Sunday, November 14, 2010

2011 HHoF: The Case for Pavel Bure

pavel bure hall of fame
On Monday, November 8th, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted five new members. The committee ended up selecting only one NHL player, Dino Ciccarelli, who scored over 600 goals in his career, but never won a Stanley Cup or an individual award. In addition to Ciccarelli, the committee inducted long-time Detroit executive Jim Devellano and Daryl ‘Doc’ Seaman, the latter playing an integral part in moving the Flames from Atlanta to Calgary. The Hall also inducted its first female members, finally selecting Cammi Granato and Angela James, which was long overdue.

I am not a fan of Ciccarelli’s induction to the Hall of Fame. Sure, he scored a ton of goals, but most occurred during the 1980s when goaltenders seemingly forgot how to play their position. By 1980 the 50 goal plateau had only been reached 24 times, yet during the 1980s it was reached an astonishing 76 times. The feat was even met by nobodies like Jacques Richard, who exploded for 52 goals in 1980-1981, while never breaking 30 goals or 50 points at any other point in his career. The 80s was full of these guys! Goals were free and Dino cashed in.

Ciccarelli is a good player (you can’t score over 600 goals and 1200 points and be bad), but he isn’t Hall of Fame great. He only led his team in scoring in three seasons. He never won a major award and he never even made the NHL First or Second All-Star team. Furthermore, he never won a Stanley Cup, although he did make the Final twice (with Minnesota in 1981 and Detroit in 1995). I don’t consider this a major failing considering a player could be stuck with bad teams most of his career, but I reserve that clause for the best players of their era – Dino does not fit this distinction.

Over the next few posts I’m going to outline who I believe should make the Hall of Fame in 2011. I already presented the case for Eric Lindros this summer, which, as expected, drew considerable opposition. The following candidate might draw some of the same criticisms that Lindros did, but he wasn’t generally regarded as a dick, so the discussion should at least be civil.

Pavel Bure, known as the Russian Rocket for his blazing speed, is the first in a three-part series of posts (since we’ll count the Lindros post) examining which players the Hockey Hall of Fame needs to assemble for their 2011 induction class.

In Bure’s rookie year he captured the Calder Trophy, beating out Niklas Lidstrom, which was a harbinger for things to come. He scored 34 goals and added 26 assists in 60 games that season, before adding another 6 goals and 4 assists in 13 playoff games (the only playoffs he ever scored less than a point-per-game).

He’s one of only 19 players to ever score 60 goals in a season, which he did in back-to-back seasons, becoming only the 8th player at the time to do so. What’s more impressive is that only six other players scored 60 goals or more in the 1990s (Brett Hull, Alexander Mogilny, Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, Luc Robitaille, Jaromir Jagr).

Bure’s 59 goals in 2000-2001 was the third most goals scored during the Dead Puck Era (as defined between the Devils’ 1995 Stanley Cup and the 2004-2005 lockout), trailing only Mario Lemieux’s 69 goals and Jaromir Jagr’s 62 goals in 1995-1996. This was an era where the league’s leading goal scorer sometimes did not even break 50 goals and yet Bure pushed 60 on multiple occasions. His 58 goals in 1999-2000 were a whopping 14 more than the league’s second leading scorer (Owen Nolan with 44).

In case you need more proof of Bure’s goal scoring prowess you need look no further than the NHL’s goals-per-game list. Bure ranks sixth all-time with 0.623 GPG. The only player with a higher average not in the Hall of Fame is Alex Ovechkin. If you only look at the league’s 100 highest goal scorers, Bure’s GPG ranks third all-time, behind only Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux.

If you think Bure was a one-dimensional player you might find it interesting to know he spent a considerable amount of time killing penalties. He was an absolute terror on the penalty kill. He holds the Vancouver Canucks team record for the most short-handed goals with 24. His 34 career short-handed goals are tied for 11th all-time.

Bure was one of the best players in the league during his career, as evidenced by his NHL First All-Star team selection in 1994 and NHL Second All-Star team selections in 2000 and 2001. Not only was he one of the best, but he was one of the most exciting. People paid to see Pavel Bure play. The same can’t be said for other Hall of Fame hopefuls like Adam Oates.

Considering the preceding paragraphs why would there be any controversy about Bure’s Hall of Fame selection? Injuries. He only played 702 games and had to retire when he was only 34 due to serious knee problems – although he played his last game when he was only 31. Bure only managed to play in three full seasons out of his 12 year career, and only topped 70 games another two times.

Bure is only 39-years-old now. It isn’t inconceivable to think he could still be playing. As hockey fans, we have to endure watching Bill Guerin trot his plodding carcass out on the ice well into his 40s, but are denied the joys of watching Pavel Bure fly down the ice well before he’s 35. Although it’s possible that Bure’s shortened career maintains my memory of him. Since I didn’t have to watch him age and see his skills erode by the cruel forces of time, my memory isn’t of a fading superstar holding on for one too many seasons – I remember him as this.

It’s true he never won a Stanley Cup, but he did lead the Canucks to the Final in 1994 as a 23-year-old, scoring 16 goals and adding 15 assists in 31 games. Furthermore, his career playoff stats are pretty good. He’s scored 70 points in 64 career playoff games. However, after making the Stanley Cup Final with the Canucks in 1994, Bure only played in the post-season two other times, losing in the second round in 1995 with the Canucks and being swept in 2000 with the Panthers (the last time Florida actually made the playoffs).

Bure had transcendental skill and was able to bring fans out of their seats every time he rushed the puck up ice. His career is nothing like Dino Ciccarelli’s, who was good for a long period of time, but never dominant like Bure was. Ultimately, Bure’s career totals don’t add up to many current Hall of Famers because injuries cut his career short. Bure didn’t score 500 goals and he didn’t score 1000 points, but he was one of the best and most exciting players during an era where pure goal scorers were rare and excitement was fleeting. Plus, check out his hockey card below!

1 comment:

Bo Jackson said...

You should talk about Bernie Nicholls' Hall of Fame candidacy, if for no other reason than linking the card of him on ice in a tux.

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