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Monday, June 22, 2009

Assist Master Needs One For Himself

The Hockey Hall of Fame announces the new class of inductees on Tuesday and the most stacked selection of first-year eligible candidates in a long time joins the list of players who already should be in. This year sees Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, Dave Andreychuk and Alexander Mogilny added to the list of Hall candidates that already includes should-bes like Pavel Bure, Dino Ciccarelli and Doug Gilmour.

I'm not even going to attempt to do something stupid and say that one of the newly eligible guys shouldn't be in the Hall on the first ballot. It would be a farce if I tried, even moreso since Brett Hull already admitted tonight that he knows he's going in.

I know that the Hall of Fame process for hockey is an odd one of sorts, only a maximum of four can be elected any given year and we've entered an era where some of the all-time best are put on the backburner while the supreme elite of the NHL and Russia go to the head of the class. I also know that the Hall won't want to bend their rules to "open the floodgates" and be more akin to say, the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With all these things in place there's one prime and overly-deserving candidate who just might be getting a big assist from a guy he helped become one of the top goal scorers of all time.

I touted Adam Oates' credentials here last year knowing full-well that he likely wasn't going to be voted in then and I bring it back up again this year knowing damn well he's not about to beat the likes of Yzerman, Leetch, Robitaille or Hull. But it's Brett Hull that will be sure to praise the work of Oates and do his share of campaigning for him now that Toronto's Hall awaits him.

Searching For Adam Oates... In The Hockey Hall Of Fame At Least

After all, Hull's work with Oates in St. Louis is the thing legends are made of. Hull's three greatest goal-scoring seasons came with Adam Oates as his centerman. In 1989-1990, Hull potted 72 goals.

The following season saw Hull come perilously close to Wayne Gretzky's single season goal record as he scored 86 goals, just six shy of Gretzky's 92 in 1981-1982.

In 1991-1992, Hull scored 70 goals in a season he played 54 games with Oates before he was traded to Boston for Craig Janney and Stephane Quintal. Nice work on that one St. Louis. Oates would move along to Boston to team up with Hall of Famer Cam Neely to help cement Neely's legacy with the Bruins.

Not a bad career for Oates and while campaigning isn't something that generally goes on with the Hockey Hall's process, it might not hurt to see Neely and Hull now come out and do a little preaching to the voters about a player that helped them directly on the ice piling up 1,079 assists over his NHL career, sixth on the all time list.

He's merely 16th overall in points all time in the NHL, yet some folks think that's not good enough.

Matt McCallum at Fox Sports crafted an objective formula to come up with a mathematical way to figure out who is more deserving than the next guy and while he qualifies that Oates is worthy of getting in eventually, he appears eighth on the list behind most everyone mentioned previously as well as John Tonelli of 1980s Islanders dynasty fame.

My problem with Oates' lack of attention here is that he played in the same era as guys who are head and shoulders above all the greatest to ever play the game, players that changed the landscape and even the rules of the NHL with their play and Oates' numbers are in the same stratosphere with the likes of these guys.

On top of all that, Oates had the marketability thing down cold while with the Bruins:

OK so we'll leave that off of his résumé for now unless we're factoring in unintentional comedy.

I know... It's not going to be 2009 that lets it happen for Oates, but can we make it so that 2010 becomes the greatest year of his hockey life? After all, it marks the 25th anniversary of his college team's National Championship and adding a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame to join the rest of his wingmen through his career would make the perfect cap to a career spent feeding them everything needed to make it to the Hall of Fame.

Now if only he can just get a little bit of help from them.

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