The Habs have had many players reach the Hockey Hall of Fame over the history of the franchise. Among those that have played for the Canadiens this season, will any of them make it there? Our writers offer up their thoughts and predictions.
Terry Costaris: I believe that you can reasonably argue that three players from this year’s team will eventually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. None of them though, are slam dunks. Carey Price is the most likely candidate to make the cut as soon as he retires. Shea Weber and Ilya Kovalchuk might squeak in, but they’ll likely need to be a bit more patient as to when.
For me, I’d like to see the standards raised for induction. A Hall of Famer should be a generational talent. Someone who will never be forgotten. Someone that will always be universally considered a hockey legend. A superstar on the level of a Howe, Beliveau, Richard, Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux, or Crosby – someone that you don’t need to make any argument on.
These are the A+ members. Most inductees though are in the A to A- range. Peak Price was in the A range. However, even with this grade, the criteria for goaltenders is a lot tougher. A Stanley Cup ring on his finger would immediately end any debate.
Price has accomplished everything that a Hall of Fame goaltender should accomplish except win a Stanley Cup. He was the principal reason that Montreal was a Cup contender for a few years. At his peak, he even made his woeful coach Michel Therrien look good.
I believe that if Price played in the 80s and 90s, he would be as legendary as Patrick Roy. NHL coaching back then had not yet evolved to the point where goalies could literally steal playoff series on their own.
Name one goalie who has pulled a Patrick Roy since 93?
Players these days are far less superstitious and infinitely more mentally focused than in Roy’s era. They are less likely to believe in the “ghosts of the Forum” nonsense of the past. You rarely see today’s generation of NHL teams choke – except, thankfully, Toronto.
Every time that Price has been given a superb team in front of him, specifically, Team Canada, he has succeeded. He has never dropped the ball in this regard.
At his peak, Price was a huge difference-maker in the new and much improved NHL. It’s just too bad that his talent has been squandered in Montreal.
So, yes, Price will one day receive induction into the Hall. The only question is will it be right away or a few years after his retirement. Either way, he’s my pick as a shoo-in inductee.
Unlike Carey Price, Kovalchuk, like Weber, falls in the near A- range.
Kovalchuk has a good shot of ultimately making it into the Hall but I doubt that it will be right away. He has been a very, very good player but he is not a generational talent.
It is true that Kovalchuk had the misfortune of playing on below the radar franchises in Atlanta and New Jersey, so his brand recognition was not as high as it could have been.
His numbers were impressive but unlike what I consider true Hall of Famers, Kovalchuk was never able to transform any of his teams into legitimate Cup contenders. And in his rare playoff appearances, he was hardly a difference-maker. Playing outside the NHL for as many years as he did also does not work in Kovalchuk’s favour.
Having said this, there is something about Kovalchuk, talent wise that reminds me of that of Hall of Famer, Mats Sundin. I know that they played different positions but I feel that if someone like Sundin could make the Hall then so too should Kovalchuk. In my estimation, Sundin, on a true Cup contending team, would have been the greatest second line centre of his generation. Kovalchuk fits into this class of inductees.
Just a bit of speculation here, but I believe that if both he and Sundin were on the same line for most of their careers, some magic would have happened between the two. Their numbers and talents would have been elevated. Then there would be no debate concerning their induction worthiness.
Now as for Weber, this is an even harder decision. He’s a true defenceman which makes him less noticeable on the ice from a typical fan’s perspective. And let’s not kid ourselves, being inducted into the Hall is a popularity contest.
Weber’s greatest accomplishment was captaining two of the greatest hockey teams ever assembled – Team Canada – and helping deliver gold to our nation. He was captain of the best of the best. He was the 1A defenseman on a team stacked with the finest talent of his day. Surely this means something. So, yes, Weber deserves a spot.
Unfortunately, playing on Nashville and Montreal for most of his career and not hoisting a Stanley Cup might work against his immediate induction. It, therefore, may take Weber several years, post-retirement, before he finally makes it into the Hall of Fame.
So if I was a betting man, I predict that all three will one day become Hall of Famers. Price will get in first and Kovalchuk and Weber will have to patiently wait their turns. If any one of them hoists a Stanley Cup before they retire though, their inductions will be sped up.
