For the second time in as many years the Hall of Fame has been exposed for not honouring someone in time. This time the death obviously wasn’t expected, but that doesn’t make it any better.
First, they ignored or avoided the opportunity to put Burns in during his lifetime. I really don’t pay attention to coach records but I agree with those who felt Burns was a definite hall of famer that this was pretty classless.
Now, Rick Martin, a deserving hall of famer as I argued last year, is dead and he will never be alive if the Hall ever cleans up its act and starts basing entry on what a player did on the ice, rather than merely obsessing with career totals.
This is what I said last year:
- 384G, 316A for 700P in 684 games; +15.
- That’s an 82-game average of 46G, 38A for 84P.
- Martin is 11th in GPG and 45th in PPG.
- 24G, 29A for 53P in 63 playoff games.
- 50 goals twice, 45 goals four times, 40 goals five times, 35 goals seven times, 30 goals eight times, 25 goals nine times;
- 40 assists once;
- 90 points once, 80 points three times, 70 points six times, 60 points eight times, 50 points nine times.
- 1 Final, 1 Conference Final.
- 11 seasons, 9 quality
- Top 10 (’74, ’75), Top 15? (’72, ’76)
- 3 year peak (’73-’76): 56G, 42A for 98P over 82 games.
- 7 All Stars, 2 1st teams, 2 2nd teams
- Top 3 forward on one runner up (75 Sabres) and one final four (80 Sabres)
Martin was as pure a goal scorer as existed in the ’70s. His 0.561 GPG is the highest of anyone who played in that decade. By his numbers, it looks like he didn’t do much else. But still, 11th all-time in GPG is pretty compelling to me. I think he belongs for that alone, but I think Bure and Kerr belong first. So until they’re in, I doubt I’ll argue this much.
Just because Bure and Kerr are more deserving doesn’t mean Martin isn’t deserving at all. The Hall has let in far less worthy players before (last year for example) so it is a shame that they didn’t correct their mistake – and it is a mistake in methodology, not a personal one – before Martin had his heart attack.
Martin isn’t the only one who has been ignored by the league because he was injured a lot. Bure and Kerr, as I mentioned, have been ignored, along with numerous others. In fact, the only players I can think of whose careers were hampered by injuries but were still inducted are Orr, Bossy and Neely. Orr and Bossy were so amazing that the Hall couldn’t ignore them. Neely accomplished the only per game feat that the Hall seems to care about – 50 in 50. Otherwise, if you were a great hockey player but injured, the Hall doesn’t care. They’d rather you be healthy and stay in the league forever and slowly amass totals that they cannot ignore, like Ciccarelli.
The problem with this is few would argue that Ciccarelli was a better player than Martin. There are many more players in the Hall who were never as good as Martin was in his prime (look at that peak average, it is pretty unbelievable).
Players aren’t just favoured for longevity though, they are also favoured for championships. This made tons of sense when the NHL was the smallest professional sports league. In the Original Six days, you needed to know how many Cups a player won in order to judge whether he had a better career than someone with comparable numbers. But now it seems rather absurd. Even in Martin’s day and age, the league was 3 or more times bigger than it was in the Original Six era. To penalize a player because he had – all other things being equal – three times less of a chance to win a cup or to reward him because he was lucky enough to be drafted by the right franchise seems rather pathetic. For example, Glenn Anderson and Clark Gillies, to a lesser extent, are in the Hall of Fame principally because they were drafted by Oilers and Islanders respectively. Gillies’ defensive abilities might have been missed on the Isles if you replaced him with Martin, but would anyone seriously believe that the Oilers would be a worse team with a slightly later born Martin than Anderson?
Say we take the Hall’s standard of 600 scorers and apply it goals per game. Every eligible player save Dave Andreychuk who has ever scored 600 goals is in the Hall. If we say Andreychuk will get in, and the others who have accomplished this feat but aren’t yet eligible, we have a fairly strict mark: 18 players. So let’s look at the top 18 goal scorers by per game, rather than career totals:
- Bure is 6th and not in the Hall.
- Kerr is 10th and not in.
- Martin is 11th and not in.
- Ovechkin, Kovalchuk and Crosby are not eligible and we have no idea if they will maintain these numbers by the time they retire.
- Ciccarelli is 26th. Anderson is 63rd. Gillies is 195th. All wingers so we would expect their abilities to be reflected more in gpg than in apg or ppg.
Why does the league consider Ciccarelli’s, Anderson’s or Gillies’ careers to be more impressive because they were longer, healthier and / or luckier?
Martin’s main problem, aside from being totally unlucky (getting hurt fairly frequently and getting drafted by the Sabres rather than the Isles or Habs), is that he played with Perreault. Perreault is widely acknowledged to have been the best player on the French Connection line and the best on the Sabres during the era. Perreault has the career numbers, despite some injuries during his peak, that Martin didn’t. His 3 year peak 82 game average: 44G, 66A for 110 points. His career 82 game average? 35G, 56A for 91 points. Are those numbers so much better than Martin’s that we can clearly say Perreault is an obvious choice but not Martin? Of course not.
The Hall needs to take a step back and have a serious think about what constitutes greatness. Is it longevity or is it dominance? It can actually be both. We can have multiple standards. At this point, the Hall has already admitted enough marginal candidates (Dick Duff anyone?) that they have opened the doors to many players. But they won’t let them all in in some misguided idea of exclusivity. The standards have been set, and people should be rewarded for meeting / surpassing them. If we want a more exclusive Hall then the whole thing will have to be rehashed. As it stands, they have a lot of work to do in admitting numerous deserving candidates who have been ignored over the years. Hopefully they choose to do this before another one dies.
How would you revamp the Hall in light of Martin’s untimely death?
How would I revamp the Hall in light of Martin’s untimely death? Start over.
Put some notables from the early eras and then, starting around 1960 or so, any skater who is in the Top 25 the day they become eligible of any of the following categories is an automatic:
- with a higher threshold for goalie wins, save percentage and GAA.
Anybody else would have to be justified in some way. Additionally, events and records and so forth could be inducted as well, instead of the players (if the players didn’t meet the above criteria…ie. Paul Henderson).