MoneyHall: An analytical look at the Hall of Fame

Matt Pfeffer
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There’s been some great work done in baseball on taking an analytical look at the Hall of Fame. Baseball sabermetrician Jay Jaffe invented a metric called JAWS that is an estimation of a baseball player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. JAWS takes a player’s peak years and overall career and averages the two. The idea is to balance the two things that are considered when evaluating a player for Hall of Fame induction: his career longevity and his greatness in his prime. I’ve created HOF+ to take a look at hockey players and their worthiness for Hockey Hall of Fame induction. It’s my attempt at taking an analytical look at what it takes to get into the Hall of Fame so I can try to identify which of today’s stars we can expect to show up in the Hall and some players who may have been overlooked in the past, but are worthy of enshrinement.

HOF+ is the average of Career+, a player’s value over his entire career relative to the median Hall of Fame standard, and Peak+, a player’s value over his three best consecutive years. To measure value, I used GVT (Goals Versus Threshold). GVT is a total value stat created by Tom Awad. It is an attempt to put a goal value on a player’s performance over the NHL threshold. Because it is the only stat that we can use historically to compare players across positions and generations (stats like goals and GAA fluctuate across generations with the changing dynamics of the sport), GVT is the best way of comparing a player’s true value. You can read more about GVT and its formula at Hockey Prospectus. For my calculations I only included Hall of Famers and players whose careers started after 1940.

Here’s a snapshot of every NHLer since 1940 and their position on the Hall of Fame contenders chart. Blue indicates HOF members while Red means there not yet in.

Hallstats

Players in the top right quadrant can be considered pretty surefire candidates. They have a Peak+ and Career+ of more than 100, meaning their longevity and peak are above the Hall of Fame median. You can take a look at this and play around with data yourself by using the interactive chart I built here.

In this article we’re going to look at the potential candidates for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame using the analytical tools I created. To recap, the stats we’ll be using are:

Career+: a player’s total career value (in GVT) over the HOF median standard (100)

Peak+: A player’s three best consecutive seasons over the HOF median standard (100)

HOF+: The average of Career+ and Peak+. A player with a score of 100 can be said to have had an average Hall of Fame worthy career.

HOF Chances%: The percentage of players with his HOF+ or higher that have gotten into the Hall of Fame.

THE SHOO-INS
Player Name HOFCareer+ HOFPeak+ HOF+ HOF Chances
Dominik Hasek 193 253 346 100%
Jaromir Jagr 178 153 231 100%
Nicklas Lidstrom 173 119 192 100%
Roberto Luongo 108 183 191 100%
Martin Brodeur 140 151 190 100%
Teemu Selanne 144 130 174 100%
Sergei Fedorov 123 124 147 91%
Mike Modano 132 107 139 91%
Joe Thornton 111 123 134 89%
Jarome Iginla 110 123 133 87%
Alex Ovechkin 83 144 127 85%
Mark Recchi 124 98 122 85%
Patrik Elias 107 115 121 86%
Peter Forsberg 100 121 121 86%
Marian Hossa 110 111 121 86%
Daniel Alfredsson 114 106 119 86%
Tomas Vokoun 78 137 115 87%
Chris Pronger 107 104 111 82%
Pavel Datsyuk 88 115 103 81%
Henrik Lundqvist 60 141 101 79%
Sidney Crosby 73 125 98 78%
Evgeni Malkin 56 127 83 70%
Daniel Sedin 76 105 81 69%

These guys should probably all be considered shoo-ins, or very close to it. If they retired today, they’d all have about at least a 70 percent chance already. Only three of these players have a career that can be defined as below HOF average so far, but those three, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Daniel Sedin, can very likely be counted on to rack up the needed career numbers with their remaining time in the NHL. Six of these players – Hasek, Jagr, Lidstrom, Luongo, Brodeur and Selanne – are among such an elite class that nobody in the history of hockey has had a HOF+ as high and not been inducted. These guys are the definition of a shoo-in.

The biggest surprise on this list might be Tomas Vokoun. The netminder’s career numbers are 22 points below HOF average, but his peak was quietly fantastic. Vokoun’s peak was largely wasted playing for non-Stanley Cup contenders and his lack of honors (only two all-star appearances, no Vezinas) might lead to him being overlooked for the Hall of Fame. Vokoun’s HOF+ is 15 points better than the median Hall of Fame threshold for entry, and 87 percent of players with his career or better have been admitted in to the Hall. It is too early to tell, but it is likely Vokoun will join a long list of underappreciated goaltenders with outstanding peaks, a lack of longevity and the misfortune of playing in front of poor teams.

