Four players got Hall of Fame calls in 2019. Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest female player of all-time, was the first-ballot headliner.
Joining her were some long-overlooked names. Silky-smooth puck-moving blueliner Sergei Zubov was first eligible in 2013. Shutdown center Guy Carbonneau had waited since 2003. Vaclav Nedomansky had retired by the early 1980s.
Every time the Hall selection committee goes “off the board” with a few of its Hall calls, it opens up some fascinating discussions about previously overlooked candidates. Who might make up the class of 2020? We see one easy first-balloter, but the rest of the choices could go in several different directions.
Here’s a breakdown of some 2020 Hall candidates. Disclaimer: we’re only talking about players eligible for 2020 at the moment. So we have to hold off on the likes of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Caroline Ouellette and Florence Schelling for now. Also, Finnish legend Riikka Sallinen retired in 2019, so she could’ve been eligible with exceptional first-ballot status, but since she didn’t get the call, Sallinen will likely have to wait until at least 2022 at this point. She still has a good chance to be the first female European player inducted.
FIRST-BALLOTER: Jarome Iginla
Easy peasy. He’s in. ‘Iggy,’ one of the best power forwards of his generation, led the league in goals twice and points once. He earned the 2001-02 Lester B. Pearson (now Ted Lindsay) Award as most outstanding player as voted by the players and probably should’ve won the Hart Trophy over Jose Theodore as league MVP. Iginla’s 625 goals rank 16th all-time. He’s a three-time first-team all-star with two Olympic gold medals. He belongs in the discussion for “best never to win a Stanley Cup.”
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME: Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa, Kim St-Pierre
Alfredsson’s 2019 omission was a bit surprising considering it was his third year of eligibility. Yes, ‘Alfie’ is Cupless, and his only major NHL award was the 1995-96 Calder Trophy, but he enjoyed a long, consistent career, amassing 1,157 points. He had to endure the Dead Puck Era from 1996-97 to 2003-04 yet still averaged a solid 76 points per 82 games for his career.
His former Ottawa Senators teammate, Hossa, becomes eligible starting in 2020. He didn’t officially retire until 2018 but hasn’t played since 2016-17 due to his equipment allergy, so he’s fair game. It wouldn’t be a complete shocker if he got a first-ballot call, though he’s nowhere near the lock Iginla is. Hossa never won a major individual award, but he was one of the best goal-scorers of his generation, finding twine 525 times, and he was an elite two-way forward. The best testament to Hossa’s impact was his presence on three Stanley Cup-winning teams and two other Cup finalists.
It’s tough to believe that we don’t yet have a female goaltender in the Hall, and St-Pierre is a strong bet to be the first, as she represents the dominant old-guard generation of Team Canada. She backstopped her country to three gold medals. She’s part of the Triple Gold Club, too, as she has a Clarkson Cup and IIHF World Championship to her name. She likely won’t go down as the best female goalie ever, but the top candidates for that distinction are still playing or not yet eligible, so St-Pierre has a real shot to be the first goalie Hall of Famer on the women’s side.
RODNEY DANGERFIELD ALL-STARS: Alexander Mogilny, Keith Tkachuk, Theo Fleury, Tom Barrasso
Everyone wants Mogilny in. He regularly populates “best retired player not in the Hall of Fame” lists. When will it be his time? Mogilny joins Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Phil Esposito and Teemu Selanne as the only NHL players to score more than 75 goals in a season. Mogilny is a Triple Gold Member. His hands were elite. The only thing holding him back is the fact his career spanned 990 NHL games, a relatively short time by Hall standards. But if Cam Neely is in the Hall, there’s no reason why Mogilny shouldn’t be. Neely never led the league in goals or won a Cup. Mogilny did.
Tkachuk’s resume also screams Hall of Fame, no? Few players have ever embodied the power-forward ideal like he did. Tkachuk is one of three players in the 500 goal/2,000 penalty minute club and one of four players to record 50 goals and 200 PIM in the same season.
Fleury shared an era with so many all-time legends that he didn’t win a single-piece of individual NHL hardware. But he blended grit and point-per-game offense like few others and was an outstanding scorer in the back half of his career as one of the game’s smallest players while hockey trended toward size, strength and obstruction.
If Barrasso wasn’t so prickly with the hockey media, he’d be in. Right? He won the Calder and Vezina as a rookie with the Buffalo Sabres and was a Vezina finalist four other times. He nabbed two Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rogie Vachon got the call before Barrasso did. How?
WORTH REVISITING: Rod Brind’Amour, Jere Lehtinen, Kent Nilsson, Doug Wilson
Three-time Selke Trophy winner Carbonneau’s induction in 2019 totally changed the game for Brind’Amour. Not only is he a two-time Selke winner and a Cup champ, but he also amassed almost double the offense Carbonneau did, with 1,184 points. Carbonneau’s induction may have doubled the odds for ‘Rod the Bod.’ Same goes for Lehtinen, who won three Selkes as a right winger.
Nilsson’s 1.24 points per game rank ninth all-time, sandwiched between Peter Forsberg and Esposito. Nilsson doesn’t have the volume stats because he played most of his 30s in Europe, but he was a quietly dominant NHLer in the 1980s. He was a tremendous raw talent and also one of 10 players in history to win the Stanley Cup and WHA’s Avco Cup.
Does the induction of Zubov, a fantastic player who wasn’t decorated individually, reopen the Wilson discussion? He was a Norris Trophy winner, a first-team all-star, a two-time second-team all-star, and he ranks 12th all-time in goals by defensemen (11th if you exclude Red Kelly, who shifted to center partway through his career).
VOLUME-STAT PICKS: Curtis Joseph, Jeremy Roenick, Jennifer Botterill, Patrik Elias
We know case for ‘CuJo’ now, for better or worse. He was a very good goalie for a very long time but never took home a Vezina or Stanley Cup. His claim to a Hall call is wins-based. He sits seventh all-time at 454. Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury passed Joseph this season. His Hall odds may be worsening.
Roenick certainly puts the “fame” in Hall of Fame as one of the game’s loudest personalities ever. He also notched three 100-point campaigns, more than 500 goals and more than 1,200 points. But with no Cups, no awards and no first- or second-team all-star nods, he’s been in the cold since 2012. The scandal that led to his firing at NBC Sports this year probably didn’t help his chances, at least not for 2020.
Botterill’s lengthy list of accolades puts her in the discussion: three Olympic golds, five world championships, two-time MVP at the worlds. It’s interesting that the first women’s Olympic generation tends to yield far more Canadian Hall candidates. In the decades to come, we’re likely to see a major shift now that the U.S. is Canada’s international equal. We can expect the likes of Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker to join Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggiero someday.
I’m not as enamored with Elias’ resume as some are. He’s won multiple Stanley Cups, and he hit the 1,000-point benchmark, but was he ever even a top-10 player in the league aside from 2000-01? He was a first-team all-star and finished sixth in Hart voting that season, but it was his peak. Ex-Lightning greats Vincent Lecavalier (Rocket Richard 2006-07) and Brad Richards (Conn Smythe 2003-04) arguably have stronger cases among the newer hopefuls.
HALL OF VERY GOOD
These bubble players all had exemplary careers and could earn some Hall love at some point: