There’s a conversation about the Chicago Blackhawks that seems to repeat itself as their playoff run rolls on. It goes something like this: Somebody wonders out loud how many future Hall of Famers are on the roster. Someone else immediately rattles off the names of the team’s big three — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. And someone else points out that head coach Joel Quenneville will be an obvious choice.
Then there’s a pause, the question hangs in the air for a bit, and finally someone hesitantly adds “ … and maybe Marian Hossa?”
At 36, Hossa has spent this latest playoff run doing what Hossa does: a little bit of everything, often quietly, and usually from just outside the spotlight. Last night he had an assist on Toews’s opening goal, giving him four points in the series. With the Hawks now deploying him on a line with Toews and Patrick Sharp, he figures to be a key figure over the second half of the series.
He also makes for the subject of an interesting HOF debate. My experience has been that people say it’s a relatively easy call — they just can’t agree on the call. To some, he’s a slam dunk. To others, he’s a respected player who falls solidly into the “Hall of Very Good” but just doesn’t have the résumé to deserve more than that.
So as Hossa makes what by now has become his near-annual appearance in the Stanley Cup final, it’s fair to ask: Are we watching a future Hall of Famer? Let’s walk through the pros and cons.
Hossa crossed the 1,000-point mark early in the season, and with 486 goals he should get to 500 next year. Those tend to be the big milestones for HOF candidates, at least among forwards, so by crossing them Hossa guarantees himself a spot in the discussion.
But that’s about all it guarantees, because those milestones don’t carry the same weight that they once did. There are plenty of guys in the 500/1,000 club whose HOF candidacy never gained serious traction. That includes players like Pierre Turgeon (515/1,327), Pat Verbeek (522/1,063), Keith Tkachuk (538/1,065), and, for reasons that nobody has ever fully explained, Dave Andreychuk (640/1,338). Jeremy Roenick (513/1,216) hasn’t been inducted and looks like he may never be, and even Mark Recchi (577/1,533) didn’t get in on the first try, although virtually everyone agrees he will eventually. So Hossa’s number are good, but they’re well short of making him any kind of a sure thing.
Of course, unlike all those guys mentioned above, Hossa played his entire career in the dead puck era. But even on an era-adjusted basis, he’s still trailing Roenick and Turgeon, and he’s miles behind Andreychuk and Recchi.
On the other hand, all those numbers are for the regular season only — mix in his 143 career playoff points, second only to Jaromir Jagr among active players, and Hossa gets a boost.
This may be the strongest argument for the “good but not great” side of the debate. Hossa has never won a major award and was a finalist only once (for the Calder as Rookie of the Year in 1999; he came in second to Chris Drury). He has one postseason All-Star selection, making the second team in 2009. And that’s pretty much it. His best finish in Hart Trophy voting for MVP was 10th; his only other top-five finishes for any award came for the Lady Byng in 2003 and the Selke last year.
He did appear in five All-Star Games, which isn’t bad in a league where that game is often wiped out by lockouts and Olympics. But the lack of any significant hardware, or even all that many near misses, paints a picture of a very good player who was never in the conversation as being among the league’s best.