by PuckStopsHere on 05/28/11 at 12:55 AM ET
With a 1-0 win in game seven, the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup. They will be playing against the Vancouver Canucks. I have written many times about the lack of elite teams in the NHL recently. While I am pleased that it looks like Vancouver could be an elite team (the first one since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks and the second since the lockout).
I define an elite team as being a team that is dominant on a historical level. They are a team that would not be out of place when compared to the best teams of all time. Historically we see that these teams all have at least three (possibly more) players who will eventually make the Hockey Hall of Fame. These are either players who have already had good enough careers that they should get to the Hall of Fame regardless of what happens in the rest of their career or they appear to be on track to have such a career based on a reasonable projection of their career. These players must be close enough to their career primes that they are all star calibre players. The team must also have an elite goalie. An elite goalie is defined as a goalie who is among the best few in the NHL. There are usually about five such goalies in the league at any given time. This goalie may or may not be included among the Hall of Fame players. This group of players is not in and of itself enough to guarantee that a team will be an elite team but it is a necessary component. An elite team must have a sufficient number of top players. These conditions guarantee that the team has enough good players that they might be an elite team. The top players must also play well together. This makes the conditions above necessary but not sufficient to have an elite team. Their use comes in that we can dismiss teams that do not have enough elite players in our quest to find elite teams.
How does Boston measure up?
They clearly have an elite goalie. Tim Thomas is the likely Vezina Trophy winner this year. This is an award he won in 2009. A two-time Vezina Trophy winner is a likely Hall of Famer. The fact that he was in his 30s before he became an NHL starting goalie probably means that he is not quite a Hall of Famer even with a Vezina Trophy win this year, but he is close. It is quite reasonable to project him as being on a Hall of Fame track.
There are two players on the Bruins who I believe are worthy of Hall of Fame inductions based on their career to this point. They are Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi. Chara is clearly an all star level player today. He is a Norris Trophy nominee this season and could win his second Norris Trophy. Recchi is a good player today, but at age 43 he is the oldest player in the league today. He has scored 40-something points each of the last two years and that is not enough to be considered an all star calibre player these days.
Does Boston have any other players who we can reasonably argue are on Hall of Fame tracks? Had his career not been in jeopardy because of concussions, Marc Savard might be a candidate. Since he isn’t playing and he might never play again, this is irrelevant. At one time, I might have considered Tomas Kaberle a player on a Hall of Fame track, but he clearly isn’t anymore. He has had little value to the Bruins since they acquired him and it will significantly reduce the size of his next NHL contract. Even if he goes on to be a success with his next NHL team, it is unlikely that he will be a serious Hall of Fame candidate. The most likely player to be Hall of Fame tracked on the Bruins is Patrice Bergeron. He doesn’t look good enough. He has never had a point per game season. He has never been a Selke Trophy candidate, though it is plausible that he will be someday. This is not enough. The majority of Selke Trophy winners (including multiple winners) are not Hall of Famers. It doesn’t look like Bergeron is good enough to ever get there. Boston has some other young players like Tyler Seguin or perhaps Tuukka Rask who could make a significant step forward and perhaps become Hall of Fame tracked players, but since neither are currently all star calibre players it is too big a projection to seriously consider today.
The Boston Bruins are clearly a good team, but they are not an elite team. In the post-lockout NHL, they are not too bad for a Stanley Cup finalist. They are certainly quite a bit better than last year’s Philadelphia Flyers. I think this year’s Stanley Cup will be higher quality hockey than last year. One potential elite team is in the series and the other team is not too bad by recent standards.
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