May 30, 2011, 10:15 AM EST
A season after Chris Chelios retired, older players managed to steal the spotlight with startling frequency. The most obvious example was Nicklas Lidstrom, who at 41 years old wasn’t just the Detroit Red Wings’ best defenseman but maybe the best blueliner in the NHL. Teemu Selanne (40) recorded 80 points in 73 games and six goals in six playoff contests. Dwayne Roloson (41) was one of the stories of the 2011 playoffs, taking the Tampa Bay Lightning within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Yet 43-year-old Boston Bruins winger Mark Recchi outlasted them all in the 2011 playoffs. When you think about legacies, Recchi’s career might generate some serious debates in the Hockey Hall of Fame whenever he decides to finally hang up his skates.
The argument in favor of Recchi
The biggest numbers in favor of Recchi making the Hall of Fame are the most obvious ones: he has 1,533 points scored in 1,652 regular season games and 140 points in 182 career playoff games. Those 1,533 points rank him 12th all-time in total points while his 577 regular season goals rank him 19th in league history. Recchi won two Stanley Cups – one in his first career trip to the postseason with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1990-91; 34 points) and another with the Carolina Hurricanes 15 years later (2005-06; 16 points). Recchi made seven appearances in All-Star Games in his lengthy career, with the most recent trip coming in 1999-2000.
Digging deeper with hockey-reference.com, here are a few seasons in which he ranked in the top 10 in points: 90-91 (113 points; 4th place), 92-93 (123 pts; 10th) 93-94 (107 pts; 5th), 99-00 (91 pts; 3rd). He also was ninth in the NHL in goal scoring once, finding the net 43 times in 91-92. His career high for a single season is 53 goals in 92-93, his only 50+ goal season.
The argument against Recchi
Recchi is the a superb example of the “quantity vs. quality” paradigm. Sure, he was very good for a long time, but how often was he truly elite? He made one Second All-Star team and never made the first team in his career. Recchi hasn’t made a regular All-Star team in 11 years, spending a decade going from a very good player to a good one to his current state as a remarkably plucky and useful asset. That’s an outstanding achievement (with an impressive 10 points in 13 games in the 2010 playoffs), but is it the kind of run that makes him a worthy Hall of Fame inductee?
If the Hockey Hall of Fame had a reputation for being extremely exclusive, I would flatly deny Recchi’s worthiness. Being very good for a long time (and at least solid for a ridiculously long time) is an astounding achievement, but some will point out that he may not have been a truly elite player for much – if any – of his career.
That being said, the HHOF tends to reward longevity, big overall totals and strength of character more than a player’s relative dominance. Having some championship jewelry doesn’t hurt either. Recchi gets a big check mark in those essential areas, so my guess is that he would make it in pretty easily. After all, it’s tough to stare down 1,533 points and deny him enshrinement.
What do you think, though? Does Recchi deserve to be in the Hall of Fame once he retires or not? Let us know in the poll.
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