The Draft is always an extremely exciting time in the hockey world at the end of June. It’s the first thing to get excited about once the season ends and represents the highlight of the season for the teams picking at the top.
Then there’s July 1, aka the Free Agent Frenzy. The free agent crop this year doesn’t look as strong as some others, but it’s still a very notable time of the offseason. Teams can start speaking with pending free agents starting on June 25 as a part of the newly created “courting period.”
Lost in the fray of this excitement is the annual announcement of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s inductions for that year. This year’s announcement will be made next week, and this year’s list of first time eligible players is a strong one.
The Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its 2015 inductees next Monday at 4 p.m. Who you got?
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 22, 2015
A maximum of four players (along with two builders and one on-ice official) can be inducted each year, and here are my picks for the four players to be selected.
This one is by far the biggest no-brainer of the group. Lidstrom is a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and has a very good argument to be regarded as one of the top five defenseman of all-time. He’s behind Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey, but his resume stacks up right alongside Eddie Shore and Ray Bourque.
His resume speaks for itself, but here are a few of his most notable accomplishments: 7-time Norris Trophy Winner (13 times in the top five), 4-time Stanley Cup Champion, 10-time 1st Team All Star, 2-time 2nd Team All Star, 2002 Conn Smythe Trophy Winner, and finished in the top five of points among defensemen 14 times.
Internationally, Lidstrom is a 2006 Olympic Gold Medalist, Triple Gold Club Member, IIHF Hall of Famer, and was the first European Captain of a Stanley Cup Champion. I’ll eat my shoe if Lidstrom’s not inducted.
Yes, despite the fact that Pronger hasn’t retired and is still under contract with the Flyers for another two years, he is eligible for induction this year. It will be a first in HHOF history when Pronger is inducted because he, along with Lidstrom, is a lock to be a first ballot inductee.
Few players in recent memory have been as hated as Pronger, and even fewer have been as good. He carried three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final, winning one with the Ducks in 2007. His resume also includes: two Olympic Gold Medals, finishing in the top five of Norris Trophy voting seven times, 1-time 1st Team All Star, 3-time 2nd Team All Star, and one thing that even Nicklas Lidstrom cannot claim.
Pronger is one of eight defensemen in hockey history to win the Hart Trophy, and is the only defenseman to do it in the past 43 years (since Bobby Orr). He played with tremendous physicality, intelligence, and the innate ability to frustrate the hell out of his opponents and their fans.
He could slow the game down to his level and dictate the pace of play while playing nearly half the entire game. He will most likely be inducted as a St. Louis Blue.
If you were to build a perfect hockey player, Sergei Fedorov’s skating abilities and intelligence would be near the top of the wish list for traits. Fedorov was a “beautiful” player to watch in that he made things look effortless. He was one of the greatest skaters the game has ever seen and could dominate the game in a number of ways.
He possessed dazzling offensive moves as the driving force of the “Russian Five” unit the Red Wings used in the 1990s. Along with Slava Kozlov, Igor Larionov, Slava Fetisov, and Vladimir Konstantinov, the unit was regularly deployed on the ice together and dominated because of their chemistry and training in the Soviet style of hockey.
His intelligence allowed him to be a supreme defensive player that was rarely ever caught out of position. His attention to detail in his own zone won him two Selke Trophies, and he is one of eight players in history to win the award twice. Offensively, he finished in the top 10 in points twice, but would have had many more elite finishes had he not paid so much attention to his defensive responsibilities.
Fedorov won three Stanley Cups, led the 1995 Playoffs in points, won the 1994 Hart Trophy (one of three Russians to do so), and won nine total Olympic, World Championship, World Junior, and World Cup of Hockey medals. His 1,179 career points put him at 49th all-time.
He played for three other teams at the end of his career, but will undoubtedly be inducted as a Red Wing.
While Lidstrom, Pronger, and Fedorov are in their first year of eligibility, Recchi is in his second year. There are a number of other eligible players that deserve induction, but Recchi sticks out as being the most deserving. While he may not have peaked as high as others, his combination of strong peak and incredible longevity make him a worthy candidate.
He stands at 20th, 14th, and 12th all-time in goals, assists, and points, respectively. He also has the most assists and points of all players who have not been inducted into the Hall. In terms of peak, he finished in the top 10 in points on four different occasions. He was named to the 2nd All-Star team in 1991, won three Stanley Cups (with the first and last being separated by 20 years), and played in seven All Star games.
Recchi played for seven different teams in his career, but played the most games and scored the most points for the Flyers, so it’s likely he’ll be enshrined as a Flyer.