The Class of 2017 has been enshrined, which means it’s once again time for the only thing people really care about now as it pertains to the Hockey Hall of Fame: trying to figure out which players will get in next.
Here are some early odds I’ve established for the men (no builders) who will make up the Class of 2018, including one stone-cold lock inductee. The Hall of Fame selection committee will announce its picks in June. This is only an exhibition, not a competition — so please, no wagering.
Martin Brodeur, Goalie (1st year of eligibility)
Brodeur is first in career wins (691), first in career shutouts (125), has four Vezina trophies, five Jennings trophies for fewest goals against in a season and a Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Oh, and they put a trapezoid behind the net to prevent him from playing the puck like a defenseman, because the dude played the puck like a defenseman. The surest thing of sure things for the Class of 2018, or any year.
Daniel Alfredsson, Right Wing (2nd year)
The wait is over for Alfredsson, probably. The Ottawa Senators (and Detroit Red Wings!) winger has 444 goals (No. 62 all time) and 1,157 points (No. 51 all time). He won the Calder Trophy as top rookie, but the highest he ever finished for the Hart Trophy was fifth in 2005-06, his only 100-point season. Which is to say that consistency was the key during Alfredsson’s 1,246 career games. He also owns Olympic gold and silver, with 27 points in 26 Winter Games appearances for Sweden, though he never won a Stanley Cup. There’s a very compelling argument to be made that Alfredsson belongs in the “great, not immortal” category. But he is one of the all-time good guys in the game, an ambassador for the sport, and the kind of gentleman who’s likely to have earned a place in the good graces of the selection committee. It would be a mild surprise if he’s not in this class.
Martin St. Louis, Right Wing (1st year)
St. Louis is in his first year of eligibility after retiring with the New York Rangers in 2015, and many anticipate the undrafted, diminutive sniper (who was listed at 5-foot-8) will enter the Hall in 2018.
But look at the forwards who have made it into the Hall on the first ballot in the past 10 years: Teemu Selanne, Sergei Fedorov, Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman, Ron Francis and Mark Messier. The lowest point total from that group is Forsberg at 885 — and that’s because he did it in 708 games. St. Louis has 1,033 points in 1,134 career games, good for No. 73 all time.
So I’m not sure if St. Louis is the given some make him out to be next year as a first-ballot guy. They could make him wait a year. That said: No player in NHL history with two scoring titles has missed the Hall of Fame cut, so St. Louis is getting in eventually with his two Art Ross wins, to go along with his Hart Trophy in 2003-04. Also, no player has missed the Hall of Fame cut with at least 300 goals and at least two Lady Byng trophies; St. Louis has 391 goals and three Byngs.
Let’s assume that the selection committee opts for a defenseman, considering they skipped that position in the past two classes. These four blueliners have displayed varying degrees of patience, and one of them could get the call.
Gonchar retired in 2015. He is eligible for the first time in 2018. He was in the top five for the Norris Trophy four times, though he didn’t win one. He won the Stanley Cup once with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played 1,301 games and amassed 811 points, which is 17th all time. Great player — but first ballot?
Lowe was the backbone of six Stanley Cup-championship teams — five of them with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers squads that have already produced six Hall of Famers. He lacks individual hardware, but that didn’t stop Mark Howe from getting the nod after 13 years.
Wilson won the Norris once and was a top-four finisher three other times. His offensive numbers are among the best all time: an 0.81 points-per-game average that ranks eighth among defensemen with at least 657 games played, aka the Bobby Orr cutoff. A sterling personal résumé that perhaps has been dragged down by the fact he never played for the Stanley Cup. He’s got a case, but he’s had a pretty long wait already.
Zubov’s points per game average is 0.72, a fraction behind Nicklas Lidstrom‘s (0.73), but then when hasn’t he been behind Nicklas Lidstrom? That’s the rallying cry from Zubov supporters, who believe he’s one of the most underrated players in NHL history, thanks to Lidstrom’s shadow and Zubov’s “anonymity” playing for the Dallas Stars, which apparently didn’t extend to Mike Modano, but whatever. Zubov, who won two Stanley Cups, also has become a darling of the analytics movement. This has been a steadily building case for the Hall, and one worth watching next year.
Three players with their own compelling hooks — Roenick’s fame; Osgood’s playoff mastery; Mogilny’s points per game (1.042) and being the first Russian defection — but they lack the full picture when it comes to individual achievements. Or in Roenick’s case, team achievements.
Brind’Amour is being re-examined as an all-time great two-way forward, with 1,184 points in 1,484 games (22nd all time) and two Selke wins as top defensive forward. Fleury’s campaign seems to pick up momentum each year, but he probably has to wait until St. Louis gets his call or until another mighty mite (5-foot-6) gets in. Mikhailov benefits from a new appreciation for Soviet-era talent by the Hall, and the former linemate of Valeri Kharlamov and Vladimir Petrov has been lauded recently.
CuJo is fifth in career wins (454) and third in career losses (352). His playoff save percentage actually matches that of Osgood (.916). But despite finishing in the top four in the Vezina voting five times, he never won one, nor did he win a Stanley Cup — something the selection committee has always valued in its goalie picks, with Ed Giacomin an exception.
Two undeniable stats-based claims for immortality in Tkachuk’s 538 goals, which are 32nd all time and has him surrounded by Hall of Famers, and Turgeon’s 1,327 points, which are also 32nd all time and more than Hall of Famers such as Peter Stastny (1,239) and Dino Ciccarelli (1,200) amassed. Still, one can’t help shake the notion that both players are quintessential “Hall of Very Good” examples, forever used to prove the comparative greatness of others.
40-1 The Field
Some interesting names fall short of our Hall of Fame odds, each with some level of fatal flaw to their candidacies.
Peter Bondra has the goals (503) but lacks the prestige. Dale Hunter has a unique blend of offense, defense and penalty minutes, but the Hall of Fame probably doesn’t want to open that can of injurious worms from the Turgeon hit. Steve Larmer was an ironman and has a numbers case back lacks the sizzle. Ditto for Pat Verbeek, despite being the “Little Ball of Hate.”
Oh, and then there’s Tim Thomas, who absolutely dominated his position for a span of five years and won two Vezinas and a Conn Smythe with the Boston Bruins and who actually has a legitimate case for the Hall of Fame, if longevity isn’t the ultimate measure. But we don’t even know if he has a phone in that bunker. So that could be a problem.
BEST GUESS FOR THE CLASS OF 2018
Brodeur, Alfredsson and one of those four defensemen at 10-to-1, with St. Louis waiting a year.