Comparing Sidney Crosby with other legends at age 27

Matt Larkin
Sidney Crosby

Happy birthday, Sid the Kid.

Hard to believe Sidney Crosby turned 27 Thursday. It feels like we were just watching him light it up with the Rimouski Oceanic and pop the water bottle behind Jose Theodore as an 18-year-old rookie.

Crosby is now squarely in his prime, probably approaching the latter half of it. He already has a Hall of Fame resume and a safe perch among the most talented to ever play the game. But how does he measure up to the generational talents with whom he’s often compared, the Gretzkys and Lemieuxs of the world? It doesn’t make much sense to weigh them against each other in sheer point production and volume – though Sid is no slouch, with the fourth-best points per game in NHL history – because they belong to different eras. But we can have fun looking at team accomplishments and individual hardware. Here’s a look at what Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin had done at the same point of their careers: the season in which they were 27 for Game 1 in October.

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Hall Monitor: Does Luongo’s trajectory have him making it?

Brian Costello
Columbus Blue Jackets v Florida Panthers

First things first, in the interests of full disclosure, I want to mention a little bet I have regarding Roberto Luongo.

Early in Luongo’s tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, I wagered with THN managing editor Edward Fraser that Luongo would at some point in his career win a Stanley Cup. Fraser didn’t like the cut of Luongo’s jib and took the career disappointment side.

When Luongo was among the top two or three goalies in the game and the Canucks were a powerhouse, the bet was looking good in my favor. But now…forget it. He ain’t winning the Cup. No biggie. The bet was for ice cream and Fraser is now a vegan so it’s a painless loss.

But is Luongo’s career on a trajectory that will lead him to the Hall of Fame? That’s a tricky one.

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Would a more open Hockey Hall of Fame include Eric Lindros?

Ken Campbell
Eric Lindros

I must admit that after the smoke rose from the chimney of the Hockey Hall of Fame where the conclave gathered Monday to choose the 2014 inductees, I was surprised at the amount of love that was being shown to Eric Lindros for not being among them.

This column will not debate the merits of Lindros as a Hall of Famer. I see him as a borderline candidate and would not have strong feelings one way or the other if/when he finds his way in. But far more fascinating were the machinations that revolved around the Lindros debate.

And almost none of them have anything to do with his performance on the ice. There are those who truly believe Lindros is being punished for his off-ice comportment over the course of his career – spurning the Soo Greyhounds in junior hockey and the Quebec Nordiques in 1991 and engineering a trade to the Philadelphia Flyers, having a mother and father (who later became his agent) having an enormous amount of influence during his career and generally being a player who didn’t sit down, shut up and play by the rules. Read more

Why Dominik Hasek is the greatest goaltender ever

Matt Larkin
Hasek Sabres

It was no surprise when the Hall of Fame announced Dominik Hasek as one of its six new members Monday. Learning Hasek was chosen in his first year of eligibility was a mere formality, as he belonged in the shoo-in class of players. He was simply that dominant in his NHL career.

And, ironically, dominant doesn’t do ‘The Dominator’ justice. No goalie in the history of the league has accumulated a resume like his. No goalie has been as head-and-shoulders above his peers for a longer stretch of his career. And dare I say no goalie has ever played the position as well as Dominik Hasek did. Not Patrick Roy, not Martin Brodeur, not Terry Sawchuk.

To make such a claim is to go against some sacred THN rankings. Our Top 100 of all-time, released in 1998, ranked Sawchuk ninth overall and first among goaltenders. Hasek, then mid-career, squeaked onto the list at No. 95 overall. The panel of judges included luminaries from Milt Schmidt to Howie Meeker to Scotty Bowman. It was as authoritative as it gets. Our 2010 update, after Hasek’s NHL career ended, bumped him to fifth, but still placed him behind Sawchuk, Roy, Brodeur and Jacques Plante.

So why go against the experts? I believe that, with each passing year since Hasek’s retirement, his accomplishments look even more impressive. I humbly present a pitch for his status as the best of all-time.

1. His major hardware collection is the closest thing goalies have to Wayne Gretzky’s and Bobby Orr’s.

The only goaltender with more Vezina Trophies than Hasek’s six is Plante, who had seven and won six of those playing in a league with six teams and six starting goaltenders. The NHL had 26 teams when Hasek won his first Vezina and 30 when he earned his sixth. Plante also won all his Vezinas when the award went to the starting goalie of the team with the lowest goals-against average, so Hasek has the most Vezinas under the “real” system, in which GMs vote on the league’s best goalie.

