Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I NOW consider Peter Forsberg a Hall of Famer

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows I keep a list of players who are active who I think belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame regardless of what happens to them for the rest of their careers. The last player I thought had reached that threshold was Brendan Shanahan. Today, I am ready to admit Peter Forsberg to that level.

Forsberg has long been a highly talented player who looked as though he was likely on a Hall of Fame track unless injuries (which he has suffered a few) derail him. The question was would he make it to Hall of Fame standards and longevity before injuries sidelined him or he returned to Sweden (and possibly semi-retirement).

I thought about the five year period in NHL history from 2001-2005 and decided that Peter Forsberg had been the best NHL player in that time and anyone who is the best player in a natural five year run should find themselves in the Hall. Forsberg was the 2003 Hart trophy and Art Ross trophy winner and also tied for the league lead in plus/minus rating. When he is healthy, he is the best player in the league. Forsberg has three times made the NHL first all star team at center. He has been named the best forward at the 1998 World Cup. He won the Calder trophy as a rookie. He has a long string of awards to his name. He is in the running to add to his list of awards this year with his 56 points so far in 36 games for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Forsberg has been the best NHL player in the last five years and was clearly a dominant player before that period and looks to remain dominant after that period. Anyone who can do that should be in the Hall of Fame.

Here is my list of current NHL players who I think belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame regardless of what they do (or do not do) for the rest of their careers:

Dave Andreychuk
Ed Belfour
Martin Brodeur
Chris Chelios
Peter Forsberg
Dominik Hasek
Jaromir Jagr
Brian Leetch
Mario Lemieux
Nicklas Lidstrom
Luc Robitaille
Joe Sakic
Brendan Shanahan
Steve Yzerman

Some of these players may be getting toward the end of their career. Specifically, Dave Andreychuk who was recently waived by the Tampa Bay Lightning, which may prompt his retirement. Others such as Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman may be on their last legs as well. However, as hockey gets played this year, it is only a matter of time before others qualify for the list.

Comments:
Mario Lemieux is already in the Hall of Fame.

I would say Mike Modano probably also deserves to be on your list.
 
Mats Sundin should be getting close too. His numbers are almost identical to Modano's.
GP G A PTS
Modano 1143 474 676 1150
Sundin 1117 474 641 1115
 
The question I am asking is who is currently in the NHL who deserves a spot in the hall of fame regardless of what they accomplish for the rest of their careers.

Mario Lemieux is an answer to the question regardless of if he is already there or not. He's in the NHL and he deserves to be in the hall of fame and nothing he can do (or not do) for the rest of his career will change that.

Definitely, Modano and Sundin are some of the top candidates to make the list. But I do not think they are there yet. Its interesting that you quote their career point totals as evidence. Pierre Turgeon and Mark Recchi have more points in their careers and you do not suggest them (they are also legit candidates although Modano and Sundin are likely ahead of them).

This shows that points may be one factor for a spot in the hall of fame but its not the only one. With Modano, Sundin, Turgeon and Recchi there is no time period I can point to and say that guy was the best player at his position in the entire NHL. Of course thats not necessary to get to the hall of fame but it helps. Without it they will have to continue to build up their career exploits.

Career numbers which in the case of those players benefitted from playing in an NHL when scoring was at its highest in history for the prime years of those players - of course scoring soon was curtailed (though its on its way back up) and a season was lost to lockout. That leaves mitigating circumstances to credit these players for parts of the era they played in (as well as circumstances beyond their control - losing an entire season to lockout) and also to discount their totals for other parts of their career because of the era they played in. Playing in a high scoring era has had a net benefit to this group of players - though they are getting toward the tail end of the group where that was true.

The conclusion to all this (in my opinion) is that likely the highest all time scorers who are not hall of fame worthy will likely be among this group of players (or other contemporaries or slightly older players) because they played in the era where scoring was easiest for them so holding up their career totals versus other greats who played in lower scoring eras as evidence of their greatness is not as strong an argument as it appears at first glance.
 
