Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

06/26/2012

Finally

For the few years I was scribbling nonsense on the Internet before I landed over at NBCSports.com’s ProHockeyTalk, every June would turn into a soap box for me to sound off on why Adam Oates belonged in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His case was always easy to make. No, really, it was super easy to make.

Now? Now he’s a Hockey Hall of Famer.

The fight is over and a childhood hero is enshrined for eternity. Bias accepted here, there’s never been a doubt as to Oates’ career being Hall-worthy.

I am as happy as a hockey fan can be. The complaining, the indignant stat-prattling, the case-making, the whining about it all… It’s over. I don’t have to crow about an open-and-shut case anymore.

There’s no need to talk about the injustice of it all and continue alternating between banging my head against the wall and shouting from the mountain tops. Adam Oates: Hall of Famer.

Back in late September during the preseason, I wanted to interview Oates about being snubbed by the Hall. With him being the Devils assistant coach and it also being the team’s first preseason game of the year, the Hall was the last thing on his mind. All business, all the time. That’s part of what got the Washington Capitals to hire Oates as their head coach today on top of it all.

It feels a bit silly to feel as happy for what someone else accomplished, but that’s part of being a fan, right? Embracing those that helped bring the love of the game to you. Oates is the key figure on my personal “Mount Rushmore” of hockey. Oates, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Teemu Selanne. There are plenty other players I have a great appreciation for, but those four? They turned hockey from something I watched and enjoyed into something I obsess over and love dearly, maybe a bit too much if you ask some of my friends.

But Oates? He was the guy who sparked it all for me. Seeing a guy like that play live in person when you’re a kid leaves an impression on you. Seeing him win your favorite local team a championship hammers it home even more. Watching him excel as a professional for nearly 20 years is icing on the cake.

Adam Oates is a Hockey Hall of Famer. What a great day.

 

06/21/2010

Preparing To Riot: Adam Oates’ annual Hall of Fame bid

It’s time for the annual boning over of the most unappreciated passer in the modern era of the NHL. Last year I was resigned knowing full well that Adam Oates wasn’t going to be voted into hockey’s hall of fame. I said it last year that if Adam Oates didn’t go into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, we were going to riot. It’d be more like Internet rioting and not the cop car burning rioting we see in beautiful Montreal, but it’s something, right? Instead, now it feels as if I’m going through the five stages of grieving.

First up: Denial.

No way. How can you leave the guy who is sixth all time in assists out of the Hall of Fame? He had more assists than Steve Yzerman and Gordie Howe. There’s clearly been a miscalculation of the voting here.

Then it’s anger.

Are you kidding me? The guy who sits 16th all time in NHL points scored can’t crack through the ballots on the Hall of Fame vote?! What the hot shit is this all about?! What kind of jerks vote on this!? I AM OUTRAGED!

Then it’s time to start bargaining.

All right, so if you’re not taking Adam Oates into the Hall of Fame, then let’s just  get him hooked up with a Canadian folk hero who is right behind him all time in points with a ravenous fan base looking for any kind of good news. After all, guys who spent a lot of time in Canada seem to get breaks with the voters.  All right Doug Gilmour, you work with us, we’ll work with you and we’ll both get through this together and down some brews in Toronto to celebrate.

So the bargaining thing might pan out, but I’m not holding my breath on that just yet because it’s making me fall into the fourth stage: Depression.

I don’t see what else you can say for the guy. I mean, he hasn’t worn as many ugly sweaters as my favorite emo band but my favorite emo band makes me want to drink a bleach coolatta. Sure that Mighty Ducks of Anaheim sweater was a Disney side show, but that’s no reason to keep a guy out of the Hall of Fame. I mean, he might be the only guy to get stuck having to wear hideous jerseys in his only two Stanley Cup final appearances in 1998 with the Capitals and 2003 with the Ducks.

Blue eagles and teal ducks?  Rock the red my ass, Washington. Adam Oates had to wear the stupid eagle and get swept out of the final by the Red Wings. I was asleep for most of that 2003 final, but when I came out of my coma I saw that Oates hadn’t gotten his name on the Stanley Cup again. At least he’s still got that 1985 National Championship to hang onto. You know, the one where RPI beat a Minnesota-Duluth team with Brett Hull in the semi-finals and a Lou Lamoriello coached Providence team in the finals. Ahh, memories.

Who knew that one would ramble so much when depressed, eh? Never mind that though, it’s all part of the grieving process and it brings us to the big one here and the one I’m pretty much set with as it is: Acceptance.

It’s pretty clear that being the one, lonely voice out here on the Internet clamoring for what should be a slam-dunk Hall of Fame career isn’t doing very much to help bring attention to a man who didn’t live to score goals, but rather lived to help create goals for his teammates, two of which he helped get into the hall of fame already in Brett Hull and Cam Neely. He’s a man who as a center for mostly pedestrian teams managed to do everything possible to make his teammates better and to help power plays become lethal with his playmaking ability.