Allan Katz: If this question was asked at the beginning of the season it would have exacted a different response. So I’d like to start, like a true Hab fanatic, sorry Hab Fan, with my disappointments. Players who seemed to have a shot and somehow, for some reason, blew it.
At top of the list is Ryan Poehling. After scoring an “average” of four goals a game (please don’t say it was three, I watched the game) Poeman looked like he was going to score between 200 and four hundred goals this year. He sadly came up short, scoring one goal in 27 games. Now can he still turn it around and score a couple of hundred goals next year, maybe, but most likely not. No Hall of Famer here.
The one other player who draws somewhat similar reactions is Jesperi Kotkaniemi. His lack of killer instinct and possibly above average talent suggests that he might have a good career, maybe a very good career, but not a probable Hall of Famer talent.
So here’s a list of Habs and their chances of making the Hall of Fame; Shea Weber; being named after Shea Stadium in New York City placed quite a burden on the young Shea but he reacted like a man mountain with a great career that’s still going – 99% chance. Carey Price; being named after the TV show THE PRICE IS RIGHT placed quite a burden on young Price’s shoulders but he has come through valiantly and has had a great career outside of winning the big prize behind door #1 – 99%. Do you remember the sound of Wile E Coyote as he would fall off a cliff after Roadrunner (Yvan) would trick him again? … Yeah, that sound (when whistling it sounds perfect).
Well, that’s where the odds are dropping fast and I’m not talking about Charles Hudon. Nick Suzuki is this year’s hot rookie who hasn’t fallen off the cliff yet. Burdened with being named because his father cut himself shaving the day he was born, Nick shows the potential of a player that could nab a few all-star games, maybe a lot. – 25%. Brendan Gallagher – Victor in the battle of the Gally’s when Galchenyuk was exiled, Brendan has our hearts and admiration. He could use a Stanley Cup on his resume, one he might get with another team, oy vey if that happens, happy for him. – 25%. Cayden Primeau; Hey, he is a Primeau talent and could beat Evans for the “seventh round” Hall of Fame – 3%. If Kovalchuk can score 20 goals with the Habs he’ll increase his chances, but for now I’d put his chances at – 67%.
Finally those with a chance in hell (with how things are going in the world right now means it’s possible) – Tatar 2% – Petry – 2% Danault – 1% Drouin – 1% Hudon 75% (AHL Hall of Fame), Dutch Gretzky 95% (Netherlands Hall of Fame). J.K. – 2% Poehling – .01%. As far as prospects are concerned I’d say easily ten of these guys are sure fire Hall of Famers, maybe twenty, which brings me to my final statement. – For the writer’s branch of the Hall of Fame – Allan Katz – 99% (in his own mind).
Brian La Rose: The three immediate players that come to mind are Price, Weber, and Kovalchuk. The challenge here is that none of them really have much in the way of individual accolades to help their respective causes.
Price has a Hart and a Vezina Trophy so there’s that at least. Not a lot of goalies have received the Hart in recent years and that will help him. But while his reputation is that of being one of the top netminders (if not the best), his prime was basically four seasons between 2013-14 and 2016-17. (And one of those saw him play just 12 games due to injury.) His playoff numbers are okay but nothing that screams Hall of Famer either. If he plays another five years and turns in a vintage Price season or two along the way, that would certainly bolster his chances but him getting in is far from a guarantee.
As for Weber, his individual trophy case consists of…nothing. Well, he has a Mark Messier Leadership Award but an award handpicked by a former player for something that’s entirely subjective to those not around the league on a day-to-day basis (including the person picking it) shouldn’t carry any weight. He has been a really good defenceman for a long time now and with the term left on his contract, his longevity may actually be his best case one day. I still wouldn’t put him at more than a coin flip for now though.
Then there’s Kovalchuk. He has a Rocket Richard trophy which helps a bit and while he was under the radar to an extent back in Atlanta, he was known well enough that it shouldn’t hurt his chances. I actually think coming back to the NHL may prove to be his downfall. He struggled in Los Angeles, fell off quickly after a few good weeks in Montreal, and who knows how he’ll fare down the stretch in Washington if there is a stretch run. (I’m not optimistic of a big performance if he winds up back with the Habs next season either.) Had he stayed retired from the NHL as a point per game player at a time where scoring was deprived and then lit it up in the KHL for a while longer, he might have had a better case. It’s not impossible but I don’t think it’s probable that he gets in.