I never thought of Turgeon, but yes, I'd probably put him on the list. He has more points, but he also has more games played. With 1309 points in 1254 games played he isn't far ahead of Modano and Sundin in points per game. But he also started playing in the NHL earlier than those 2 guys and had more years playing in the high scoring years. I also think Modano and Sundin are better all round players than Turgeon. That said, Turgeon probably deserves to be on the list.

Recchi I am not so sure about. He may end up making the Hall of Fame because of his numbers but he has never really been the best player on his team and he benefitted from playing with superstars like Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros (when he was an elite player). Recchi was never a captain or leader of a team like the other three and more of a very good support player. he was probably the 4th or 5th best player on those Pittsburgh teams in the early 1990's and probably 3rd after Lindros and Leclair in Philadelphia.

If I were to rank those 4 players I would rank them:

Modano
Sundin
Turgeon
Recchi

Modano gets the edge over Sundin because of his extra playoff success but they would otherwise be pretty equal.
 
Here is something I wrote in the past about why I don't consider Pierre Turgeon a Hall of Famer (at least not yet). It may interest you and further this discussion.

It looks like I have tougher standards for what is a Hall of Fame career at forward that you do. Is that only at forward or do you think I am missing some defenders and/or goalies?
 
Let me be clear, I am not convinced that Turgeon deserves to be a Hall of Famer. He is definitely a borderline case.

For me, to make the hall of fame a player needs to:

1. Be an elite player for several years and regarded as one of the few best of his time.

2. Be a very good player for a very long time.

Cam Neely would fit the first condition and Mike Gartner would fit the second. There were a few years where Neely was considered the best power forward in the game. They were never any years where Gartner was considered one of the best forwards in the game. But both are Hall of Famers.

Of the four players we have discussed they are kind of a mix of the two groups. Turgeon at times was considered one of the better playmakers in the NHL and he has had a pretty long career. Modano and Sundin have had somewhat shorter careers but have been about as productive and are both likely considered much more well rounded players than Turgeon. Recchi I think benefitted too much from playing with superstars to be considered a top candidate for the Hall of Fame. If they all retired right now I suspect Sundin and Modano make the Hall based on being the leaders and long time members of their respective teams with extra bonus to Sundin for playing in the premier hockey market and bonus to Modano for being considered one of the best ever American born players. Turgeon might not make it and Recchi probably wouldn't.

On defense, one guy who might be worthy is Chris Pronger. If he retired right now he might get consideration under a similar thought process to Cam Neely. Pronger has only played 764 games, but Neely only played 726. Pronger is considered one of the top few defensemen of his era, just as Neely was considered one of the best power forwards of his time. He also has Hart and Norris trophy wins to his credit which will help. This might be enough to get Pronger into the Hall of Fame. That said, another couple seasons would make him a sure thing.

Rob Blake is another close call. He has a Norris trophy win and a couple other top 3 finishes. I personally think Blake is over rated so I wouldn't put him there yet but some might.

I can't think of any other goalies that I would put on the list right now. The NHL is actually awash in young goalies at right now.
 
I think Cam Neely is a poor choice for the Hall of Fame. I wrote about it here. I will disagree with your claim that he was at some point the best in his position. He NEVER made the first all star team at right wing. Right wing was his position. Power forward is not a position. Its a classification of a player much like defensive forward or faceoff man. Its debatable that Cam Neely is the best power forward ever (for example Ted Lindsay was a very good forward who could be classified as power forward had that label existed them. Or more recently somebody like Keith Tkachuk who has more career points than Neely - while playing through an era of lower scoring) but how important is having a power forward? Its easy to find teams that win Stanley Cups in the modern NHL without any power forwards (name the Tampa Bay power forward - they are defending cup champs).

In the end Neely didn't last long enough to be a Hall of Famer. I think voters assumed he would have continued at the same level had he been healthy. That is not something that should be done. It also opens up the question of what to do about players who were definitely among the elites for a short period of time (similar in length to Neely's prime) but demonstrated that they did have the staying power by continuing to play but not staying at their level. People in this group include Kevin Stevens and John LeClair.

I think the real test of how marginal a choice Neely is comes from how often he is used as a comparable for other marginal hall of fame selections.