These things matter not though, at least that’s what I’m telling myself in hoping that by setting the bar as low as possible the Hall of Fame voters will do the right thing and surprise the hell out of me on Tuesday by saying that they’ll be swinging the doors open for Adam Oates. My head and heart say that this will be his year and it makes the most sense as this year’s first-year eligible players have only one stand out person in Joe Nieuwendyk (a fine college player himself, albeit at Cornell).  Other interesting names including Pierre Turgeon, Peter Bondra, Eric Lindros and John LeClair also sit there, but they’re not getting within sniffing distance of the Hall because the wait list of guys that belong in the Hall is too long already.

Dino Ciccarelli (who I’ve lauded here before) as well as Dave Andreychuk (he of 640 goals), and the aforementioned Doug Gilmour are the main egregious omissions from Toronto’s hallowed hall. Two 600+ goal scorers and the man who is 17th all-time in points NOT in the hall of fame. That’s not even taking into account the cases for guys like Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny. Ridiculous.

Even more ridiculous is that if they do try to get things right, someone will still get left out because the Hall of Fame will only allow four players to be inducted at a time. I’m certainly not advocating swinging the doors open and letting everyone and their mother in, but just to put some of the differences aside (Dino and the media not seeing eye-to-eye, for instance) and instead of being petty dicks about the past, doing the right thing and opening the Hall up to those who have been more than patiently waiting for a long delayed call.

Or else there’s hell to be paid.

06/22/2009

Assist Master Needs One For Himself

The Hockey Hall of Fame announces the new class of inductees on Tuesday and the most stacked selection of first-year eligible candidates in a long time joins the list of players who already should be in. This year sees Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, Dave Andreychuk and Alexander Mogilny added to the list of Hall candidates that already includes should-bes like Pavel Bure, Dino Ciccarelli and Doug Gilmour.

I’m not even going to attempt to do something stupid and say that one of the newly eligible guys shouldn’t be in the Hall on the first ballot. It would be a farce if I tried, even moreso since Brett Hull already admitted tonight that he knows he’s going in.

I know that the Hall of Fame process for hockey is an odd one of sorts, only a maximum of four can be elected any given year and we’ve entered an era where some of the all-time best are put on the backburner while the supreme elite of the NHL and Russia go to the head of the class. I also know that the Hall won’t want to bend their rules to “open the floodgates” and be more akin to say, the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With all these things in place there’s one prime and overly-deserving candidate who just might be getting a big assist from a guy he helped become one of the top goal scorers of all time.

I touted Adam Oates’ credentials here last year knowing full-well that he likely wasn’t going to be voted in then and I bring it back up again this year knowing damn well he’s not about to beat the likes of Yzerman, Leetch, Robitaille or Hull. But it’s Brett Hull that will be sure to praise the work of Oates and do his share of campaigning for him now that Toronto’s Hall awaits him.


Searching For Adam Oates… In The Hockey Hall Of Fame At Least

After all, Hull’s work with Oates in St. Louis is the thing legends are made of. Hull’s three greatest goal-scoring seasons came with Adam Oates as his centerman. In 1989-1990, Hull potted 72 goals.

The following season saw Hull come perilously close to Wayne Gretzky’s single season goal record as he scored 86 goals, just six shy of Gretzky’s 92 in 1981-1982.

In 1991-1992, Hull scored 70 goals in a season he played 54 games with Oates before he was traded to Boston for Craig Janney and Stephane Quintal. Nice work on that one St. Louis. Oates would move along to Boston to team up with Hall of Famer Cam Neely to help cement Neely’s legacy with the Bruins.

Not a bad career for Oates and while campaigning isn’t something that generally goes on with the Hockey Hall’s process, it might not hurt to see Neely and Hull now come out and do a little preaching to the voters about a player that helped them directly on the ice piling up 1,079 assists over his NHL career, sixth on the all time list.

He’s merely 16th overall in points all time in the NHL, yet some folks think that’s not good enough.

Matt McCallum at Fox Sports crafted an objective formula to come up with a mathematical way to figure out who is more deserving than the next guy and while he qualifies that Oates is worthy of getting in eventually, he appears eighth on the list behind most everyone mentioned previously as well as John Tonelli of 1980s Islanders dynasty fame.

My problem with Oates’ lack of attention here is that he played in the same era as guys who are head and shoulders above all the greatest to ever play the game, players that changed the landscape and even the rules of the NHL with their play and Oates’ numbers are in the same stratosphere with the likes of these guys.

On top of all that, Oates had the marketability thing down cold while with the Bruins:

OK so we’ll leave that off of his résumé for now unless we’re factoring in unintentional comedy.

I know… It’s not going to be 2009 that lets it happen for Oates, but can we make it so that 2010 becomes the greatest year of his hockey life? After all, it marks the 25th anniversary of his college team’s National Championship and adding a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame to join the rest of his wingmen through his career would make the perfect cap to a career spent feeding them everything needed to make it to the Hall of Fame.

Now if only he can just get a little bit of help from them.

06/17/2008

Enshrinement

The Hockey Hall of Fame will be selecting up to four new members on Tuesday. There are loads of credible candidates who will have a feasible shot of making it in this year.

