Hockey Hall of Fame Debates: Paul Kariya

This week we’re debating the merits of players who may have been overlooked for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Using the Hall’s criteria of judging a player based on their “playing ability, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her team or teams and to the game of hockey in general” we will debate who should be up next for inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Now we talk about Paul Kariya.

Ranking Kariya:

  • 402 goals (90th all-time)
  • 587 assists (86th all-time)
  • 989 points (84th all-time)
  • 139 power play goals (59th all-time)
  • 17 short-handed goals (94th all-time)
  • 53 game-winning goals (53rd all-time)
  • 0.406 goals per game (96th all-time)
  • 1 point per game (52nd all-time)

Why He Should Get In:

Kariya, who played in seven All-Star Games, averaged a point per game throughout his career. He was one of the most respected sportsmen of his day and was well-decorated individually, including being named a First Team All-Star three times and a Second Team All-Star twice.

While he never lifted the Stanley Cup, he did win the Lady Byng Trophy twice, in consecutive years, and was a runner-up for the Hart Trophy in 1997, a year where he led the league in game-winning goals and shots.

Prior to his slower late years, he played nine seasons for the Mighty Ducks — seven of which he served as captain — averaging 1.1 points per game, which is an impressive feat during the dead puck era.

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Non-NHL Accomplishments:

Kariya had a great career outside the NHL, with major accolades starting in college. Not only was he the last true freshman to win the Hobey Baker before Jack Eichel won it in 2015, he heaped on the awards that year. He lead the University of Maine to a National Championship, grabbing honors including All-Tournament Team, Hockey East All-Academic Team, Hockey East All-Rookie Team, Hockey East First Team All-Star, and Hockey East Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

That same year he helped Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships and was named to the tournament All-Star Team.

After that he grabbed an Olympic silver in 1994, a gold medal at the World Championships in 1994, and a gold medal in the 2002 Olympics. In the 19994 World Championships he was named the tournament’s Best Forward and was on the tournament All-Star Team.

Even before his time in the NCAA he had a reputation as being a great person and player, earning Most Sportsmanlike Player and Most Valuable Player in the BCHL two years in a row, surely a part of the reason he was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

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Why He Shouldn’t Get In:

A lot of the case against Kariya rests on how short his career was, but that shouldn’t be a factor with Cam Neely (726 games), Peter Forsberg (708 games) and Pavel Bure (702 games) all finding their way into the Hall, each playing fewer games than Kariya. There’s little doubt that he would have continued on and posted bigger numbers if it was not for concussions cutting short a fabulous career.

He doesn’t have a Stanley Cup ring, a team honor that is weighted heavily in voting. But his international accolades and many individual honors may outweigh that. If he had managed to get the Hart in ’97, he’d be a sure thing. If a player is that close, it seems like splitting hairs to keep him out, even if Anaheim has yet to retire his number.

Verdict:

He’s not a knock out inclusion. But the case against him all has its counterweights and it seems like he should find his way in within the next four years. It may be tough in years that are tight with a couple first or second ballot inductions, but the 2016-17 class doesn’t have a sure-thing first balloter and that could open the door for Kariya. The guy hit 50 goals once, crossed 30 goals seven times and broke 100 points twice. Kariya has to be on voters minds and deserves to get in there eventually.

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RELATED: 7 Hockey Hall of Fame Snubs to Rectify

More Hall of Fame Debates:

Dave Andreychuk
Curtis Joseph
Steve Larmer
Eric Lindros
Sergei Makarov
Alexander Mogilny
Jeremy Roenick