Friday, April 23, 2021

Mailbag: Is Marleau a HHOF lock? Plus changing playoff history, banning coaches and more

Welcome back to the mailbag. It’s been a record-breaking week in the NHL and we’re all starting to shift into playoff mode, so let’s argue about some old guys, change some NHL history, laugh at the Canadian teams, and cover other vitally important topics.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and style.

With Patrick Marleau breaking Gordie Howe’s games played record, does that make him a lock for the Hall of Fame? He has always been a “Hall of Very Good” player in my mind, but that is a HUGE record to break and it seems strange not to induct the holder of a record like that into the HOF. – Andy S.

I love Hall of Fame debates. We did a bunch on the Puck Soup bonus this week, and I’d do them every week if I could. And Marleau’s a good one, so let’s get into it.

The case for is pretty straightforward. He’s about to hit 1,200 career points, and only a handful of guys who’ve crossed that barrier didn’t make the Hall. More impressively, if you adjust for era he ranks 29th all-time, and every single eligible player ahead of him is in. Now that he’s broken Howe’s record and mixing in the fact that everyone in the hockey world loves the guy, he’s an easy yes.

Except… he never won an award and was never a post-season all-star. He never even came close; in 23 seasons, he’s had just two years where he even finished higher than tenth in all-star voting. He was never in the “best at this position” conversation, and rarely even considered the best player on his own team. Instead, he was a classic compiler, the kind of guy who never feels like a generational star but hangs around long enough to rack up numbers.

Your view on Marleau in the HHOF is going to align closely with your view on what the Hall should be. If you’re a small Hall type of fan, he’s a no. If you’re a little more forgiving, you can find a spot for him. Personally, I lean to the small side of the argument, and I don’t think I’d have him on my ballot, even with the games record. But as I’ve said with guys like Dave Andreychuk and Mark Recchi, sometimes a compiler hangs around long enough and the numbers get so big that you have to give them a look. And in a physical game like hockey, sticking around is a skill worth recognizing. If you have him on your ballot, I get it.

I strongly suspect that this is all moot, because he’s going to get in, and probably on the first ballot. He’s too well-liked, and the games record is a big point in his favor. But Eric Duhatschek didn’t sound so sure, and he knows a little bit about how the Hall voters think. We’ll see, but if you’re a hard no on Marleau, you may as well start preparing yourself now, because I think he gets in.

Who would be better: Gordie Howe on a modern team, or Patrick Marleau in Howe’s era? – Shaun R.

I see what you’re doing here. You’re trying to take my longstanding “anyone from today’s NHL would dominate anything from the 1980s back” and flip it around to make me say something bad about Canadian icon Gordie Howe. It won’t work.

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