Now back to Modano and Sundin. They were never the best player in their position. They are not the highest scorers of their era who are not considered hall of famers (Turgeon and Recchi). Therefore, they are not there yet. If I were to project their careers a few years into the future, those projections would likely lead them there, but I will wait until they acheive those projections before I add them to my hall of fame list.
 
Cam Neely is an interesting case but I don't think voters considered the question of what Neely would have done had he played longer, but rather what would he have done had he been healthy during the years he played.

In 89-90 and 90-91 Neely had back to back 50+ goal and second team all-star seasons. The following 2 seasons he played just 22 games total scoring 20 goals. Had he played those full seasons it is safe to assume that he would have likely had 2 more 50 goal seasons.

In 1993-94 he played just 49 games but scored 50 goals. He was second all-star at RW to Pavel Bure who had 60 goals in 76 games. It is pretty safe to say that if Neely was healthy he would have scored 70+ goals and been first team all-star.

It isn't difficult to believe that due to injuries in the prime of his career Neely lost close ~170 games and conservatively 100 goals scored. That would put him at around 500 goals in 900 games which is pretty phenominal for any forward, power forward or otherwise. From 1989-90 to 1993-94 Neely played in 216 games and scored 176 goals for .815 goals per game. I challenge you to find any player during that time who produced goals at a greater rate. In Bure's back to back 60 goals seasons in 92-93 and 93-94 he scored at .75 goals per game and that is just a 2 year stretch. Neely did it over a 5 year stretch You could make an arguement that Neely was the best goal scorer in the NHL in the early 1990's.

And if games played is such an issue then why are you even talking about Forsberg. He's played more than 100 games fewer than Neely did.
 
Games played is an issue. But it is only one of many issues.

Did Cam Neely win a Hart Trophy? Peter Forsberg did.

Did Cam Neely win an Art Ross Trophy? Peter Forsberg did.

Did Cam Neely make the NHL First Team All Star? Peter Forsberg did. Forsberg in fact did it three times.

I argue Peter Forsberg has been the best player in the world from 2001-2005. Is there any five year period you can argue that Neely was the best player in the world?

Thats why my claim Forsberg should make the Hall of Fame even if he never plays again (and he will play again) and Cam Neely is a bad pick for the Hall. Forsberg has already accomplished more than Neely did.
 
You want to argue Cam Neely was the best goal scorer in the 1990's?

I'm sure your argument cannot be that he scored more goals then any other player in the 90's (cause he didn't come close).

I guess you must be arguing that his peak of goal production was better than anyone else's. To check that we can look at the top goal scorers by season in the 90s'.

1989/90 Brett Hull 72
1990/91 Brett Hull 86
1991/92 Brett Hull 70
1992/93 Teemu Selanne/ Alexander Mogilny (tie) 76
1993/94 Pavel Bure 60
1994/95 Peter Bondra 32 (lockout year)
1995/96 Mario Lemieux 69
1996/97 Keith Tkachuk 52
1997/98 Teemu Selanne/ Peter Bondra (tie) 52
1998/99 Teemu Selanne 47
1999/2000 Pavel Bure 58

I look at this list and see several candidates for the best goal scorer in thec 1990's. One name i do not see on the list is Cam Neely.

How can you call him the best goal scorer in the 1990's when he did not score as many goals in the decade as other players and was never the top scorer in any particular season?
 
Injuries and longevity. Over the 5 year stretch of 1989-90 to 1993-94 Cam Neely scored at a pace of .815 per game. Brett Hull was about the same pace at .830. Over an 80 game schedule that equates to 66 goals for Hull and 65 for Neely. That's to say that if Neely were healthy he would have averaged 65 goals per year over a 5 year stretch. And when you factor in Neely's toughness and leadership it isn't difficult to say that healthy Neely would have been more valuable than Hull during that 5 year time period.

Think about it. What the numbers show is that if Neely had been healthy he might have averaged 65 goals a season over 5 seasons. That is nothing short of phenominal. And needless to say, had he done that he would have made first team all-stars and may have even won a Hart trophy. He scored 50 goals in 49 games in 1993-94. Had he played 80 games and scored 75+ goals, 120 points that he was on pace for, he probably would have beaten Fedorov (56g, 120pts) for the Hart.
 
