Selections to the Hockey Hall of Fame are almost always a controversial subject. For every extraordinary player like Mario Lemieux or Mark Messier, there are many other players who were simply very, very good, for whom an argument could be made for either their inclusion or their exclusion. After Tuesday's announcement that multiyear omissions Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe had earned their spots in the Hall, there still remain three glaring snubs.
Using GVT, a statistic that can compare players across positions and eras, I found three players, all of whom retired in 2004 or before, who have been snubbed for several years now and should be in the Hall of Fame.
Before we look at our list, let's take a look at where the bar for HHOF admission sits. According to GVT, the names in the chart below represent the six lowest marks held by players currently enshined in the Hall. Take one look at that list, and you'll see our candidates are more than qualified. You'll also see the Hall voters might have a few biases.
SETTING THE BAR?
Lowest GVT among players inducted in past 15 years.
Player Reg. Season Playoff Total
Clark Gillies 92.2 20.6 112.8
Dick Duff 104.4 22.1 126.5
Rod Langway 120.3 8.6 128.9
Grant Fuhr 97.8 33.6 131.4
Cam Neely 130.6 26.6 157.2
Bernie Federko 134.5 23.3 157.8
1. Phil Housley
Regular-Season GVT: 267.7
Playoff GVT: 14.7
Housley has the highest regular-season GVT of any player not in the Hall of Fame, and while GVT does have a slight bias toward offensive defensemen, that's still quite a statement. In era-normalized statistics, Housley is the fifth-highest scoring defenseman in league history, behind only Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis and Nicklas Lidstrom. Housley also was important as one of the first major American stars in the league, and set the records for games, assists and points by a U.S.-born player; he still owns the assist record. He played for the U.S. in the Canada Cup/World Cup in 1984, 1987, 1996 and 2002. Only two things work against Housley: his lack of a Norris trophy, due to the peak of his career overlapping with Bourque, Coffey and MacInnis (he was a runner-up in 1992), and his lack of significant playoff success. But Housley's career numbers are too impressive to overlook.
2. John Vanbiesbrouck
Regular-Season GVT: 236.3
Playoff GVT: 31.7
It's surprising Vanbiesbrouck has not garnered more support since he is well-known, having played in New York City. Vanbiesbrouck had a strong start to his career and won the Vezina Trophy in 1986, but the arrival of Mike Richter in New York made him expendable and he was lost to the Florida Panthers in the 1993 expansion draft. In Florida, Vanbiesbrouck became "the franchise," single-handedly leading his team to the playoffs and, in 1996, the Stanley Cup finals. He easily could have won the Conn Smythe had the Panthers won a couple of games in the finals. He was a finalist for the Hart trophy in 1994. Vanbiesbrouck's regular-season GVT is 13th among goaltenders all time, and he is 13th in goaltender wins, a traditional but very flawed statistic. Like Housley, Vanbiesbrouck is American and represented his country twice in the Canada Cup and in the 1998 Olympics.
3. Adam Oates
Regular-Season GVT: 224.1
Playoff GVT: 42.4
For no player is it easier to make a Hall of Fame case based purely on scoring numbers. Oates was, simply put, the best passing center of his generation. Over a period of 12 years, he led the NHL in assists three times, including a 64-assist performance in 2001-02 at age 39, and was runner-up twice. Over those 12 years, his 803 assists were 115 more than second-place Jaromir Jagr. He made his reputation playing with Brett Hull in the early '90s, yet when he was traded, Hull's numbers cratered while Oates put up 142 points for the Boston Bruins. Oates played in 14 playoff rounds in his first six full seasons, yet didn't make it to the Stanley Cup finalsl until late in his career, in 1998 with Washington and 2003 with Anaheim, losing both times. Oates is No. 6 on the all-time assist list with 1,079, yet his career remains a what-if; had he broken into the NHL younger than 24, he might well today own the second-highest assist total in NHL history.
For those curious, Gilmour (regular-season GVT: 233.4; playoff GVT: 54.6) and Howe (regular-season GVT: 194.5; playoff GVT: 22.0) ranked first and fifth respectively on this list. But looking at these three lingering stars, the Hall of Fame judges seem to have two biases: Players who have not won the Stanley Cup are penalized, but more significant is the apparent bias against American players. With great American players Mike Modano, Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick becoming eligible over the next few years, this could take on an even greater importance.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Tom Awad is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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