October 15, 2009
HHOF Worthy - Theo Fleury?
As the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2009 is about to be celebrated, the debate about future enshrinements is sure to follow. The class of 2010 has a new name to be discussed - Theoren Fleury. (Note: Hall-of-Fame president Jeff Denomme has said Fleury already is eligible for Hall inclusion, since his last game as a pro (in Belfast, Ireland of all places) occurred in 2006. He was eligible for inclusion this year, which is a surprise given he was still technically suspended by the NHL for substance abuse violations.)
Now the questions are: Is Theo Fleury HHOF worthy? and How Does He Stack Up For 2010?
Is Theo Fleury HHOF worthy?
His numbers, though impressive, may not be quite enough. 455 goals and 633 assists for 1,088 points in 1,084 regular season games plus 34 goals and 45 assists for 79 points in 77 playoff games. Very good, heck I'll even say great numbers, but there are a number of players with better numbers who are on the outside looking in at the Hall already. Fleury ranked 456th on the all-time NHL scoring list at the beginning of the 2009-10 season.
But, as I always say, numbers do not tell the whole story. Theoren Fleury was a winner. He was a major contributor to the 1988 World Junior Championship gold medal with Team Canada in 1988, a IHL title in 1988, the Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989 and the Olympic Gold medal with Canada in 2002. All those championships combined with the solid numbers trump many of the players waiting ahead of him for Hall enshrinement.
If that was the whole story right there, I would say yes, Theo Fleury should be in the Hall of Fame. He was one of the best of his era, there is no doubt in my mind.
The problem is his off-ice behavior overshadowed his many triumphs. The drugs, alcohol, conduct and subsequent suspensions at the time darkened his shine. Since the HHOF selection committee tends to be over the top in the holier than thou department of off ice behavior, it seems certain Fleury stands no chance.
Now, of course, we know the terrible reasons for Fleury's demons. The little underdog that could (don't forget that he played with Chrone's disease, too) is once again making us all proud for conquering obstacles that no one should ever be forced to have. The fact that he did become one of the greatest hockey players of his era while saddled with such a plight is testament to how great he really was on the ice, and to this true character.
It will be very interesting to see how the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee will handle the case for Theo Fleury. The Hall has a chance to welcome a great warrior and a true champion.
How Does He Stack Up For 2010?
Fleury will be a strong candidate in 2010 along with first year hopefuls like Eric Lindros, Joe Nieuwendyk and Peter Bondra. Pierre Turgeon and Sean Burke will also get mild first year interest.
It is a relatively weak first year class, which means previous this may be the chance for players backlogged from previous years, of which there are many: Dino Ciccarelli, Adam Oates, Vincent Damphousse, Mike Richter, Pavel Bure, Phil Housley, Tom Barrasso, Doug Gilmour, Pat Verbeek and Sergei Makarov, amongst others.
As much as I believe Sergei Makarov is the best player on the list, he's likely the last to get any consideration with this committee. In my mind Adam Oates should be included this time around, with Nieuwendyk and Gilmour next in line. Wouldn't it be grand if Fleury were included with his two old Flames teammates?