This afternoon, The Hockey Hall of Fame confirmed the four available spots in this year’s nomination. It included, arguably, one of the greatest Leafs of all time.. Mats Sundin. Along with the Leafs legend, Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates.
Mats is one of the three inducted today that does not have a Stanley Cup ring. Sundin is and will be a topic of debate for years. But here are the facts:
Sundin scored 1349 points in 1346 games in his career. Even more impressive than those numbers can tell, he achieved a point-per-game average on a team that was never a Cup favourite. Conference Final runs in ’99 and ’02 will go down as the team highlights of the Sundin era. I mean.. Sundin holds virtually every Leafs scoring record there is to hold, whether it was Leaf goals, Leaf points, or the fact that he was the only Swedish player to break the 500 goal plateau and the first Swede to surpass 1000 points. Not to mention his 9 All-Star Game appearances.. personally, I think that is the only way to measure a player’s greatness. It doesn’t depend the success of the collective team that may lower his chance of success.
I’ll never forget being down 1-0 to Carolina, facing elimination in Game 6 of the 2002 Conference Finals, and watching Sundin come through in the dying seconds to jam the puck past Arturs Irbe to tie the game. That will always go down as my most unforgettable Leafs moment and really illustrated the story of his career. He always seemed to come through in the clutch. And that clutch play cannot be measured by any statistic. People will always knock him for no ring, but look at the greatest Leaf team ever assembled.. the early 90’s Leafs had a Hall of Fame lineup. Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark , and Glenn Anderson couldn’t bring the Cup to Toronto together. They only ever got as far as Sundin did. It didn’t matter how poor of a team the management put together, Sundin always performed. Yes, Captain Clutch is a worthy inductee.
Pavel Bure was drafted by Vancouver in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft somewhat controversially. Any player of 18 years old was eligible in the first three rounds of the draft unless they had at least two seasons with at least 11 games each season with an elite-level European team. He was drafted at age 18 in the 6th round. However, the Canucks Head Scout, Mike Penny, discovered that Bure had played in enough exhibition and international games to make him an eligible draftee.
Bure burst onto the NHL scene, scoring 154 goals and 277 points including two 60 goal campaigns in his first three seasons, despite his court case that prolonged his debut a month into the 1992 season. He also scored 6 goals and tallied 10 points in the playoffs that year, including a hat trick in Game 6 which sent the series to seven games, where they eventually won. He was rewarded the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year in 1992. Bure scored the most memorable goal in Canucks history, bringing the 7th seeded squad past the Calgary Flames in a dramatic Game 7 overtime finish. He went on to lead the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
His dominance continued into Florida, where he posted 58 and 59 goals in consecutive seasons. After leading the Panthers for the third straight season, he was dealt to the Rangers at the trade deadline. He finished the season, posting 12 and 20 points in 12 games for New York. However, the following season would turn out to be the last. Bure sustained two knee injuries, along with his ACL that he had surgery on in his first season in Florida. Lingering effects form constant knee damage caused him to remain inactive from the ’04 season through the 2005 NHL lockout and into the following season. He would eventually announce his retirement on November 1, 2005. A sad ending to a storied, still promising career for the Russian Rocket. Bure recorded five 50+-goal seasons and appeared in 6 NHL All-Star Games, was the 2000 NHL All-Star MVP, and led the league in scoring 3 times.
Joe Sakic also had a storied career and the only 2012 inductee to have won the Stanley Cup. A first-round draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques in 1987, Sakic stayed with the organization through its move to Colorado in 1996. He would win the Cup that year and then again in 2001. Sakic became known for his wicked back-hand shot and unrivalled wrist shot. He had one of the most impressive seasons the NHL has ever seen when he won the Cup, the Conne Smythe (playoff MVP), Hart Trophy (season MVP), Lady Byng (sportsmanship), and the Lester. B. Pearson (most outstanding player). He also appeared in 3 All-Star Games where he was named to the First Team each time and was the MVP of the 2004 All-Star Game. Sakic was the least questioned inductee with the most decorated resume of the four.
On the other hand, Adam Oates was perhaps the biggest surprise to the class of 2012. No doubt, he had a marvellous career and is a deserving inductee.. I’m just not sure that his election is justified over the like of Eric Lindros or even Brendan Shanahan. In any case, Adam Oates had an outstanding career. In 1337 career games, Oates netted 1420 points and a whopping 1079 assists. He went down as the greatest playmaker of his era, as his statistics would indicate.
I was a little surprised to see Shanahan left out, and completely shocked to see Lindros left out. As deserving as Oates was to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, I think his nomination could have waited. I idolized Lindros growing up, so call me biased, but every NHL Draft, who is the type of player every scout is looking to draft? An Eric Lindros-type player.. dominant in every aspect of the game.
Having said all that, every inductee is deserving and I congratulate them. My initial worry was that I thought that Bure might be left out, so I’m very happy to see him not overlooked. He, along with the other three, had storied careers and will enjoy hockey’s greatest museum.
One thing every player nominated on the ballot for the Hockey Hall of Fame has in common is that they were great players. We can sit and argue all day over who should have been nominated in, but the fact is any player who is on the ballot is deserving. It’s usually a matter of when they will get in, not if.
These players are the best of the best. Congratulations to these four especially, they will be enshrined forever.