THE “SHOULD HAVE ALREADY BEEN INDUCTED” CLASS
Player Name HOFCareer+ HOFPeak+ HOF+ HOF Chances
Curtis Joseph 98 161 159 97%
J. Vanbiesbrouck 110 142 151 94%
Eric Lindros 99 135 134 91%
Phil Housley 139 95 134 89%
Rogie Vachon 80 153 133 87%
Chico Resch 81 148 129 86%
Pierre Turgeon 127 101 128 85%
Jeremy Roenick 113 102 115 85%
Sergei Zubov 111 104 115 84%
Theo Fleury 102 112 115 83%
Alexander Mogilny 102 111 114 82%
John LeClair 90 120 110 81%
Sean Burke 76 131 107 80%
Paul Kariya 90 111 101 80%

These guys all share a HOF+ over 100, meaning their careers were better than the median Hall of Fame career and that they have all been passed up in at least one induction class. Five of the 15 are goaltenders. It seems goalies have an uphill battle compared to their skater teammates. The elite performances these goalies have put up were likely not appreciated as much as they should have been. For one, many don’t give the same appreciation for elite goaltender statistics as they do for forwards. Wins and losses, obviously, are unsatisfactory, as is goals-against average for the same reason, but to a lesser degree. Save percentage is the most accurate stat of a goaltender’s performance, but it is so fluid with the changing play of the league that it is harder to accurately relate his save percentage among the all-time greats. Goalies will have a tougher time pointing to their stats in their Hall of Fame campaigns, but this shouldn’t take away from the fact that some of the all-time greatest NHL seasons belong to goaltenders – and guys such as Curtis Joseph, John Vanbiesbrouck, Rogie Vachon and Chico Resch were among the best hockey players on Earth at their peaks. Get these guys in the Hall.

THE “RAIN ON YOUR PARADE” CLASS
Player Name HOFCareer+ HOFPeak+ HOF+ HOF Chances
Gary Roberts 80 90 69 62%
Bill Guerin 78 89 67 62%
Steve Larmer 79 85 64 60%
Doug Weight 76 78 54 57%
Mike Vernon 42 86 28 40%
Chris Osgood 45 80 25 38%
G. Carbonneau 54 56 10 32%
C. Lemieux 49 55 4 28%
Sergei Makarov 28 63 -8 23%
Adam Foote 40 48 -12 21%
Kevin Lowe 40 46 -13 21%

These guys have all been tossed into the mix as potential Hall of Fame candidates, but none of them should be, especially in comparison to many of the more deserving non-Hall of Famers. Gary Roberts, Bill Guerin and Steve Larmer all have above a 60 percent chance of making it based on players similar to them inducted before, but with so many players with better careers and so few spots (only four players can be inducted a year) available, this group shouldn’t be holding their breath for the call.

THE BUBBLE CLASS
Player Name HOFCareer+ HOFPeak+ HOF+ HOF Chances
Keith Tkachuk 102 97 99 79%
Guy Hebert 61 138 98 78%
Markus Naslund 80 116 97 78%
Miikka Kiprusoff 52 144 97 78%
Bernie Nicholls 89 105 95 77%
Peter Bondra 93 101 94 76%
Sergei Gonchar 101 93 94 76%
Zigmund Palffy 82 112 94 76%
Pete Peeters 69 124 93 76%
Gary Suter 95 96 92 75%
Ken Hodge 74 117 91 74%
Daniel Bouchard 77 113 90 73%
Ron Hextall 60 128 88 73%
D. Andreychuk 102 85 87 72%
Rod Brind’Amour 99 88 87 72%
Steve Duchesne 95 92 86 71%
Milan Hejduk 78 106 84 71%
Pavol Demitra 81 102 83 71%
Rob Blake 92 90 83 70%
M. Schneider 98 85 83 70%
Dany Heatley 72 110 82 70%
Evgeni Nabokov 56 125 81 70%
Tom Barrasso 63 116 80 70%

These guys are on the bubble. They’re pacing around the arena corridor nervously waiting for their name to be called like it’s a minor hockey tryout. Similar players of their caliber have gotten in, but there sure is a glut of these guys around and preciously few golden tickets. Many of these players, like Naslund, Kiprusoff and Palffy have the peak years that justify Hall of Fame inclusion, but their careers did not have the longevity to put up the big numbers selection committees will look for. Long-time stalwarts such as Dave Andreychuk, Rob Brind’Amour and Keith Tkachuk will be banking on the opposite. These guys approach average Hall of Fame standards and it’s possible they will sneak in on the fourth spot of a ballot, but there would be greater Hall of Fame injustices than any of them not being included.

CONCLUSION
There are 34 players that have an HOF+ above 100, meaning they had above the Hockey Hall of Fame average for inductees who have not yet been inducted. Of them, only 13 are active NHLers. The Hockey Hall of Fame has some work to do if it wants to preserve the legacy of the league’s best players. Although GVT is not a perfect reflection of a player’s value (no statistic can be), it does a good enough job to get a basic approximation of a player’s career. According to these numbers, the Hockey Hall of Fame simply has not done a good enough job to enshrine the best players on a consistent basis. Many players, such as poor scoring HOF+ players such as Bob Gainey and Fern Flaman can point to attributes that add to their legacy beyond what statistics can quantify. That’s fine. But this kind of statistical analysis, using only pure value to his team to guide our way, tells us some surprising things that may not have been highlighted by being on a successful team or winning an award. I think what this analysis has told us most is if you look closely at the players who have been (statistically speaking) snubbed and those I’ve labelled overrated, you’ll see that Hall of Fame voters have been over-representing Stanley Cup and personal award winners. Hall of Fame voters, think about more than Stanley Cup rings and subjective personal honors and think about giving deserving Hall of Fame candidates such as Phil Housley, Sergei Zubov or Pierre Turgeon, a vote.

You can use this interactive graph to see how your favorite player stacks up here.

Data for this project has come courtesy of HockeyProspectus.com, Hockey-Reference.com. The visualization’s were built in Tableau.