Later today in Toronto, the 2018 induction class of the Hockey Hall of Fame will be unveiled (at 1 p.m. MT). For such a relatively young organization, the Calgary Flames are well-represented in the
Hall by players such as Lanny McDonald and Joe Nieuwendyk and builders such as Harley Hotchkiss and “Badger” Bob Johnson.
Could a few additional Flames alumni join their ranks? Here’s a look at the leading contenders for enshrinement.
The case for: Fleury’s a fairly significant historical figure given his size, achievements and personal circumstances. He was a key part of the infamous Punch-Up in Piestany at the 1987 World Juniors, then returned to the event to lead Canada to a gold medal in 1988. He captured a Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1989, then went on to play over 1,000 games and score over 1,000 points despite (a) being 5’6″ and maybe 160 pounds and (b) dealing with the aftermath of repeated sexual abuse at the hands of junior coach Graham James. In the same vein that the careers of Mike Bossy and Cam Neely were followed with thoughts of “imagine if they’d been healthy,” imagine what Fleury could’ve accomplished had he not had to self-medicate to deal with his demons. He’s fourth in all-time NHL scoring among eligible players that aren’t in the Hall – behind Vincent Damphousse, Jeremy Roenick and Daniel Alfredsson.
The case against: Fleury was good, but arguably never one of the league’s best for a lengthy period of time. He finished top five in Hart Trophy voting just twice and while he had championships at the pro and international levels, he wasn’t really a difference maker in the Flames’ ’89 Cup win or Canada’s 2002 gold medal. He was there, but he wasn’t the reason they won.
The case for: A two-time Stanley Cup champion, Vernon is 15th in NHL history in wins and third in wins among eligible Hall of Famers that aren’t already in (behind Curtis Joseph and Chris Osgood). He had a lengthy career as an NHL starter and made four runs to the Stanley Cup final. He won a Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in 1997.
The case against: Bless him, but Vernon’s inability to win a Vezina Trophy and his lack of high-level international success somewhat hurts his resume compared to others he’s competing with for votes. He was consistently really good, but never really crept into the “elite” tier of goaltenders in his era.
The case for: He set the NHL’s modern day goals against average record in his first season as a starter (since broken). Kiprusoff was a workhorse whose resume includes backstopping the Flames to the seventh game of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, then winning a Vezina Trophy following the NHL’s lockout – all told, he finished top five in Vezina four times in a relatively short NHL career.
The case against: While Kiprusoff’s Vezina win indicates he hit an elite level of performance, his NHL career was relatively short compared to other goaltenders he’s competing with for votes. He also never had the team success some other high-end netminders did, given that he has no international gold medals or Stanley Cup victories.
Martin St. Louis
The case for: Despite being a wee fella, St. Louis adapted to the changing game and became one of the most consistently productive players of his era. He won a Stanley Cup, a Hart, a pair of scoring titles and the Lady Byng on three separate occasions. He also had considerable international success during his career.
The case against: St. Louis never really had gaudy numbers and he was always one of many good players on successful teams. These are admittedly nit-picks, though. St. Louis seems a good bet to be in the Hall eventually.
The case for: A veritable institution in the NHL, Joseph is fifth all-time in the NHL in wins by a goaltender – everybody who has more wins is in the Hall.
The case against: Joseph has won no major awards, team or individual. He finished top five in Vezina voting five times, but never captured it. He never won a Stanley Cup. He won gold at the 2002 Olympics with Canada, but he lost his only start and was replaced by Martin Brodeur for the rest of the tournament.
Sum it up
Fleury has the best chance of any Flames alumni. But with the crowded class of potential inductees, Flames fans might have to wait for Jarome Iginla’s eventual induction to see another Flame in the Hall.