This year is a big one for a lot of these guys because the next few years are going to be awfully tough. Consider next year when guys like Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Brian Leetch are eligible. Good luck getting the votes. Subsequent years after that until about 2012 or 2013 are similarly stacked with obvious choices.

What’s funny about these selections is that folks mistake the Hockey Hall of Fame for being the NHL Hall of Fame – accomplishments rendered outside of the NHL get lost in the mix and even shoved aside. That said, even some guys with glaring and obvious accomplishments in the NHL get the same treatment because they weren’t buddy-buddy with the writers or had “questionable” issues off the ice.

That means guys with seemingly obvious Hall of Fame stature are still on the outside waiting. Take Glenn Anderson. He’s won six Stanley Cups. He scored 498 goals. He was a key performer on the Oilers dynasty teams of the 1980s but he’s often viewed as the guy who was riding Gretzky’s coattails. Insanity. What’s apparently keeping him out of the Hall even more than his frosty relationship with writers is the fact that Anderson is also a dead-beat dad.

Ouch. That coupled with having a host of writers who aren’t knocking down the door to write nice things about you will help keep you out of the hall. OK so Anderson is a crappy guy – no doubt about that – but him not paying child support has nothing to do with Glenn Anderson the hockey player. The guy belongs.

Then there’s Dino Ciccarelli. Dino scored over 600 goals in the NHL. Dino also never won a Stanley Cup. Dino also played a ton of seasons in the NHL – a fact that gets held against him and his case for the Hall.

Give me a break. Dino was a garbage goal specialist. He wasn’t one for the highlight reel goal – he wanted to stuff home a rebound or put one off a defenseman and in. You could even argue that he was Tomas Holmstrom before Holmstrom made it to America.

Dino is most famous for making one of the more memorable statements in NHL Playoff history when after the Colorado Avalanche eliminated his Detroit Red Wings in six games in 1996 and Claude Lemieux committed one of the most gruesome and illegal hits on Kris Draper, Dino said this:


“I can’t believe I shook that guy’s friggin’ hand.”

Dino also has a bit of a checkered past as he was convicted of assault when in a game against the Maple Leafs while with the Minnesota North Stars he blasted Luke Richardson in the head with his stick. Ugly for sure, but certainly not something to keep him out of the Hall – and the fact he’s not in yet speaks to the petty hypocracy of the writers.

Igor Larionov is best known for his days with the Detroit Red Wings and being nicknamed “The Professor” by his teammates for being a true brainiac off the ice as well as on it. There was never a pass that Larionov wouldn’t make and he’s also one of the true world superstars as the better part of his formative years in hockey were spent in the Soviet Union playing with the Red Army and dominating everyone and their collective brother in arms.

Most of all, Igor Larionov was a true ambassador. He along, with Russian teammates Sergei Makarov and Viacheslav Fetisov, kicked down the door for all Russians to come to the NHL. Makarov made such an impression in his first season he won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. All Igor Larionov did was help fellow Russian Pavel Bure get acclimated to the league and become a dominating goal scorer. Larionov went on to win three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and had the game-winning goal in triple-overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the 2002 Finals. For everything Larionov did for the game both in Russia as well as to open the game up for all Russians, a call from the Hall of Fame is more than overdue.

Finally, I’ll make the case for a guy that shouldn’t need to have a case made for him. He’s 15th all-time in the NHL in points scored. He’s sixth, SIXTH, all time in assists. Everyone ahead of him on the assists list is in the Hall of Fame. Everyone ahead of him on the points list either is or will be in the Hall when they retire. He was a part of two different underachievers that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 and in 2003 who both ended up losing to much more difficult and better teams.

He was the set-up man for some of the most incredible goal scorers the NHL has ever seen. While a member of the St. Louis Blues he teamed up with Brett Hull and while a member of the Boston Bruins, he spent his time feeding Cam Neely. While a member of the Washington Capitals, he fed goal-scoring machine Peter Bondra and later on with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, he was dishing off to Paul Kariya. He was the perfect complimentary player and if it weren’t for guys like Gretzky and Lemieux, he would be known as the premiere passer of his era.

I am talking about Adam Oates. Incredible that a guy like Oates managed to accomplish all of this under the radar, isn’t it? Sure, some folks may be critical of him never leading a team to a Stanley Cup title – but he does have one championship to his credit: The 1985 NCAA National Championship.

Oates was the dominating leader of the ’85 RPI Engineers which also featured future NHL goaltender Daren Puppa as well as John Carter and George Servinis. In that ’85 title season, Oates tallied 31 goals and 60 assists in 38 games.

In the Frozen Four, Oates’ Engineers knocked off Brett Hull’s University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the semi-finals and then Puppa and George Servinis lone goal helped RPI win the title over Providence College and their all-world goaltender Chris Terreri and head coach Lou Lamoriello. I don’t know about you, but in those final two games, I see a couple of Hall of Famers who had to take a bow to an Adam Oates-led team in Hull and Lamoriello.

These four men, through their hard work and time earned and incredible accomplishments, I hope and pray we’ll see their names called later today because if we don’t….it may be a long time before we see them get another chance.

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