Thursday, 8 April 2010

Just Not Good Enough

With the announcement that Keith Tkachuk was retiring from the NHL after 19 seasons in the show, there was immediate chatter about his Hall of Fame credentials. Tkachuk played in some big games throughout his career, suiting up with the Winnipeg Jets, the Phoenix Coyotes, the Atlanta Thrashers, and the St. Louis Blues in his professional career. He represented Team USA in four Winter Olympic Games, and has played in two World Cups of Hockey. However, Tkachuk's numbers will come into question when people look at his potential on the Hall of Fame ballot. And I think that there are other players who should be in the Hall of Fame ahead of the bruising American.

There's no doubt that Tkachuk has had a marvelous career. He has amassed 592 goals and 525 assists over his 19 seasons, and led the NHL in goals in 1996-97 with the Phoenix Coyotes when he netted 52 goals. Those 52 goals also marked the first time that an American-born player had led the NHL in goals, and it would mark the fourth time that any NHL player had scored 50 or more goals while putting up 200 or more penalty minutes.

Tkachuk was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets 19th overall in 1990. He played one season for the Boston University Terriers, scoring 17 goals and adding 23 assists in 37 NCAA games in 1990-91. He made the Hockey East All-Rookie Team that year after his impressive freshman season.

Tkachuk would spend five seasons in Winnipeg. He played in nearly every game during his four full seasons in the Manitoba capital, appearing in 308 games. He scored a total of 144 goals, including 50 in the Jets' final season in 1995-96, and added 145 assists. He spent 792 minutes in the penalty box for the Jets, twice topping the 200-minute mark. He captained the Jets from 1993-95 before the team was sold and moved south.

Tkachuk would move from Winnipeg to Phoenix when the Coyotes set up shop in the desert. He would spend seasons in the Phoenix sun with the Coyotes, appearing in 332 games. He racked up 179 goals and added another 155 assists while spending another 716 minutes in the sin bin. Tkachuk would be traded at the trade deadline in 2001 to the St. Louis Blues for Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus, Jeff Taffe and a first-round selection who would turn out to be Ben Eager. Tkachuk served as captain of the Coyotes from 1996-2001.

Keith Tkachuk would play parts of eight seasons in St. Louis where he would become an important figure in Blues' history. Of course, there was that little 18-game experiment in Atlanta, but that ended quickly as the Thrashers were swept out of the playoffs. In St. Louis, Tkachuk would play 476 games, scoring 195 goals and adding 200 assists. He only spent 621 minutes serving penalties, and posted 139 minutes in his most-penalized season with the Blues in 2002-03.

That 18-game span in Atlanta at the end of the 2006-07 season? Tkachuk did play well there as he put up seven goals and eight assists, while watching for 34 minutes from the penalty box.

On November 30, with the Blues, Tkachuk recorded his 1000th point against the Atlanta Thrashers. On April 6, 2008 - the final day of the regular season two years ago - Keith Tkachuk scored the 500th goal of his career against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He became the 41st player to achieve that mark, and only the third American-born player to score 500 goals, following in the footsteps of Joe Mullen and Mike Modano. He played in five NHL All-Star Games, and holds the Phoenix Coyotes franchise records for game-winning goals (40) and penalty minutes (1508). In international play, Keith Tkachuk was part of the silver-medal winning American team in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

So you have his history. You've seen his stats. Does he make the cut for the Hockey Hall of Fame? In terms of points and career achievements, there are at least two men who should get the call before Tkachuk does.

Comparatively, he ranks lower than another bruising forward who has yet to be called by the Hall. Dino Ciccarelli has 608 goals and 592 assists to his name, but isn't in the Hall of Fame. By comparison, Ciccarelli has 167 more points over his 21-year career than Tkachuk does in his 19-year career.

Comparatively, Steve Larmer's credentials are better than Tkachuk's. Larmer has 1012 points over 15 NHL seasons - just 21 points less than Tkachuk's 1033 points in four less seasons - and has yet to receive the call. Larmer also has a Stanley Cup ring with the New York Rangers, and captured the 1983 Calder Trophy. He holds the NHL record for consecutive games with one team at 884 with the Blackhawks, won the Canada Cup in 1991 as a member of Team Canada, and played in two NHL All-Star Games.

There are countless other players who are sitting on the precipice of a Hall of Fame career, but they are still waiting for their invitation. Unfortunately, the NHL is losing a great scorer and leader in Tkachuk, but he'll be forced to stand in line with other NHL players who simply haven't achieved greatness in their careers.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Jim BC said...

Agreed Teebz - he's not HOF material - too many players with better credentials still waiting to get in ahead of him!

JCase said...

In fairness he's only the 4th player ever to record 1000pts and 2000pims. He's one of the best American's ever to play the game and has had success Internationally. He's also considered to be the proto-type for the modern Power Forward and was one of the most feared and respected players in the league in his prime.
The hall doesn't just look at your stat line. It considers success at every level and your impact on the game. He isn't a first ballot HOFer but he'll get in eventually.

Teebz said...

In that case, Larmer was better and he's still waiting.

There are a ton of excellent players who are sitting and waiting still. My point was that Tkachuk was a good player in his time, and he did a lot of great things on the ice.

But I just don't see him being a HoF player anytime soon.