Quick question. If you can include Peter Forsberg on your list, why wouldn't you include Pronger? He's played more games. He's won a Hart and a Norris trophy. And next to Lidstrom, he is probably the best defenseman of the past 10 years.
 
Interesting conversation here, especially concerning Neely. I think another separate factor that figured into Cam's election is his outside image and charity work. It's a lot tougher to vote against Cam Neely when everybody in North America knows of the Cam Neely foundation and all the millions of dollars he's raised. If a voter was on the fence about Neely, that fact totally would tip the scales in his favor.

My main comment is to nominate Alexander Mogilny as a potential hall of famer. In the early nineties, he and Teemu Selanne were the two best goal scorers in the game. He's another guy that was hampered by injuries throughout a large portion of his career, and he hasn't played for any high profile, large market teams (other than a 2 year stint with the leafs). However, throughout his NHL career of 990 games, he's accumulated 473 goals and 1032 points.

The other extraneous factor that may give Mogilny added juice to get into the hall is that he's the first Russian to defect and play pro hockey in North America. You hear a lot of the newer Russian stars (Kovalchuk, Zherdev, Ovechkin, etc) talk about how much what he did meant to them and their careers. Hell, even Pavel Bure and Sergei Federov have said that without Mogilny, they'd never have played a single NHL game.

And just based on his numbers alone, you could make a legitimate case. He's got much better numbers than countryman Pavel Bure and his numbers are virtually identical to Federov. Mogilny's got more goals in fewer games, but Federov has a few more points. He won a cup with the Devils in 2000, an Olympic Gold medal, is a 5-time NHL all-star, won a scoring title, is the first European player to ever be a captain, and even got a lady byng trophy. The Mogilny-Lafontaine-Hawerchuk line in Buffalo was the scariest line in all of hockey for several years, and Mogilny's wrist shot is legendary.

And since Lafontaine got inducted, looking at his career numbers there's no way Mogilny shouldn't get in. He's played in over 100 more NHL games and has more goals, assists, and points than Lafontaine. And, I know that Pat was partially chosen based on his potential and given some slack because of his injuries, but Mogilny's gone through plenty as well. If he doesn't break his leg in the first round of the '93 playoffs (after dropping 76 goals in the regular season) who knows how far they would have gone? And his hip problems these past few seasons have really caused him to miss a lot of time.

All I'm saying is Mogilny deserves the Hall. His numbers alone justify his selection, but his impact on the game truly make him legendary. Without him, there's no Fedorov, Bure, Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, or any other Russian snipers. He's got my vote...any thoughts from you guys?

hoorock (hockey contributor at doubleviking.com)
 
Chris Pronger has to be one of the closer players to this list, but I don't include him yet (when I do include Forsberg) because I have never considered Pronger the best player in the NHL (though he does have a Hart trophy). Forsberg has a better claim to the best player in his position for longer. He was a three time (so far) first team all star. Pronger has only been first team all star once (his Hart trophy year). I want to see Pronger accomplish more before deciding he is a hall of fame lock.

As for Mogilny I would say no. He doesn't have as good career numbers as other players to whom I am saying no. he does have that 76 goal season (which I would compare to Bernie Nicholls 150 point year - and Nicholls is no hall of famer). Mogilny's nationality shouldn't matter. A player should not make the hall of fame because he is Russian or Finnish or Mexican or whatever when a player with an equivalent career born in smalltown Ontario would not be inducted.
 
When you compare all the other right wingers in the hall, you'll realize that Mogilny's numbers stack up very favorably. Out of the 35 RWs inducted, only Gordie Howe, Guy Lafleur, Mike Gartner and Jari Kurri actually have better numbers than Mogilny. His numbers are almost identical to inductees Mike Bossy, Lanny McDonald, Joe Mullen, and Maurice "Rocket" Richard. And he blows away about everyone else, including Cam Neely.

