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Making sense of Hall of Fame decisions...again
There was at least one head-scratcher among the seven inductees in The Year of the Goalie. Clearly, the selection committee could use some help and we have a very good candidate
The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee needs more people like Paul Pidutti. It needs more people, period, a lot of them, but hockey’s version of the Stonecutters Secret Society™ could really use a guy like Pidutti even if it stays at the absurdly low number of 18 members. There are only two barriers preventing this paper-pushing, numbers-nerd accountant from Sudbury out of the selection committee ranks. One, he never bled on an NHL sweater. Two, he doesn’t drink with the right people.
But think of the context a person such as Pidutti could add to the annual Hall of Fame debate, one that culminated for 2023 on Wednesday with the announcement of seven inductions – super agent/GM Pierre Lacroix and Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock as builders and Henrik Lundqvist, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon, Pierre Turgeon and Caroline Ouellette in the players’ category. As usual, there were some real head-scratchers. There always are. For example, the committee could have reduced the backlog of deserving women players and displayed a little more of a progressive attitude by inducting two players instead of one. The other could have been the very-deserving Julie Chu, who happens to be married to Ouellette. Golden opportunity missed. Oh, well.
It's pretty clear the selection committee was set on making up for the Hall’s underrepresentation of goalies, bumping the number up by three to a total of 16. If the committee had allowed Pidutti access into its inner circle, it would have learned that he would have zero problem with Lundqvist, could live with Barrasso and could not fathom a world in which Vernon would even be remotely considered a Hall of Famer.
And why are opinions such as Pidutti’s important? Because this 37-year-old is doing some much-needed, nay critical, work when it comes to assessing the legacies of players. Pidutti operates a website called adjustedhockey.com, and is the creator of the Pidutti Point Shares (PPS) system, which runs all the under-the-hood numbers to determine which players are worthy of being enshrined in the Hall. He’s also writing some compelling pieces for dailyfaceoff.com, where he explains his methodology and defends his decisions. Nobody has ever done anything like this and it provides a ton of context to the debate.
Does that mean Pidutti and his PPS are the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining who belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Of course not. If it were simply a matter of plugging in numbers and making historical adjustments, there would be no need for a selection committee. (Hey, wait a minute. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.) But having a voice such as Pidutti’s that prominent would add another layer of examination that is clearly lacking from the process. If you’re going to have so few people involved, it’s probably a good idea to have someone with that kind of background contributing to the decisions. And more importantly, it would reduce the chance of Hall of Fame induction coming down to a popularity contest.
Pidutti’s system has Turgeon as a locked-in Hall of Famer, so that would be a really good place to start the debate. He’s not in my Hall of Fame, but the chance to reflect on it with that kind of information can be nothing but a good thing. Not surprisingly, Vernon is the one that sticks out like a sore thumb to Pidutti, particularly with the continued omission of Curtis Joseph. Of all the post-1967 expansion goalies, Pidutti has Vernon ranked 46th, compared to Joseph at No. 9 and John Vanbiesbrouck at No. 11. He thinks both Joseph and JVB qualify, along with Tomas Vokoun and Tim Thomas. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.
“The smoking gun on Vernon’s case is his save percentage was actually below the NHL’s average,” Pidutti said. “That’s really hard to look past. And it’s not as though he was above it his whole career and stuck around too long. He just never outperformed the league-average save percentage.” But he also has a Stanley Cup, a Conn Smythe, a Jennings and a Memorial Cup, and that counts for something. As far as Joseph is concerned, with the influx of goaltenders in this year’s class, he remains the egregious omission. “(Joseph) is up with Lundqvist, believe it or not,” Pidutti said. “His peak with St. Louis was so good and nobody noticed because all anyone cared about was wins and goals-against average. He does really, really well.”
Now that Turgeon has been inducted, that leaves a good number of players who should join him in the coming years. Pidutti has Jeremy Roenick as the next deserving candidate according to his standards, along with Keith Tkachuk, Patrik Elias and, believe it or not, John LeClair. Curiously, Rod Brind’Amour does not meet his criteria. “You might laugh at (LeClair), but his five-year run was absolutely bonkers,” Pidutti said. “He was the first- or second-team left winger all five years. (Seven, actually.) He’s someone I’ve talked about a lot.”
Pidutti has suggested that Alexander Mogilny is the most deserving player of induction who is not in the Hall of Fame. His numbers also point to Theo Fleury. Mogilny is pro-Putin, but that doesn’t explain why he was left out of the Hall of Fame for 11 years prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Fleury would be a risk, given his rather, um, unconventional political/conspiratorial views and the possibility they might fall out of his mouth during induction weekend. Perhaps that’s why neither was inducted in 2023. But we’ll never know because they never tell.