February 06, 2007

Mike Vernon: One of the best?

One of hockey's true good guys gets the ultimate honour on Tuesday night. The Calgary Flames will retire #30 of hometown hero Mike Vernon.

For many Calgary fans, and for that matter Vancouver fans, the lasting image of Mike Vernon is his amazing glove save against Stan Smyl in game 7 of the opening round of the 1989 playoffs.

Vernon is best remembered for backstopping the Calgary Flames all the way to the 1989 Stanley Cup championship, Calgary's only title. While the team featured Calgary Flames legends including the likes of Lanny McDonald, Joe Mullen, Al MacInnis, Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joel Otto, and Hakan Loob, it was the hometown hero in between the pipes that was the difference maker.

Vernon is also fondly remembered as a Detroit Red Wing, leading them to two Stanley Cup finals, winning in 1997 while being named as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP.

As Eric Duhatschek writes, Vernon is finally getting his moment in the spotlight.

Vernon was a two time Stanley Cup champion, a Smythe trophy MVP, a 5 time all star, a 385 game winner, but he was not necessarily a star. In fact, he remains highly underrated despite a resume that should get him serious Hall of Fame consideration.

As dependable as he was successful, Mike Vernon definitely played in the shadows of his peers. His chief rivals were the far more prolific Patrick Roy and and far more flamboyant Grant Fuhr. Also, he was not as unflappable as Martin Brodeur, and not as theatrical as Dominik Hasek.

Of Vernon's era, I would class him below this elite level, placing him somewhere in a group that includes Ed Belfour, Bill Ranford, Curtis Joseph, Mike Richter and Andy Moog.

Will Mike Vernon get into the Hall of Fame one day? So far the Hall doors remain closed to Ranford, Richter and Moog, and likely will be for Joseph when he retires. I'm really sitting on the fence on this question. Some definitely feel he should be included, while others admantly say no. I'm not uncomfortable with Vernon's omission if these guys miss too, though I do believe Richter should make the cut.

What do you think? Post your comments below!


penaltykiller9 said...

It has become very difficult to gauge the HHOF criteria . Vernon is certainly on the cusp,I don't believe Ranford,Moog or Joseph rate consideration,Richter a tough call.In recent years I feel there have been several weak selections,,Clark Gillies,Bernie Federko to name two. Dick Duff's selection is mind boggling he was a fine player but,he was surrounded by a stellar supporting cast.How well would have players such as Don McKenney,Leo Labine and Jerry Toppazinni fared in Toronto?

Anonymous said...

I believe it's fair to put Vernon among the Ranford's and Moog's of that era. However, I think Vernon was better over a lengthier period than both. Not by much, but he was better. I think he should eventually make the Hall, although it might take awhile. I agree with penaltykiller9 that Gillies and Federko were weak selections. Richter should be in. Outside of his stellar play for the Rangers, his contribution to hockey in America has to be considered too.