I think members of the Hockey Hall of Fame voting committee sat around, pondered all their choices for the Class of ’16, and in the true spirit of 21st century media, decided to go full click bait on us.
Meet the new class of the HHOF: the one without Mark Recchi.
This is where the click-bait masters would show the pictures of those admitted to the Hall on Monday: Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov, Rogie Vachon, and Pat Quinn. And right next to them, the silhouette of the unchosen Recchi, with the big bold question mark floating over his head.
Recchi, now five years into retirement, his last of three Stanley Cups fresh in hand as he left Boston, should have been ushered through the FastPass door. But the Hall is not Disney World, and Recchi will have to wait another day to be granted entrance. Hopefully, he won’t have to wait more than 365 days.
Let’s go right to the numbers, which, as numbers are wont to do, merely make the statistical case for Recchi.
Voila! In his 1,652 regular-season games, he recorded 577 goals, 956 assists, and 1,533 points. He then played only 189 more games in the postseason and went 61-86—147.
There’s really no debate there. The numbers alone should have adequately filled the Recchi HHOF curriculum vitae. But, no, nearly 600 goals and 1,500-something points, just not good enough.
OK, so let’s move on to the “intangibles.” Recchi played on three Stanley Cups winners, the Penguins, Hurricanes, and Bruins. A development coach these days with the Penguins, he just put his fingerprints on a fourth Cup. It’s hard to classify Cup wins as a true intangible, because winning is a team thing and the Hall has its members who never were fortunate enough to play on a champion (Jean Ratelle comes immediately to mind).
Come November, Lindros will be one of those Hall members never to play on a Cup winner.
Recchi differentiated himself in a number of ways, but the one that comes to mind immediately was his artistry when tight around the net. He was a master at getting to the crease, figuring out leverage points against much bigger defenders (forwards and defensemen alike), and potting goals.
If you think that’s easy, especially for a guy who was 5 feet 10 inches (if that), then I invite you to go watch 40 years of NHL games and come back with your list of guys who could match him. Or save yourself some time and just leave your list blank.
A laser shot like Mike Bossy’s or Brett Hull’s? Not close. Size and strength like Lindros, Cam Neely, or Dave Andreychuk? Obviously not. A brilliant puck handler like Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux or Joe Sakic? Nope.
For those with a Bruins frame of reference to all things hockey, much of what Recchi did around the net was in the Phil Esposito bag of tricks. But Esposito was bigger and wider, and he played in an era when hanging around the crease paid off because goalies were smaller, as was their equipment, and passes found their way to his stick. Espo played in the game’s Open Scoring Era.
Recchi enjoyed some of those advantages early in his career, but eventually, as offense began to disappear leaguewide in the Dead Puck Era, his output scaled back. But he still found ways to score, through guile, grit, and sheer net-front genius.
Truth is, Recchi got far more out of his 5-10, 190 pounds than Lindros got out of his 6-4, 230. Again, really not debatable. Consider Lindros’s career line: 760 games, 372-493—865. Recchi’s 956 assists alone were more than L’Enfant Terrible’s career point total.
Lindros, of course, had the misfortune of finally having to give in to a series of concussions. He was a very entertaining player to watch — big and bold, dynamic and fearsome when at the top of his game.
But when you look at the essentials here — the career body of work that is the basis of election — Recchi was Vivaldi and Lindros an oversized and, at times, overhyped Backstreet Boy.
I can see a case for Lindros being in the Hall of Fame (though I wouldn’t be the one to make it), but not ahead of Recchi. Recchi wins the debate on points, longevity, Stanley Cups, hockey sense, guile, and eagerness to help teammates, particularly younger players who wanted to better their games and put in the hard work to reap the awards.
Sorry, the pick here is Recchi, 1,000 times ahead of Lindros.