Hasek won a hilarious, ridiculous five Vezinas in a six-year stretch at one point in his career. He’s the only goalie to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP twice, which he did over back-to-back seasons in 1996-97 and 1997-98. In both of those memorable campaigns, he won the Ted Lindsay Award, chosen by the players as MVP. Mike Liut is the only other goalie to win the Lindsay. Hasek is a six-time first-team All-Star. He won two Cups with Detroit (one as the starter) and, before that, got to the final by dragging along a Buffalo team that boasted Mike Peca, Miroslav Satan and Jason Woolley as its best players. His .922 career save percentage is No. 1 in NHL history. Did he play a big chunk of his career in the Dead Puck Era, or is it more accurate to say he was the Dead Puck Era?

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Czech it out! Dominik Hasek achieves Hall of Fame first

Ken Campbell

You go to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s website and you look under the category of inductees by place of birth. You look for the Czech Republic and you don’t even see the country listed. You think there must be some kind of mistake until you realize that Dominik Hasek is the first Czech player ever to be inducted.

Jaromir Jagr will, of course, follow Hasek three years after he finally decides to retire, but it’s incredible to think that of all the great Czech players who have played the game, Hasek will be the first to achieve Hall of Fame immortality. Even if the Hall of Fame decides not to induct any more women into the hall for the next decade – and with this group anything is possible – there will be more women (three) than Czech players (two) in the Hall of Fame for the foreseeable future. (Stan Mikita, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia, but grew up in Canada, is in the Hall, but is considered Slovak by birth. So is Peter Stastny, who starred many years for the Czechoslovak national team.) Read more

Hey Hockey Hall of Fame: Induct Pat Burns. NOW

Pat Burns (Lou Capozzola /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

The Hockey Hall of Fame’s annual induction announcement is slated for 3 p.m. Monday afternoon – and, as usual, there will be a debate over the players who made the cut and the ones who didn’t. But there’s one debate, about one prominent hockey figure who still hasn’t been honored by the HHOF, that was over long ago – and one injustice that deserves to be corrected today.

Pat Burns should be in the Hall of Fame. No doubt, full stop, end of story.

The fact is, Burns should’ve been inducted as a builder before lung cancer took his life in November of 2010. He won more Jack Adams Trophies (three) as the NHL’s best coach than anyone in history. He coached three Original Six franchises; amassed a 501-353-151-14 record; is currently seventh all-time in playoff games coached (149) and tied with Mike Babcock for ninth all-time in playoff coaching wins (78) and won a Stanley Cup in New Jersey. If previous bouts with colon and liver cancer hadn’t forced him out of action in 2004, Burns would have even more impressive credentials.

This it was why it was such a black mark on the HHOF’s reputation when Burns passed away without being honored. It’s bad enough the organization’s selection committee operates with zero transparency when there’s consensus on an HHOF candidate, but when there’s no valid explanation for keeping out someone respected as universally as Burns was, it borders on revolting.

The best thing the HHOF could’ve done was inducted Burns when he was still with us. Nearly four years later, they have rationalized ways to avoid doing so and it is just as indefensible as it was then. Read more

For Eric Lindros on Monday, will it be good news or bad news?

Brian Costello
2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

Is this the year the Hall of Fame selection committee forgives Eric Lindros and grants him a spot in hockey’s shrine?

We’ll find out Monday when the 18 members of the Hall’s selection committee meet and vote for this year’s inductees. In yesterday’s blog, we profiled the three first-year eligible candidates The Hockey News believes will get at least 14 affirmative votes – Dominik Hasek, Peter Forsberg and Mike Modano.

Today, let’s look at some of the previously passed-over candidates. After all, seven of the past 12 inductees in the players category in the past four years had to wait at least one year before getting enshrined.

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Hasek, Forsberg, Modano will get Hall of Fame green light

Detroit Red Wings v Colorado Avalanche

Two of them are slam dunks and the other is a very good bet to make the Hall of Fame this year.

When the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee meets Monday to determine the class of 2014, they won’t have to debate for very long on Dominik Hasek and Peter Forsberg. They’ll be automatics. Mike Modano, on the other hand, might spur debate. He’ll need at least 14 affirmative votes from the 18 selection committee members to make the grade.

Here’s a brief look at the careers of these three first-year eligible candidates The Hockey News is projecting to gain Hall approval for 2014.

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