Photo credit:Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Call to the Hall
8 months ago
It happens every June 19 – somebody writes, tweets, drags out a video clip or otherwise reminds fans of the Edmonton Oilers this is the day the Carolina Hurricanes defeated their team 3-1 at the RBC Centre in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final.
I’ve seen this clip of Rod Brind’Amour hoisting the silverware a time or two since jumping a jet back home from Raleigh when the Oilers unlikely Cup run was finally over. For me, it’s more of a reminder that Rod the Bod still isn’t in the HHOF, and neither are a couple of people with connections to the Oilers who should be in the mix when the selection committee announces the class of 2023 on Wednesday.
The committee can select a maximum of four male players, two female players, one referee or linesman, and two from the builder’s category – just one if an off-ice official is chosen. Nominees must earn 75 per cent of the vote (14 of 18 voters) from the committee in a series of run-offs by category in order to get the nod.
For the record, I think Brind’Amour, eligible since 2013, deserves a long look. He won the Cup as a player, won the 2021 Jack Adams Award as a coach, compiled 1,184 points in 1,484 games, and twice won the Selke Trophy. I feel likewise about Ken Hitchcock, who had a cup of coffee with the Oilers as a coach and could go in as a builder, and Curtis Joseph, who has been eligible since 2012.
THE WAY I SEE IT
Photo: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
I’ve known Hitchcock since 1986 when I started covering the Kamloops Blazers and riding the buses with him, so I’m not an impartial observer. That detail disclosed, I think Hitch’s record speaks for itself and that he belongs in the HHOF on merit. A native of Edmonton, Hitchcock, now 71, finally got behind the Oilers bench in 2018-19 when he was near the end of the line as a replacement for Todd McLellan, going 26-28-8.
All told, Hitchcock’s 849 wins in 1,598 games ranks fourth all-time behind only Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville, and Barry Trotz. Hitchcock won the 1999 Stanley Cup with Dallas, was voted the Jack Adams Award as coach the year in 2012, won three Olympic gold medals and captured eight division championships.
In Kamloops, he was a two-time WHL champion and coach of the year, CHL coach of the year, and World Junior Championship gold medalist. Hitchcock began his coaching career with what’s become a legendary decade with the Sherwood Park Chain Gang, when his teams won 575 games against 69 losses.
This might sound odd, but I’d like to see Hitchcock get in while he’s still alive and can enjoy the honor. The selection committee hasn’t elected an NHL coach since 2016 (Pat Quinn) and hasn’t selected a coach who was alive at the time of his induction since Roger Neilson in 2002. Fred Shero (2013), Pat Burns (2014), and Quinn were elected posthumously.
Joseph played only 177 of his 943 regular season games with the Oilers, but nobody will every forget how he helped win Game 7 against Hitchcock and Dallas in 1997 with a remarkable save on Joe Nieuwendyk to set the stage for Todd Marchant’s dramatic OT winner. Cujo was a fan favorite here dragging some so-so teams into contention.
That’s obviously not enough to get Cujo into the HHOF, but his 454 career wins – fourth all-time when he retired and seventh as of now – are worth a look. That said, he never won a Cup, never won the Vezina Trophy or international gold as a starter. On top of that, Cujo has big-time competition with Henrik Lundqvist this year. Is there room for both in this class?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Like I said off the top, I believe Brind’Amour is worthy of induction, but I feel the same way about Alexander Mogilny, who has been eligible since 2009 and has been overlooked. How is he not in already? Then, there’s Sergei Gonchar and Keith Tkachuk. Who am I missing?
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