From their days together as roommates at boarding school in Saskatchewan to winning a Memorial Cup together in Rimouski to a Stanley Cup in Tampa and signing contracts later in their careers that didn’t quite work out as well as everyone had hoped, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier have had almost parallel tracks when it comes to their hockey careers.
So it is only fitting that they would retire from the NHL in the same year and maybe, just maybe, enter the Hall of Fame together in the fall of 2019. The call on both players will be a vexing decision for the Hall of Fame selection committee. To be sure, there are players who are inferior to both Richards and Lecavalier and accomplished less in the NHL than they did who are in, but induction into the Hall seems to be something of a moving target that is unpredictable.
Richards and Lecavalier had very good NHL careers. But were they truly great, Hall of Fame careers? It’s debatable, which makes things really interesting. Let’s take a look at both players:
All the talk of decreased goal scoring over the past 10 NHL seasons is very much warranted, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some impressive individual scoring performances.
When looking at the top 10 scorers of the past 10 seasons, it’s no surprise to see Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin at the top of the list. The two have gone head-to-head for almost every major award in that span and have become the faces of the league.
The rest of the list is a who’s-who of the league’s best, most consistent players. Here are the top scorers since the 2006-07 season.
10. Anze Kopitar, Kings: 243 goals, 441 assists, 684 points in 764 games.
The Kings’ star center has been a model of consistency since breaking into the league in 2006-07. He has six 70+ point seasons and two 30-goal seasons.
BUFFALO – If you thought Dougie Hamilton getting traded at the draft last year was a monumental event, how would you react if P.K. Subban were moved by the Montreal Canadiens? That is not to say it will happen at the draft tomorrow, or ever, but if you’re a ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ kind of person, you’d have to think this story is getting some serious legs.
Because there’s smoke. Lots of it. Like more than there is when all the kids decide to hotbox after the prom. There has been chatter for sometime about the possibility of Subban getting dealt, and Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning did nothing to quell the wildfire when he told Matt Sekeres and Blake Price of TSN 1040 in Vancouver when asked whether he has called Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin about Subban, “Yeah. I think there’s a lot of teams that have reached out to find out what it would take to try to complete a deal of that magnitude. We’ve been one of the teams that have talked to them, but we haven’t gone down the path to make belief that’s something that’s going to be real or not.”
Everyone agrees, Patrick Kane was the best player in the NHL in 2015-16. The Blackhawks star cleaned up at the annual NHL Awards taking home both most-valuable-player awards among his three trophies.
Kane was the runaway winner of the most prestigious award, the Hart Trophy, earning 121 first-place votes from media voters. Runner up Sidney Crosby earned 11 first-place votes. Kane also won the Ted Lindsay Award for the most valuable player as voted by fellow players.
Kane also was the Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s leading scorer. He finished the season with a career high 46 goals and 60 assists and was 17 points clear of second-leading scorer Jamie Benn.
The NHL hands out its annual awards Wednesday. It will crown hockey’s most valuable player, best all-around defenseman, best goaltender, best defensive forward and more. But a few honors slip through the cracks. We never see the best defensive defenseman acknowledged, nor the best penalty killer, nor the toughest player. Heck, there’s no official award for the actual best player, even if the Hart Trophy has essentially become that.
So we at THN take it upon ourselves to fill the gaps with our annual awards. We still cover off the staples, but we add in a few custom virtual trophies. The 2015-16 results are in. Our system only factors in regular season play. We awarded five points for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, three for a third-place vote, two for a fourth-place vote and one for a fifth-place vote.
Sidney Crosby captured his first Conn Smythe on Sunday night, earning the nod from media voters in a tough field that hadn’t produced a clear cut favorite. Plenty of fans thought the voters got it right. But others were disappointed, with many of those feeling the honor should have gone to Phil Kessel.
It’s not hard to see why. Kessel is a divisive player (especially among fans of his former teams), but when viewed from a certain angle he makes for a fantastic story. And more importantly, he was the Penguins leading scorer in the playoffs, finishing three points up on Crosby. And that made his Conn Smythe loss to Crosby an unusual one, at least in terms of recent NHL history.
But simply leading a team in scoring is no guarantee of Conn Smythe glory, nor should it be, and the award has a long history of debatable decisions. So today, let’s look back at some of the other cases in NHL history in which a Cup winner’s leading scorer was snubbed by the voters. We’ll ignore the (many) times where a leading scorer was passed over for a defenseman or goaltender, since that tends to be an apples and oranges case. Instead, we’ll focus on cases that fit the Kessel/Crosby pattern, where a team’s leading scorer was passed over for another forward.
As we’ll find out, it turns out that Kessel and Crosby are in good company. Here are five forwards who skated away with the Conn Smythe despite finishing well back of one or more teammates in the scoring race.
SAN JOSE – Perhaps Sidney Crosby will never score 100 points ever again. Then again, maybe he will. If you go by analytics, logic states that his numbers should begin declining at some point pretty soon. But he proved in the Stanley Cup final, and by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, that he’s about so much more than numbers.
“I think Sidney Crosby’s best hockey is ahead of him,” said Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin.
Whoa there, cowboy. Best hockey ahead of him? Two Stanley Cups, two scoring championships, two Hart Trophies, a Conn Smythe, five 100-point seasons, two Olympic gold medals and a space waiting for his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame and his best hockey is still ahead of him? Well, if you consider that Crosby has essentially turned himself into a Selke Trophy candidate and that he’s altered his entire game a la Steve Yzerman, perhaps that’s not as outlandish as it sounds.
SAN JOSE – Things got so bad for Justin Schultz that he had to set up a fake Twitter account to keep up with the news of the day and read links to stories that interested him. That’s because his real Twitter account was so filled with vitriol and hate that he couldn’t stand looking at it.
So when a player tells you that he doesn’t read anything that’s written about him or that he’s impervious to the criticism, it isn’t always true. Some players can dismiss it, but others take it to heart. One win away from winning the Stanley Cup, Schultz can laugh about it now. But when he played with the Edmonton Oilers, he was hardly living the dream he’d spent so much of his life anticipating.
“It’s not a lot of fun getting booed in front of your home fans,” Schultz said. “It’s pretty tough to enjoy yourself when that’s happening.”