The 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class has been decided and joining the no-brainer, first-ballot Joe Sakic are Pavel Bure, Adam Oates and Mats Sundin. The biggest surprise of the nomination process, much to the chagrin of Red Wings Nation, was the omission of Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan is definitely Hall of Fame caliber and will certainly be voted in eventually so you have to wonder if this years neglect is a self-imposed Shanaban or if it’s continued sour grapes from the way Shanahan bullied his way out of playing for the Hartford Whalers franchise. Either way Shanny is going to have to wait at least a year before his 1354 regular season points and three Stanley Cup championships are heralded in the basement of Brookfield Place in Toronto.
Other first year eligible notables included Jeremy Roenick, Gary Roberts, Curtis Joseph and Claude “the Fraud” Lemieux. It’s no huge surprise to me that none of these guys had the collective support to make it in this year except of course Mats Sundin over Shanahan as a first-balloter. One extra thing to take into consideration, and what I expect tipped the scales for Sweden’s Sundin, is that this is the HOCKEY Hall of Fame and not the NHL Hall of Fame so therefore international experience and clout hold a little extra sway. Also the Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto and there’s no subtle coincidence that the honks voted in the long-time Maple Leaf Captain so quickly.
Bure and Oates made it out of the waiting line but some of the greats still waiting behind the velvet rope include Dave Andreychuk, Eric Lindros, Steve Larmer, Kevin Lowe, Tom Barrasso and Mike Richter. The most impressive of these stand byes is probably Dave Andreychuk who amassed an impressive 1338 points over 23 seasons in the NHL and topping it all of by helping Tampa Bay get a Stanley Cup Championship in 2004. I still maintain that because of the lockout Tampa was the 2-year reigning Stanley Cup Champion so therefore Dave actually has 2 (sort of) Stanley Cup victories. It also amazes me that Kevin Lowe who has more Stanley Cup rings than can fit on one hand is still not in the Hall and perhaps illustrates the bias against defensive defensemen as Lowe’s 431 career points aren’t blowing anyone away. He was a career +252 for goodness sakes though!
It’s not too surprising that it took a bit of a wait for Pavel Bure to make the Hall as he had a relatively short NHL career and never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals but he was an electric goal scorer who notched 437 goals in a mere 702 games also bagged one of the hottest model/”athletes” of his time in Anna Kournikova. She belongs on any Hall of Fame resume.
Adam Oates is famous for having perhaps the slickest pair of hands in the NHL and in his heyday averaged over an assist a game an impressively finished with 1079 assists in 1337 regular season games. Oates is another guy who never had his name etched on Lord Stanley’ cup but is having a hell of a week as he was not only inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week but was also named as the new Head Coach of the Washington Capitals.
A couple of other quick Hockey notes for the week: Another young Russian was at the head of the NHL Draft class as Edmonton continues to draft in the top spot and the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Sidney Crosby to a 12-year $104 million dollar deal. I realize that Sidney Crosby is perhaps the best player in the NHL when he is healthy but you’ve gotta wonder about this long-term contract after the horrendous concussion history Crosby has. You’ve got to look no farther than the Boston Bruin’s Marc Savard and Nathan Horton to see how quickly serious concussions can derail a talented players career. If this also means that the Penguins are considering parting ways with Evgeni Malkin, perhaps the second best player in the NHL, as John Buccigross has suggested then I think the Penguins are betting on the wrong horse face of the franchise or no.
Just for the record: In my first round playoff preview I only predicted half of the games correctly and got one series exactly correct (Phoenix in 6). There also will be no repeat of last year’s Stanley cup Finals as both Vancouver and Boston were eliminated.
Phoenix Coyotes (#3) vs. Nashville Predators (#4)
By taking care of business versus Chicago the Coyotes advance into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and the first time since moving to the desert. The first five games of their series against the Black Hawks went into overtime, an NHL first, and youngster Mikkel Boedeker got back-to-back game winning goals. With Hanzl and Vrbata battling some injuries and Shane Doan skating his way out of quality scoring chances they had to rely on the likes of newcomer Antoine Vermette to put the puck in the net. What most people will remember from this series however is the head shot Raffi Torres laid on Marion Hossa that garnered him a hefty 25-game suspension. Nashville, on the other hand, took out Phoenix’s greatest playoff kryptonite in the Red Wings. Detroit just didn’t have that killer instinct this year and Nashville was able to grind away a series victory bolstered by the strong play in net by Pekka Rinne. Rinne and Phoenix’s Mike Smith were both brilliant in the first round posting identical 1.81 GAA albeit with Smith appearing in an extra game. This should be a really good grind it out series that probably no one will watch. Phoenix and Nashville aren’t exactly hockey hubs and certainly won’t attract the casual fan. With goaltending being even I give Phoenix the slight edge in offense and nastiness.
Prediction: Phoenix in 7 with at least four overtimes.
Just a couple quick notes before we get to the match ups:
To check out my feelings on the Eastern Conference playoffs go here.
Last night was the NHL Draft Lottery and the Edmonton Oilers got the right to choose #1 overall for the third year in a row. The poor Columbus Blue Jackets can’t even win a lottery at 88% odds… at least the have the All-Star game next year.
Vancouver Canucks (51-22-9) vs. Los Angeles Kings (40-27-15)
Yawn! The Vancouver Canucks again dominate the regular season garnering the best overall record in the NHL and will soon enough be Canadian residents only rooting interest in the playoffs. Daniel Sedin, the Canucks leading goalscorer, has been sidelined with a concussion since March 21st. He has been skating lately so it is still to be determined whether or not Wonder-Twin Powers will be activated anytime soon in Vancouver. The bigger controversy in Vancouver surrounds goaltending. Roberto Luongo is notoriously soft in pressure situations and his backup Corey Schneider has been seeing a larger load this year and dominating in that role. It will be interesting to see how long a leash the Canucks apply to Luongo or even if they have enough cajones to start Schneider outright. Either way, I still think Vancouver has enough guns and talent to get by the Kings in the first round. As short as a week ago LA was sitting in control of the 3rd playoff spot but after a wild and wooly finish to the season LA has been leapfrogged by San Jose and Phoenix to be left with the unhappy task of facing the Canucks in the first round. At least they’re in for a short flight home and LA residents can refocus on the Lakers.
The NHL Board of Governors officially approved league re-alignment earlier this month paring the current six divisions down to four larger ones based more closely on the geographic location of the teams. The new-look NHL will include two eight-team “Western Conference” divisions and two seven-team “Eastern Conference” divisions breaking down as follows:
The “Wild Wild West” Division:Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
The “Middle America” Division:Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
The “Northeast and Florida”Division:Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
The “Subway” Division:Carolina, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.
Essentially this re-alignment was made to appease bitchy fans of Detroit, Dallas and Columbus who incessantly complain about staying up late to watch games that are out of their time zone. While the travel schedules will indeed be more appealing to the teams, they will nonetheless be punished with visits to lovely Winnipeg 2-3 times a year. The unbalanced divisions does give some legs to the rumors that Commandant Bettman will finally allow the Coyotes to leave Phoenix though. If the Yotes moved to Quebec City it would re-balance the “East”, but imagine the confusion a new Nordiques franchise could impose on a casual Hockey fan…