Earlier this week, we saw a bunch of people not named Alexander Mogilny get inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and it got me thinking. This current era of the Toronto Maple Leafs have seen a surplus of extremely talented players play for this team, some so talented that one day they could find themselves in the same position as Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, and Kim St-Pierre when their careers are done.
So, let’s try and figure out who those players might be. I’ll be organizing this based on their likelihood that they end up in the Hall of Fame. Now it should be noted, this is going to be solely based on their play now and how it projects to play out over the course of their careers. With the number of young players on this team, there are a lot of things that could change that would probably affect their chances.
This stuff isn’t official, it’s just for fun.
The “Most Likely” Candidates
We’ll start with the player that has had enough tenure in the league to probably deem his chances as “safe”. Already 11 seasons into his NHL career, Tavares has lived up to his first overall and “Next One” potential, and has consistently flirted around a point per game every season. The Hall loves their “milestones”, and at 29, Tavares only needs 186 games, 155 goals, and 231 points to reach those 1000 game, 500 goal, and 1000 point milestones, marks he should easily hit even by the end of his seven year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs
What could hold him back? The Hall also loves it’s hardware, and as of right now, Tavares has nothing to show for it aside from a gold medal and World Cup win. At the NHL level, he has no Cup and no awards, aside from a Hart nomination in 2015.
He also might take a hit because of his ruined reputation with the Islanders, because after wasting most of his prime on a team with terrible management, he decided to join a competent team. But, it might not fly with the old boys club, especially because he screwed over the oldest boy (Lou Lamoriello) doing so.
It might be a bit bold saying someone will most likely be in the Hall of Fame only four years into their career, but Matthews is already a top five player in this league, and like McDavid, he’d probably already be deemed a lock if not for his injuries and the fact that he’s a Toronto Maple Leaf. He’s the best even strength goal scorer since he entered the league, and is actually the best goal scorer period if you look at goals per game or per 60 rates (yes, Ovechkin will always be better, but right now, a young Matthews is slightly better than a “twilight of his prime” Ovi). He stepped up his defensive game this year, so we could even see him get Selke votes down the road, on top of him probably getting a Rocket Richard somewhere down the road.
What could hold him back? Well, if the rumours of him having COVID-19 are true (I don’t think I’ve seen confirmation on it yet, so I’m not saying anything certain), that could certainly be problematic. We don’t know the long term effects of COVID-19 still, and the impact it might have on a person’s lungs and respiratory system would cause even more problems if you’re an athlete. Worst case scenario from this is that he might not be able to keep up and be an elite player after this.
The “Probable” Candidates
While he’s not going to get in from his career as a Maple Leaf, Spezza is a probable lock for the Hall because of his elite play, particularly in the late 00’s with the Ottawa Senators. With over 1100 games played, and only 60 points away from that 1000 point mark, he’s close to having those milestones the Hall loves, but he doesn’t have as much time to get them as Tavares does, as well as the lack of hardware.
What could hold him back? Honestly, if we haven’t seen Daniel Alfredsson make it into the Hall yet, it’s hard to see the guy setting him up getting in either.
Much like Matthews, I’m hesitant to be more certain with Marner because of how young he is. But based on what he’s done so far, it’s certainly a possibility. While his first couple seasons certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, it’s his two most recent seasons that have him be more highly considered, with 94 points last season, and a 93 point pace this year, all before even really reaching his prime shows he has potential to be a player worthy of the Hall.
What could hold him back? I think he could end up being one of the players that sees their chances waiver based on Cup success. If he has he projected career without any big accolades, he might get snubbed. If he does it while a part of a dynasty. Easy pick.
The “Maybe” Candidates
This is where we get to the point where it’s a bit more of a stretch. Remember, this is the Hall of Fame we’re talking about, not the Hall of Really Good, so we shouldn’t just be seeing anybody get in. That said, Rielly still has a shot to make it in. He’s been a strong offensive defenseman in his prime, highlighted by his 20 goal, 72 point season in 2018-19.
What could hold him back? The problem is that aside from this season, he’s never been “one of the best” defenseman in the league. He’s been amazing in his career, but has never reached that elite status that would make him a better candidate. At 26, he doesn’t have a whole lot of time to reach that elite status to put him in the Hall.
Aside from this season, Andersen has been the epitome of consistency, being a strong goalie throughout his career. While records really shouldn’t be that important, the Hall seems to think so, and he has a record of 213-92-45, and also boasts a .917 save percentage, both strong numbers that could help his case to the Hall.
What could hold him back? Well, he’s been TOO consistent. Consistent enough that, like Rielly, he hasn’t put himself into a conversation of being one of the best goalies in the league (even though he should be). Perhaps a Vezina trophy or a Cup win could change that, but people don’t look at him as one of the leagues best just yet.
This will probably be the player in this group that most people will think is the least likely, but I think he has the best chance of this group. For starters, he’s the youngest of the group, so he has a bit more time to hit any elite potential he may have than Rielly and Andersen. And while it may seem crazy to say he could be elite, we forget that he was on pace for a 37 goal and 71 point season this year. The skill and potential is there, it’s more of a question if he hits it.
What could hold him back? I think the biggest problem for him is his reputation. The numerous trade rumours aside, his 2018-19 season caused some divide over him, even if it isn’t rightfully deserved. It’s likely that even if he has a Hall of Fame worthy career, he sees himself in the same shoes as Alex Mogilny.
The “If Kevin Lowe can make the Hall of Fame, why not these guys” Candidates
If the name didn’t give it away, this category is for pretty good players who were a part of dynasties. In the case of Muzzin, he has the potential to be a part of two, depending on the success of the Leafs. While his boxcars aren’t Hall-worthy, depending on how much analytics are considered into the decisions in the future, his case is a lot better, as he’s been a consistent defensive defenseman. With two Cups to his name, and the potential for a couple more, he has a shot, albeit small.
What could hold him back? Considering how old the selection committee is, I doubt they’ll give any credit to Muzzin’s underlying numbers. So, he’s gonna need a few more Cups to his name to even be considered.
Okay, now I’m just having fun. While Hyman has only recently reached a status of pretty good, it’s highly unlikely that he ever reaches a status elite enough that he’d be close to consideration. But hey, if Kevin Lowe can make it, so can Hyman.
What could hold him back? He’s gonna need A LOT of Stanley Cups to get any consideration.