So, I guess I'd make the point that if Mogilny did grow up in Moose Jaw or Flin Flon, he'd probably get a better push towards enshrinement. Canadiens dominate the Hall of Fame. Growing up in a country where dreams of the NHL were just that, dreams, makes his career a little more special. I believe the only other Russian enshrined is Vladislav Tretiak, and he never played in the NHL.

Now numbers aren't everything, and that's obvious when you consider some of the old time players and even some of the new selections like Neely and Lafontaine. So, a guy who risked his life and eventually paved the way for an entire country to find it's way to the NHL deserves a little longer look. And he was the dominant right wing for several years, which makes his case even stronger. His olympic gold medal and distinguished international career as a junior, and his Cup win gives him even more credibility. He's definitely Hall-worthy in my opinion.

hoorock (hockey contributor at doubleviking.com)
 
Mogilny played in a higher scoring era then most right wingers in history (and thus most right wingers in the Hall of Fame). If you want to argue his career scoring totalsmake him a Hall of Famer then you must love Mark Recchi (another right winger) with far more career points 1236 vs. 1032. Recchi won a Stanley Cup where he scored 33 points in 24 playoff games (thus making him a key contributor to his Penguin team. Mogilny won a Stanley Cup with a lacklustre 7 points in 23 playoff games (thus making him an extra forward on the Devils). So Recchi was far more dominant in his cup victory.

And yet ... the consensus in these comments is Recchi should not make the hall of fame. Still he is a better candidate than Alexander Mogilny.

Your comment about Tretiak being the only Russian in the Hall of Fame is incorrect. Valeri Kharlamov and Slava Fetisov are also enshrined.

If you have to compare to some of the weaker Hall members (like Neely and LaFontaine) to show that he belongs in the Hall, then probably he doesn't belong there.

I think Mogilny is good enough to play several more seasons and he might be able improve his case for tha hall. But it doesn't look like that will happen. New Jersey has assigned him to the minors and it looks like his career will end there. Leaving Mogilny a good player but not good enough for the Hall.
 
I see Mogilny as a border line hall of fame player and I would probably rank him a bit above Recchi. Mogilny could do more on his own and was a much better pure goal scorer. He did have a 76 goal season but he only had 2 50 goal years (including the 76 year) and that will hurt his chances. I think he has a chance to make the hall of fame but if he could get to 1000 games (at 990 now) and 500 goals (at 473 now) then his chances would be improved. People seem to like milestones like that. I do think he will play in the NHL again though, so he will have the chance.
 
I agree completely that getting to 500 goals and 1000 games played will help Mogilny's chances immensely. But I don't really buy the argument that playing in the early 90s significantly helped his chances.

Statistics show that the late 70s through the better part of the 1980s actually had the largest goals per game average of any NHL seasons. Every year from 1978-1989, average goals scored per game were over 7, in fact from 1980-1985 that number hovered around 8. In '92 there was a slight bump to 7.24, but every other year since 1989 has been near or below 6 goals per game.

So, playing his first full season in 1990, how exactly does this help Mogilny? He played the majority of his career in the mid 90s and beyond when defense and the 'neutral zone trap' dominated the game. Actually, goalies from this era are the only ones who have seen inflated numbers. And this is clear when you look at the rule changes implemented this year and their negative effect on the save percentages and GAA of the entire league. And the numbers to this point indicate it will be the best scoring year for the NHL since the 92-93 season.

hoorock
 
Hoorock

The statistics do show that players who played when Mogilny played are over-represented in the top scorers of all time. Mogilny was born in 1969. Three other players from that birth year are in the top 50 scorers of all time (and there may be more since the careers of this group are not over) and I would not give all of them a spot in the Hall of Fame - Pierre Turgeon is one of them. Mogilny's 1032 career points place him 61st all time. And despite your objections, stats show that players who played during this era scored more frequently then those of other eras. 61st all time is not enough to cement a Hall of Fame berth playing in that era. Now if Mogilny was also a strong defensive player or managed to win an MVP or two or something it would be a different story.

His career offensive numbers don't measure up to contemporary players who are not hall of famers.
 
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