This week, the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) selection committee will be meeting to select the 2020 class of inductees into the HHOF. With safety precautions due to COVID-19 still firmly in place, this year the committee will be meeting virtually over the two days (June 23 and June 24) to present the cases for this year’s nominees and confirm their selections to hockey immortality.
Based on the strength of the players with the opportunity to gain entry this year, the committee will have to use every precious minute to try to distinguish one candidate from another in a very competitive process that will surely spark debate over. It is very rare that people question the deservedness of one’s entry into the Hall. Rather, more questions are posed towards the players that did not gain entry in a given year. With such a strong class of players, this year will no doubt be no different as three very deserving players will likely be admitted (along with entrants from the Builder category as well as a female and perhaps an international hockey player). The debate will continue on whether or not the candidates that were not selected will be gaining entry at a later time.
Let’s take a look at the players in contention for the class of 2020.
There should be no debate here. Iginla is primarily recognized as a Calgary Flame (he also played for the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, and the Los Angeles Kings) and should be a certain selection to get into the HHOF in his first year of eligibility. The numbers speak for themselves: over 600 goals (16th all-time) and 1300 points (34th) should make this selection a unanimous one. Add to that impressive resume a list of individual honors: an Art Ross Trophy (NHL Points Leader), Lester B. Pearson Award (Players MVP Choice), and the Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy (Highest Goal Scorer) in a memorable 2001-02 season. He also won another “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2003-04 along with the King Clancy Award (Community Work Recognition), and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2008-09. He has also been named a first team All-Star three times. Iginla also has achieved success internationally while representing Canada with two Olympic Gold medals (2002, 2010), Gold in the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, a World Junior Gold in 1996, and a World Hockey Championship Gold in 1997. The only thing missing from his illustrious career is winning the Stanley Cup. No matter. Rest assured that Iginla will be selected to join the other greats of the game when the selection committee releases the list of inductees.
Marian Hossa is not a certainty for inclusion in his first year of eligibility, but he is as close to a sure selection for anyone not named Iginla. The Slovakian born player began his NHL career with the Ottawa Senators and has also spent time with the Atlanta Thrashers, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Chicago Blackhawks. Hossa hits the statistical thresholds of scoring over 500 goals and 1000 points in his NHL career. He is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion (2010, 2013, 2015) and is the only player in NHL history to play in the Stanley Cup Final for three consecutive years on three different teams (losing with Pittsburgh and Detroit in 2008 and 2009, winning with Chicago in 2010). While Hossa does not have the individual hardware that Iginla has, it must be noted that Hossa finished 2nd for the Calder Trophy and has been an All-Star on five occasions. Always tough to knock off the puck with his burly frame, Hossa was known for being an integral member of every team that he played for. While he never won any medals internationally for Slovakia, Hossa was a part of the Slovakian team that finished 4th at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. This resume should allow Hossa to be named alongside Iginla in the Class of 2020.
A 21 season veteran, Shane Doan has an item on his resume that is a huge rarity in today’s game: he spent his entire career with one organization. After being drafted to the Winnipeg Jets in 1995, Doan played his first and only NHL season in Winnipeg before the franchise moved to Phoenix. Doan spent the rest of his career with the Coyotes and was an outspoken advocate for keeping the team in Arizona while rumors of another move for the franchise persisted. With over 400 goals and falling just shy of the 1000 point mark, and intriguing case can be made for Doan to enter the HHOF. However, he never won a Stanley Cup and his career does not include many of the individual scoring accolades that many of his fellow inductees have received. Regardless, Doan was recognized with the King Clancy Award in 2010 and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2012. He was named as an All-Star twice (2004, 2009) and holds 6 franchise records for the Jets/Coyotes franchise including most goals, points, games played, game winning goals, powerplay goals and shots on goal. Doan has played internationally for Canada winning Gold at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and at the 2003 and 2007 World Hockey Championships. He also won Silver three times at the World Hockey Championships. Doan’s extensive participation in the World Hockey Championship demonstrates his commitment to representing Canada, but also demonstrates that Doan was part of a Coyotes organization that either missed out or had limited participation in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While Doan has an interesting case, I don’t believe that he will be selected in his first year of eligibility. Doan will have a better chance of entry in a year in a weaker selection class.
How much longer will Jeremy Roenick have to wait to enter the Great Hall? Roenick is in his 9th year of eligibility and is widely recognized as one of the best American hockey players of all time. He is known primarily for his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, but has also spent time in his playing career with the Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, and the San Jose Sharks. With over 500 goals and 1200 points, Roenick easily meets the statistical requirements of entry. Always a fan favorite wherever he played and always credited for giving back to fans, Roenick needs to get some love from the HHOF selection committee. He is a 9-time All-Star who scored 50 goals (twice) and 40 goals (twice) in a season. He also scored 100 points in a season for three straight seasons from 1991-92 to 1993-94. For all of his individual achievements, Roenick has not experienced team success to the same extent and has not won the Stanley Cup. Roenick has always prided himself on playing for the United States internationally, winning Silver medals in the 1991 Canada Cup and at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Always the entertainer and always outspoken, Roenick at times has ruffled feathers in the NHL front office with comments related to officiating and lockout in 2004-05. Most recently, Roenick was fired from NBC for comments made about fellow employees at NBC Sports. Even with his apology, I don’t think the hockey world is ready to give J.R. the honor of entering the Hall just yet.
