Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Debating the Hall of Fame cases of Brad Marchand, Jonathan Quick, Jason Spezza and others

It’s Hall-of-Fame induction week, as the class of 2020 finally gets their moment in the spotlight after a year of COVID delays. It’s a strong class, with Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kim St-Pierre, Doug Wilson and Kevin Lowe joining builder Ken Holland.

Great, who’s next?

That’s the fun part of having a Hall-of-Fame. Sure, it’s nice to honor the game’s greats. But what we really want to do is argue over the players who might make it some day. And that’s especially fun when it comes to the guys who are still active, since there’s still time for them to flip the script and make us all look bad. Plus I’m always fascinated by the players that you guys think are easy calls, since there are always one or two where the public consensus seems way off from what my ballot would look like.

We’ve done this a few times in recent years. We argued about Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Getzlaf, Phil Kessel, Patrick Marleau, Shea Weber and Marc-Andre Fleury in this post, then tackled Brent Burns, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter, Justin Williams and Claude Giroux in this one.

Some of those guys are still a tough call, but we won’t revisit any of their cases today. Instead, let’s find a half-dozen new names to debate. We’re looking for players who are already over 30 and still active in the NHL. A few of these guys are names that readers bring up often, while others are ones I go back and forth on.

Eric Staal

Why it’s a tough one: We’re cheating a bit here because while Staal hasn’t retired, he’s not currently on a team so his “active” status is a little fuzzy. He still wants to play, but his current lack of a job makes this debate a bit easier, since it’s safe to assume that his career numbers won’t change much. And those numbers, as we’ll see, are right on the borderline.

The case for: The typical HHOF case comes down to two categories: How good was the player at their peak, and did they stick around long enough to hit major career milestones. Staal checks both boxes; he hit the 100-point mark in a breakout 2005-06 season that ended with him leading the playoffs in scoring on the way to a Stanley Cup, then stuck around as a consistent producer longer enough to join the 1,000-point club in an era where that’s tough to do.

The case against: Apart from that one big year, Staal never really had a dominant season. He was a second-team all-star in 2006, but that was the only year he earned any kind of award, and his fourth-place finish in Hart voting that year was his only top-ten season. We’ve seen guys make the Hall with a similar lack of awards recognition, including Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, and even Marian Hossa this year. But those guys all racked up bigger career totals, while Staal barely inching past 1,000 points shouldn’t be enough.

Worth remembering: Staal ranks seventh among active scorers today, and the guys ahead of him are five slam-dunk HHOFers and Patrick Marleau, who’s also probably getting in.

Should he get in? Barring a comeback and late-career renascence, I wouldn’t have him on my ballot.

Will he get in? I don’t think it’s out of the question, especially with the Hall’s recent habit of going off the board on a pick most years. But I’m filing it under unlikely. He just needed another big year or two that never came.

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