In my last blog, I covered off candidates for the 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class. In summary, I said Joe Nieuwendyk is the best first-time eligible (three years retired) player while Eric Lindros and John LeClair are bubble candidates.
It’s my opinion only Nieuwendyk will make it on the first ballot, but there are 20 other holdovers from previous years to consider, most notably Pavel Bure and Guy Carbonneau.
My list of 20 holdovers included players retired in the past decade or so, the reasoning being if they haven’t been approved after this long of a wait, chances are they won’t now.
My esteemed colleague, video producer Ted Cooper, was the first to step to the plate and make a case for goalie Rogie Vachon. Cooper wasn’t necessarily pounding the table claiming Vachon absolutely deserves to be in the Hall. But he did make the valid point that at the very least Rogie should receive consideration.
My response to that was, yes, you have a point, but Vachon retired in 1982 and was first-time Hall eligible in 1985. That means 2009 marks the 25th year Vachon has been either turned down by the Hall’s selection committee or simply not considered.
Then Cooper got a little testy. He soon emailed me these statistics, comparing Vachon favorably to bonafide Hall of Famers:
Rogie Vachon: GP 795, W 355, L 291, T 127, GAA 2.99, 3 Cups
Gerry Cheevers: GP 609, W 289, L 209, T 96, GAA 2.87, 2 Cups
Ken Dryden: GP 397, W 258, L 57, T 74, GAA 2.24, 6 Cups
Eddie Giacomin: GP 609, W 289, L 209, T 96, GAA 2.87, no Cups
Tony Esposito: GP 886, W 423, L 306, T 151, GAA 2.92, 1 Cup
Gump Worsley: GP 861, W 335, L 352, T 150, GAA 2.88, 4 Cups
Cooper added Vachon won the Vezina and was star of Canada’s victory in the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup tournament. To fuel the fire, I asked Cooper to look at their shutout numbers and compare his stats to Lorne Chabot, generally regarded with Vachon as the two best goalies not in the Hall. Those stats might be telling.
Rogie Vachon: GP 795, W 355, L 291, T 127, GAA 2.99
Lorne Chabot: GP 411 W 201 L 148 T 62 GAA 2.04, 2 Cups
Tony Esposito: 76
Lorne Chabot: 73
Eddie Giacomin: 54
Rogie Vachon: 51
Ken Dryden: 46
Gump Worsley: 43
Gerry Cheevers: 26
Cooper clearly has a case that Vachon should be strongly considered. There was even an aggressive pro-Vachon marketing campaign afoot in the 1990s to get him inducted. Hasn’t worked, for whatever reason.
Members of the Hall of Fame selection committee aren’t permitted to talk about their reasoning or reason about their talkings, so this is speculation on my part.
One reason Vachon may have been rebuffed all these years is because he had the misfortune of entering the NHL in 1966-67, when the league expanded from six teams to 12. A dozen minor league goalies (two per team) instantly became NHLers. Had the league not expanded when it did, would Vachon have received playing time in Montreal over Gump Worsley, who eventually moved on to Minnesota? Then Ken Dryden came along in 1971.
Vachon won three Cups with the Habs dynasty, then moved on to star for Los Angeles when Dryden came along. With that said, Vachon shouldn’t be penalized for playing in a watered-down NHL. A lot of Hall of Famers played in this era as well.
“To me, both Vachon and Chabot should be in,” Cooper said.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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