Islanders Hockey Hall of Fame: Placing alum in tiers of likely induction

TORONTO, ONTARIO - NOVEMBER 18: A general view of the Hockey Hall of Fame prior to the red carpet event during the 2019 Induction Ceremony at the Hockey Hall Of Fame on November 18, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - NOVEMBER 18: A general view of the Hockey Hall of Fame prior to the red carpet event during the 2019 Induction Ceremony at the Hockey Hall Of Fame on November 18, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Putting fourteen former New York Islanders players into tiers for likely induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Today the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce their class of 2020, while there are a number of former New York Islanders players that are eligible it’s not expected that any of them will get the nod just yet.

So with that in mind, I broke down a number of players who at one point in their careers played for the Islanders and placed them into tiers, I called them crews. Each crew has a different degree of Hall worthiness from “Gonna Make it” for slam dunk nominees to the “No Chance” crew.

There are a lot of players that could make one of these crews, but I kept the list down to guys who are soon to be eligible (like within 2-4 years) and guys who are listed on the Hockey Hall of Fame’s list of non-honored members.

I wanted to give a shout out to Rob Taub who gave me inspiration for this. Rob’s piece on who the next Isles player to be inducted in the Hall made me think of breaking it down into these tiers.

(For each player in the list below I included the number of games played (GP) with the Isles.)

The “Gonna Make It” Crew

Roberto Luongo | 24 GP (with Isles)

What could have been, right? There’s no way the Isles could have known that Rick Di Pietro would have his entire career derailed by injuries and that Luongo would be a slam dunk candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

After being traded to the Florida Panthers in 2000, Luongo would play 1,020 games and average a 2.50 GAA and 0.919SV% with 76 shutouts. He never won a Vezina trophy as the league’s top goalie, but Luongo was a dominant goalie for years in the NHL. He’ll get in once he’s eligible.

Yes, he still counts as an Islander, if you can find Wayne Gretzky under Indianapolis Racers, a team he played two games for, Lou can count under the Isles (as well as Panthers and Canucks).

He retired in 2019 so he won’t be eligible until 2022.

Zdeno Chara | 231 GP 

He played 231 games with the Islanders before being traded to the Ottawa Senators in the Alexei Yashin deal. Chara wasn’t that dominant defender we know today when he was with the Isles between 1997 and 2001.

With 1,553 games played, 656 points, a Norris trophy, and a Stanley Cup he’s going to make the hall in his first year of eligibility. Without a doubt.

He’s still playing, but at 43 it’s not going to be long before he hangs up his skates. One more year and then the three-year waiting period and he’s in by 2024.

The “Got a Chance” Crew

Pierre Turgeon | 255 GP

Turgeon would score 341 points, including a 58 goal and 132 point season in 1992-93 with the Isles. The same year the Isles powered their way to the Eastern Conference finals against the Canadiens who would eventually win the cup.

Maybe if Turgeon was healthy enough to play that full series against the Habs, that cup may have been awarded to a different team.

Turgeon was never the best player in the league in any year, but he was a top center in the league most years. With 515 goals and 1,327 points in 1,294 games, he’s got the credentials to eventually get a nod.

Chris Osgood | 103 GP

Chris Osgood wasn’t around long before the Islanders eventually moved him to St Louis. His numbers were pretty good in his short stint with the Isles averaging a 2.65GAA and 0.905SV%. He also helped the Isles get to the playoffs in 2002 and push the Leafs to seven games.

With three Stanley Cups rings, two Jennings trophies, and a career average 0.905SV% and 2.49GAA he’s got the hardware and numbers to get a nod to the Hall at some point.

Ron Hextall | 65 GP

There are only five players who’ve won a Conn Smythe trophy on a losing team, Ron Hextall is one of them with a 2.76GAA and 0.908SV% in 26 games during Philly’s playoff run in 1987.

He also won the Calder Trophy and Vezina Trophy that season. That’s right, as a rookie, Hextall won three major trophies. Add 296 career wins and a Canada Cup title and Hextall has a good case to make it one day.

The “Hall of Very Good” Crew

Brent Sutter | 694 GP

Some might not agree here because Sutter has over 1,000 NHL games, has two cups, and three Canada Cup winner’s medals. But in my opinion, to make the Hall a player needs to have a major impact on the game during their career. Sutter didn’t have that.

Now, if we want to induct the entire Sutter family I could get behind that. I can’t think of a single-family that’s had a larger impact on the game than the Sutters. They’ve already made the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame.

Bill Guerin | 142 GP

He has a cup, a World Cup medal, he has over 1,000 games played in the NHL and made second-team all-star in 2001-02 with a 41 goal and 66 point season for the Boston Bruins.

Never a dominant player, Guerin was a consistently solid NHLer over his 18-year career. It’s just not enough to get a nod for the Hall but maybe with the right backing, he could make it one day.

Doug Weight | 107 GP

With 1,033 points in 1,238 games and a Stanley Cup ring, you could argue that he deserves to be in the “Got a Chance” crew. But in my opinion, Weight isn’t as dominant a player as Pierre Turgeon who had five 90+ season to Weight’s two.

He’s certainly good and might make the cut at some point. But if Pierre Turgeon isn’t close to getting in, neither should Doug Weight.

Ziggy Palffy | 331 GP

His numbers are incredible. With 684 games played in the NHL, Palffy scored 713 points. In 331 games with the Isles, he had 331 points, and it’s not like Palffy was surrounded with talent in those days with the Isles. He was the talent. Just him.

If he could have been surrounded by a proper top-line center who knows what he could have done.

He was never the best player on any given year and with no hardware to speak of it’s not likely he make the Hall.

Evgeni Nabokov | 123 GP

He didn’t originally want to play for the Islanders, but the Russian shot-stopper made the best of it with a 57-43-18 record and an average 2.59GAA and 0.910SV%.

Over a 14 year career, Nabokov won a Calder trophy, was a first-team all-star in 2008, and finished in the top five of Vezina voting five times. He was a great goalie on his day but was just a cut below Hall-worthy.

John Vanbiesbrouck | 44 GP

Vanbiesbrouck won a Vezina in his second year in the league and finished second in Vezina voting in 1993-94 with the expansion Florida Panthers. He also powered the Panthers to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996 with an incredible 2.25GAA and 0.932SV%.

He made first-team all-star in 1986 and second-team all-star in 1994. With 374 career wins and 882 games played in the league, Vanbiesbrouck has a shot at making the Hall.

The Trevor Daley incident from 2003 where Vanbiesbrouck as GM of the Sault St Marie Greyhounds used a racial slur when speaking of Daley who was the team’s captain will certainly keep him out though.

The “No Chance” Crew

Kelly Hrudey | 241 GP

He was a great goalie for the Islanders between 1983 and 1989 finishing in the top five of Vezina voting twice and probably should have been in the top three in 1986.

With a 15-year career where he picked up 271 wins and 17 shutouts is a good career but that’s not enough to get a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Steve Thomas | 275 GP

With 421 goals, 933 points, and1,235 games played, Thomas was a great player. But he was never a top-player in the league on a given year. You can argue that he belongs in the “Hall of Very Good” crew and I wouldn’t put up a fight if you did.

But I have a hard time saying he’s at the same level as guys like Sutter, Weight, or Palffy.

Felix Potvin | 33 GP

He was a fine goalie and has an impressive 266 wins over his career but he was never a dominant goalie in his day. He was a fringe starter in the league and nowhere near what is required to get in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Although, if we’re talking about the Hockey Nickname Hall of Fame, Potvin is a first-ballot slam dunk inductee. Felix “The Cat” Potvin was an incredible nickname.