December 06, 2010

HHOF Worthy? Bill Guerin

I will always remember Bill Guerin as being an impressive hockey package. He combined speed and power to be a top power forward in his prime. He was big and strong, and was at his best in the more physical games. He could play clean or mean, but he was always looking to hit hard. He worked hard to gain loose pucks and establish position. Once he had the puck he was very hard to knock off of it.

Offensively Guerin had a terrifying slap shot, and developed potent wrist and snap shots as his career progressed. His speed and physicality certainly created room for him to launch pucks with his patented one-timer. Guerin did not have a lot creativity to his game. He was all crash, bash, skate and shoot. He was a conscientious defensive player, although he could get running around in his own zone if he ever lost his check.

Guerin was very much respected as a leader. He had a brash confidence that was infectious, giving his teams a certain swagger. That confidence never once was mistaken as anything less than a class act. Guerin was a very likeable player everywhere he went.

Guerin was a very consistent player. He had five 30-goal seasons and 13 20-goal seasons. He's the only player in NHL history to score 20 goals with seven teams. As his career continued he was highly sought after by teams looking for playoff leadership and experience.

Guerin played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League, with 8 teams - the Devils, Oilers, Bruins, Stars, Blues, Sharks, Islanders and Penguins. He scored 429 goals, 427 assists and accumulated 1,660 penalty minutes in 1,263 regular-season games. He also had 39 goals and 35 assists in 140 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Twice he hoisted the Stanley Cup - in 1995 with New Jersey and in 2009 with Pittsburgh. He also was part of the American team that captured the 1996 World Cup and the 2002 Olympic silver medal. He also participated in the 1998 and 2006 Olympics.

But Hall of Fame worthy? I don't think so.

The Hall of Fame should be reserved for the truly elite players. As consistent and as good as Geurin was over a very long career, I would suggest that there was only a 2 season window where he was in elite territory. Coming off of a 40 goal and career best 85 points in 2000-01, Guerin finished the 2001-02 season with 41 goals, the second highest total in the league (behind Jarome Iginla who had 52). He was honoured with the nod as the NHL Second Team All Star right wing.

Two elite seasons (and some might even question that regarding Guerin) should not be enough to get you in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Moreover, there are quite a few players with better career numbers already on a long waiting list to get into the Hall. Guerin does not have a resume to trump them. I always struggle with longevity's worth in these debates

A lot of people suggest he should be included in the Hall of Fame because he is one of the best American players of all time. I suspect we will see a few players from this exiting generation of players get inducted because that claim is part of their resume, although I can't see that being enough for Guerin's resume to bridge the gap. Besides, based on nationality is wrong. Are we going to induct Cristobal Huet because he's the best from France?

Yes Geurin was affable, a good leader and long time hockey warrior. He consistently scored and was always unwavering in his approach to the game. But Hockey Hall of Famer? He was very good, but not great.


Johngy said...

This was very well-written and I couldn't agree more. My friends classify me as an HOF elitist (for all sports). Maybe that's true, but I feel the HOF should be for the few who were truly the greats.
I hate it when people say Player X will make the BBHOF this year because the ballot is weak. Player X should make it on his own merit, not because the rest of the options are poor.
Guerin was an excellent player for a long time. It is no knock to say he isn't a HOFer.
I'll be passing on this piece to all of my friends.

Martin ITFOR said...

Absolutely no question, not close to be a HOF-er...

TheRealDFG said...

I'm biased here because I would vote in a heartbeat for Billy G to get into the Hall.

But you are right. Leadership skills, guts and grit don't get you into the hall. When you have players like Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe, Hull, Richard, Lefleur, etc. as comparisons he falls way short.

I have always been a big fan and supporter of Bill Guerin and I always will.