They don’t come much more under the radar than Patrik Elias. Always overshadowed by the superstars of his time, Elias carved a very nice career for himself by playing his entire career with the New Jersey Devils. Only in his second year of eligibility, Elias scored over 400 goals and 1000 points during his time with the Devils. Elias has won no major individual award, but Elias holds 12 club records for the Devils including most goals, assists, points, overtime goals, points in a season, and hat tricks. Elias has been an NHL All-Star five times, and has won the Stanley Cup twice (1999-00, 2002-03). Playing for the Czech Republic internationally, Elias has helped the Czechs to a Bronze medal finish on three separate occasions; twice at the World Hockey Championships (1998, 2011), and at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin. While he never recorded a 100 point season in the NHL (his career high was 96), Elias was a key offensive contributor on New Jersey Devils teams in a time when other stars in the league took attention away from the Devils and Elias’ accomplishments. Would the selection committee select Elias this year? It wouldn’t surprise me either way. Flip a coin on this one, although if I had to choose I would say Elias will get in but not this year.
Theoren Fleury has been waiting for the HHOF to induct him for some time and is in his 12th year of eligibility. At 5’6, Fleury punched way above his stature and was known as a fiery competitor throughout his NHL career. Known mainly for his years as a Calgary Flame, Fleury also had stops with the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. A point per game player through his 15 seasons in the NHL, Fleury scored over 450 goals and almost 1100 points. He never won any individual NHL awards and was named an All-Star only once in his career. His team success is more apparent as he was an important member of the 1988-89 Calgary Flames team that won the Stanley Cup. Internationally, Fleury had success with Canada winning medals in 5 of the 8 tournaments he participated in. Fleury helped Canada win Gold medals at the World Junior Championship (1988), the Canada Cup (1991), and the Olympic Games (2002). He also won Silver at the World Hockey Championships (1991) and the World Cup of Hockey (1996). Fleury has had issues with substance abuse during his playing career and may have been a factor in not being selected in years prior. Fleury has been open about those issues, as well as the abuse that he endured as a young player. In his years away from the game, Fleury has been very open and honest about his struggles with the hope of helping others (especially those who abuse drugs and alcohol, as well as Indigenous groups). He should be in the HHOF, but no doubt hockey has taken a backseat in Fleury’s journey of discovery and redemption. Selection at this point would be a fitting honor for someone who has demonstrated excellence and perseverance on and off the ice.
Alexander Mogilny may be in line to get the call from the selection committee this year. The Russian player played for 16 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mogilny was the first Russian draftee to leave Russia to play in the NHL. A six-time All-Star, Mogilny scored over 1000 points and finished just 27 goals shy of the magic 500 goal mark. He dazzled in 1992-93, tying Teemu Selanne for the league lead in goals with 76. He also scored 55 goals and 43 goals respectively, and hit at least 30 goals in 5 other seasons. While he tied for the league lead in goals, he did not win the ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy as it had not been established. In terms of individual awards, Mogilny was recognized as the most sportsmanlike player by winning the Lady Byng Trophy in 2002-03. He won the Stanley Cup once in his career – with the New Jersey Devils in 2000. Internationally, Mogilny was a member of one of the most dominant lines of all time at the junior level with the Soviet Union alongside Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure (both of whom are in the HHOF). With the Soviet Union, Mogilny won 4 medals with his teammates; Gold at the 1988 Winter Olympics, Gold at the 1988 World Junior Hockey Championships, Gold at the 1989 World Championships, and a Silver at the 1988 World Junior Hockey Championship. Well respected and admired for his skills at every stop in his NHL career, Mogilny may well get the call this year in his 12th year of eligibility. Mogilny may be selected this year because he meets the criteria in terms of both his NHL career as well as fitting the Hall’s recent trend of acknowledging great players from the Soviet Union and international hockey.
Daniel Alfredsson is another excellent choice who may have to wait another year because of the strength of this particular class. In 18 seasons (17 with the Ottawa Senators), ‘Alfie’ scored 444 goals and over 1150 points in his NHL career. He won the Calder Trophy in 1995-96 and has also been individually recognized with the King Clancy Award (2011-12) and the Mark Messier Leadership Award (2012-13). Never having won a Stanley Cup, Alfredsson spent his final year in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and retired without winning the ultimate prize. Alfredsson has represented Sweden internationally on numerous occasions; winning the Gold medal at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, and the Silver medal at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. Alfredsson has also won 2 Silver medals and 2 Bronze medals in the 7 World Hockey Championship tournaments that he participated in. His passion and devotion to the Senators franchise and the city of Ottawa is legendary. He is a nine-time 20 goal scorer, a two-time 30 goal scorer, and a two time 40 goal scorer who hit the 100 point mark once. He has been eligible for induction for four years and will be a Hall of Famer in the near future (but not this year).
Rod Brind’Amour was the definition of a fierce competitor during his hockey career. His 20 year NHL career had him play with the St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, and Carolina Hurricanes. His 452 goals and 1184 points are Hall of Fame worthy in their own right, but most significant is that Brind’Amour was renowned for the defensive aspects of his game. Brind’Amour was recognized as the best defensive forward in the NHL by winning the Selke Award twice (2005-06, 2006-07) and was given an All-Star nod in 1992. He hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and is currently the team’s Head Coach. Brind’Amour represented Canada internationally at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, the World Hockey Championships, and the World Junior Hockey Championships. Brind’Amour’s only medal was a Gold medal at the 1994 World Hockey Championship in Italy. With such a strong class, what would convince the committee to vote for Brind’Amour? A major factor is the shift towards recognizing players for their defensive resume. The recent induction of Guy Carbonneau into the HHOF may be an indication that defensive forwards need more representation in the Great Hall. Brind’Amour is a wildcard in this year’s class that will more likely than not will be passed over for another year.
Which players do you think will make the cut and be enshrined in hockey immortality? Do you think there is another player that should be getting more attention that I missed?
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