderson's induction is the fact that he is the forth highest point scorer in playoff history. While that is an impressive credential, it a largely due to the circumstance in which he played. Anderson played in the highest scoring era after the playoffs were extended to four rounds. Anderson played on the best team of that era. As a result, Anderson played more playoff games than almost anybody and hence scored more points. It is no coincidence that the three players above him in all time playoff scoring are his Edmonton Oiler teammates in Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri and the player in fifth is another Oiler teammate in Paul Coffey. This playoff record is largely due to the fact he was an Oiler at the right time. Other players who were roughly contemporaries like Steve Larmer, Craig Janney and Bernie Nicholls managed to score as well in the playoffs (or better) on a point per game basis, but were unable to get as many total points because they didn't happen to play on as good a team. I do not buy the argument that Anderson's Hall of Fame induction was delayed due to character issues (he is an absentee father who has been in trouble for non-payment of child support). I think he is one of the better players who do not quite make Hall of Fame standards.

Ed Chynoweth is a good choice for the builder category. He was the first full-time president of the Western Hockey League. The trophy for its champion is named in his honor (the Ed Chynoweth Cup). He served as president of the Canadian Hockey League for 20 years. He was a longtime member of the Hall of Fame Committee who died in April. While his induction is deserved, it is somewhat of a conflict of interest for the Hall of Fame Committee to induct him. The same can be said of last year's induction of Jim Gregory. While it is true that anybody asked to serve on the Hall of Fame Committee, who serves for a long time is probably worthy of Hall induction, it does not look good when the committee keeps inducting itself. There needs to be a better method to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. I think Chynoweth's induction was the most predictable of the 2008 inductions because of his recent death. It was highly likely the Hall of Fame Committee would see fit to honor him given those circumstances.

Ray Scapinello is a longtime NHL linesman who officiated over 2500 NHL regular season games (plus playoff games, All Star Games, Olympics). He was a very good linesman. If linesmen are to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he definitely should be there.

This year, the Hall of Fame inducted a surprisingly small number of players. There are several players who were worthy but did not get inducted. Given the good crop of first time eligible players available next year, it is unlikely that those players will get in next year. The four inductees are not bad choices, though I would not have selected Glenn Anderson.

Here is the Hall of Fame's induction announcement.

I do understand the principle behind the "four players max" rule, but I don't agree with the implementation. If you have a very strong crop of players, why make worthy candidates wait until there's fewer strong candidates to compete with? I mean, if Adam Oates is a Hall of Famer, then he's just as much of one now than he is in five years - just as much if he goes in with Glenn Anderson as if he goes in with Mark Messier. Why make him wait?
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