by PuckStopsHere on 07/13/13 at 09:39 PM ET
This is the third of my Hall of Fame cases for the male players in the class of 2013. I have already written about Chris Chelios and Scott Niedermayer. Today I turn my attention to Brendan Shanahan. Here is what I wrote when I first considered him a Hall of Famer and here is what I wrote when he retired. In order to make his Hall of Fame case I will use the Keltner List, which was developed for baseball but was easily adapted to hockey.
1.Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball? I can't think of any reasonable argument that anyone ever made to suggest Brendan Shanahan was the best player in hockey.
2.Was he the best player on his team? Perhaps the only time Shanahan was the best player on his team was during his season in Hartford. In Detroit, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom were the best players on the team. In St Louis, Brett Hull was the best player on the team. It is a bit unfair to say that Shanahan had to play on a weak team like Hartford to be the best player on his team, but that is what happened. In Detroit where he played his prime seasons there were better players. He might have been the best player on a more average team, but he was not the best player on the strong team he played with.
3.Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position? Yes. Shanahan made the First All Star Team in 1994 and in 2000 at left wing. That is a strong argument that he was the best left winger in the league. In 2002 he made Second Team All Star. In between his two First All Star years, John LeClair, Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk regularly appeared ahead of him at left wing. This was partly because Shanahan also spent time at right wing and thus lost out on left wing votes and because these players had short primes where they exceeded Shanahan but he surpassed them both before and after their primes ended. Essentially Shanahan stayed at a relatively consistent level while the others rose and then fell above and below that level.
4.Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races? Shanahan definitely made a big impact in the playoffs. He won three Stanley Cups and was a significant part of all three winning teams. Since he was acquired in a significant trade the year of the 1997 Detroit win, he is seen by some as the final piece of the puzzle that made Detroit a cup winner - if you believe in the theory of final pieces. Aside from his cup wins, Shanahan never played more than 12 games in a playoff year. Thus in a worst case one could argue that Shanahan was a good player in three cup runs, but never the best player and he wasn't enough to make a run without a top core. However he did make a significant impact in those runs.
5.Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime? Shanahan played in the NHL until he was 40. This is well past the prime of most players. He was a solid contributor to the end. I think he may have retired earlier than necessary due to the salary cap. The salary cap system forced him to jump to the New York Rangers and then to the New Jersey Devils and he was going to need to jump again to continue his career. Instead of doing that he retired. At age 38, he appeared in his final All Star Game.
6.Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame? I think Shanahan is the best Hall of Fame eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame given the other 2013 inductions. The best remaining players are Eric Lindros, Phil Housley and Rob Blake and Shanahan was a better player.
7.Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame? Shanahan scored 656 career goals and 1354 career points. This ranks him 13th all time in career goals and 25th in career points. There are no Hall of Fame eligible players ahead of him on either list. Thus players with Shanahan's numbers make the Hall of Fame.
8.Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards? Yes. They clearly do.
9.Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics? I would argue that Shanahan's physical play was a value that went beyond his point totals. It made him a more dominant force on the ice. However, I would hesitate to argue that he significantly exceeded his point totals because he took a significant number of penalties during his career. Shanahan is 22nd all time in career penalty minutes. These penalties were a net negative to his team which significantly damps the effect of his physical play, but I would still argue that the answer to this question is a slight yes.
10.Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in? Yes. Calling Shanahan a left winger - his most significant position - he is clearly the top left winger available. I would argue Dave Andreychuk is his most significant competition at left wing and Shanahan was a better player.
11.How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close? Shanahan never won an MVP award nor was a nominee. He did appear further down on a few ballots in his better years, but was never a serious MVP candidate. I would argue that his best season was 1993/94 where he scored a career best 102 points and because he was behind teammate Brett Hull in his offensive numbers he was not seen as a serious MVP candidate even in that season.
12.How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame? Shanahan appeared in eight NHL All Star Games. That is a number indicative of a Hall of Fame career. There were probably two or three more years he could have made the All Star Game but was omitted. That is to be expected when any player has as many good years as Shanahan had.
13.If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant? I am not certain that the answer to this question is yes. He wasn't the best player on his team whenever they had any consideration as a Stanley Cup contender. I think that most likely a team with Shanahan as its best player would have been a mid to lower seed in the playoffs and fell short early in the playoffs. It is possible that they could have had a lucky run or stacked the team with several players slightly below Shanahan's ability and made a significant run, but more likely they wouldn't be able to "win the pennant" (make the Stanley Cup finals).
14.What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? Shanahan's biggest impact during his playing years was the "Shanahan Summit" during the 2004/05 lockout when he got players, coaches and other hockey people together to discuss the state of the NHL game and make recommendations about how to change it. That led directly to his position as the NHL Vice President in charge of Hockey and Business Development. That summit was responsible for several rule changes.
15.Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider? It is hard to argue that Brendan Shanahan upheld any standards of sportsmanship given his penalty minute totals but he was a character player who was interested in the good of the game. That is seen in his position with the NHL after he retired.
Brendan Shanahan had a long career where he was a dominant player for many years. That allowed him to have some very good career numbers. He was a key player on three Stanley Cup winners. That is more than enough to be a strong member of the Hall of Fame although there is little evidence that Shanahan was the top player in the league or even the top player on a top team at any point in his career.
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