When Marian Hossa announced this week he would have to sit out the 2017-18 season because of allergies to his equipment – a sabbatical all but certain to become a retirement when it makes salary-cap sense – the revelation was accompanied by widespread agreement that Hossa would be a Hockey Hall of Fame lock when he becomes eligible for induction a few years down the road.
There’s no argument about that, but it does raise an interesting question: If Hossa’s a shoo-in, why has Rod Brind’Amour been passed over four times? If that’s where the bar is set, Brind’Amour should be in as well.
The Hockey Hall of Fame’s 18-member selection committee will vote on its newest class of inductees Monday afternoon – a maximum of four male players – and other than first-ballot cinch Teemu Selanne, there aren’t a lot of sure things in this group. After a few years where the selection committee (which includes former Brind’Amour teammate and current Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis) has had mostly easy decisions to make, this is the second time in a row where the committee has a chance to right a few wrongs and fill in a gap or two.
Eric Lindros got in last year after six years of waiting. Brind’Amour, the former Hurricanes captain and current assistant coach who has been passed over four times, is in a group with Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Paul Kariya and deserving others still hoping for the call.
(Like Recchi, Tom Barrasso is another player with Hurricanes connections who probably should be considered for the Hall of Fame based on his accomplishments – an absolute trend-setter among American goalies – but has fallen off the selection radar. Jim Rutherford’s call, as a builder, a separate category, is just a matter of time now.)
Brind’Amour is clearly a better candidate than inductees Clark Gillies and Bernie Federko, the Hall’s two obvious errors in this generation, but clearing the lowest bar is a lousy way to gate-keep the Hall of Fame. The coincidence of Hossa’s sabbatical/retirement is probably a better barometer of why Brind’Amour should be in.
Hossa gets credit for being a far better offensive player than Brind’Amour, but their raw numbers aren’t all that different over the course of their careers: 1,309 games for Hossa, 1,484 for Brind’Amour; 525 goals for Hossa, 452 for Brind’Amour; 609 assists for Hossa, 732 for Brind’Amour; 1,134 points for Hossa, 1,184 for Brind’Amour. Their playoff numbers, on a per-game basis, are also roughly equivalent.
Hossa also gets apocryphal plaudits for his two-way play, but Brind’Amour is a two-time Selke Trophy winner, fitting recognition for a player who was the premier defensive forward in the game for a number of years.
Then there’s the matter of leadership. Hossa won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks and played in five finals but was never the most important player on those teams. Brind’Amour, who won one Cup and played in three finals, still doesn’t get the credit around the NHL he deserves for his impeccable captaincy in 2006. (Would winning the Conn Smythe that season make Brind’Amour appear a better Hall of Fame candidate now?)
Even if Hossa is a Hall-of-Famer based on gut feeling alone, is the gap to Brind’Amour really that far?
Beyond Selanne, this year’s induction class is wide open. Someone from the pool of passed-over candidates – Andreychuk, Brind’Amour, Kariya, Recchi – is likely to get enough votes. Hossa’s call will come, perhaps as soon as 2020. If Brind’Amour’s is ever going to come, it’s probably going to be Monday.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, email@example.com, @LukeDeCock