Induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame is the highest honor an NHL player can achieve, but for many, it is elusive. Unlike baseball, which has some clear statistical thresholds that virtually guarantee a trip to Cooperstown, hockey’s standards for induction seem to be much more subjective. Stanley Cups carry significant weight, as do individual trophies. But silverware isn’t the end-all, be-all. Statistics matter, but how much they matter seems to be a sliding scale.
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That milieu of hard-to-pin-down factors, plus the limited number (four) of inductions per year, make the Hockey Hall of Fame one of the most difficult honors to achieve in any sport. And that means that over time, quite a few deserving (or at least arguably deserving) players have ended up on the outside looking in. And in this article, we’ll discuss three of those players who spent a significant portion of their career with the St. Louis Blues.
The first overall pick in 1987, Pierre Turgeon certainly lived up to the expectations set for him before he reached the NHL. He carried on the proud “French Connection” history of the Buffalo Sabres, before joining the New York Islanders and later the Montreal Canadiens. But it was a 1996 trade (widely considered one of the worst in Canadiens history) that brought him to the Blues, the team with which he would play the most games in his career.
In St. Louis, Turgeon would play 327 games and record 355 points. He moved on to the Dallas Stars to finish his career, just a few years after the franchise won the Stanley Cup. All told, the former first-overall pick played 1,294 games and scored 1,327 points, 515 of them goals. He is one of just 36 players to surpass 1,300 points and one of the 46 players in the elite 500-goal club that Steven Stamkos just joined. He won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1992-93 and was constantly a contender for the sportsmanship honor throughout his career. But other individual trophies and the Stanley Cup eluded him.
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Turgeon is one of many players whose notoriety suffered by playing alongside Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. And the lack of team or individual achievement is a telling reminder that he wasn’t the best player of his generation. But he was a phenomenal player. With 1.026 points per game, he sits just inside the top 50 most prolific scorers in history. To put up that many points and goals over that long a career should be enough to earn serious Hall of Fame consideration. But the dearth of silverware and the journeyman career with many different teams may continue to keep him out of Toronto.
These days, the name Tkacuk is more synonymous with Keith’s sons, Matthew and Brady. But they have a long way to go before they match the career of their father, already a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. Drafted 19th overall in the 1990 Draft, the elder Tkachuk spent most of his career with the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes and the Blues (as well as 19 games with the Atlanta Thrashers). He was a two-time All-Star, but never collected individual awards, and the Stanley Cup eluded him throughout his career. Still, by the time he retired, he had played 1,201 games, with 538 goals and 1,065 points, along with 2,219 penalty minutes.
The final captain of the first era of the Jets, and the inaugural captain of the Arizona Coyotes, Tkachuk was a leader on the ice throughout his career. Affectionately known as “Big Walt,” he is one of the greatest ever American hockey players. He ranks 33rd in all-time goals and is one of just three players (along with Brendan Shanahan and Pat Verbeek) with over 500 goals and over 2,000 penalty minutes. His number 7 is honored by both the Coyotes and the Blues.
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There are plenty of reasons he should be in contention, but, like Turgeon, the individual honors eluded him during his playing career. Still, Tkachuk has one major advantage: while one’s progeny shouldn’t be a qualification for induction, the high level of play expected from both Brady and Matthew will keep Keith at the forefront of hockey’s consciousness for many years to come. Over time, his candidacy will be evaluated again and again, and he should eventually get in.
Jay Bouwmeester was a sensational player in his career, but as a defensive defenseman, the case for his candidacy is difficult to make statistically. He played an impressive 1,240 games before a cardiac event brought a sudden end to his career. Drafted third overall in 2002 by the Florida Panthers, he played for the Panthers, the Calgary Flames, and the Blues, and he maintained a reputation for being a top defensive defenseman throughout his career, as well as an elite skater. He also had the ninth-longest iron man streak in NHL history, playing 737 consecutive games from March 6, 2004 to Nov. 22, 2014.
Without points to prove his case, Bouwmeester’s candidacy rests on three main arguments: first, he was a top pick and a high-end defender throughout his career. But that alone doesn’t get one into the Hall of Fame. Second, he alone among these three candidates won a Stanley Cup. More importantly, he played a critical shutdown role for the Blues alongside Colton Parayko during that Cup run. Without Bouwmeester, it’s inconceivable that the Blues could have won that Cup.
The third and most important accomplishment that points Bouwmeester towards the Hall of Fame is his membership in an exclusive club. By securing the Stanley Cup, Bouwmeester became the 29th and the most recent member of hockey’s Triple Gold Club. The Triple Gold Club is an exclusive group of players who have won a World Junior Championship gold medal, an Olympic gold medal, and a Stanley Cup. Of the active players to have accomplished the feat, most are dyed-in-the-wool Hall of Famers, and no one is without a strong argument for induction.
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Bouwmeester will have a mountain to overcome without counting stats. But voters should keep in mind the abrupt end to his career as well. He is currently tied for 100th in NHL games played but might have climbed much higher with good health. His candidacy depends entirely on how much voters will value defense and championships, but he was a terrific player for a very long time.
Hall of Famers in the Making?
The Blues have had many good players throughout their franchise history. But are any players on the current roster potential Hall of Fame inductees? Ryan O’Reilly has a Selke Trophy and a Conn Smythe to his name, Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the most potent scorers of his generation, and Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou seem like they might be at the beginning of superstar careers. Who do you think will be the next Blue or former Blue to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame? Let us know in the comments.