by PuckStopsHere on 07/06/14 at 06:36 PM ET
I am continuing making the Hall of Fame cases for the 2014 player inductees. So far I have written the cases for Rob Blake and Peter Forsberg. Today I am writing Dominik Hasek`s case and in the future I will do Mike Modano`s case. In order to make their case, I will use the Keltner List which is borrowed from baseball. This is a list of questions that are designed to get to the heart of what makes a player a Hall of Famer.
Here is the post I wrote when Hasek retired. I have considered him a Hall of Famer longer than i have been blogging so I do not have a post at that point.
Here is Dominik Hasek`s Hall of Fame case:
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?
Hasek was definitely the best player in hockey at a time. He won the Hart Trophy in 1997 and 1998. It is rare that a goalie wins this award and unprecedented that he wins it in back-to-back seasons. Hasek is one of the few goalies who can make the claim that he would have been a consensus choice as best player in hockey in NHL history.
2. Was he the best player on his team?
In Buffalo there is no question that Hasek was the best player on his team. When he got to a deeper team in Detroit, it wasn`t so clear that he was the best player on his team although some would have argued that he was - at least in his first run with the Red Wings.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
I would argue that Hasek was the best goaltender in hockey ever. He certainly was the best goalie in hockey. He won the Vezina Trophy as top goalie in hockey six times.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Hasek was the Red Wings top goalie in 2002 and played a significant role in that Stanley Cup run. He also won the Stanley Cup in 2008 but he lost the Wings starting goalie job during the playoffs. At this point he had passed his prime. In Buffalo his team was rarely strong enough for a significant playoff run although they reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1999 and Hasek probably should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy in their losing effort.
5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
Hasek definitely played beyond his prime years. He was 43 when he played his final NHL game. In fact he was 28 before he ever had a run as a starting goalie in the NHL due to making his start in Czechoslovakia during the Iron Curtain era and initially being buried in the NHL due to an unusual playing style. At this age, many players are already winding down their careers and his NHL career was yet to come. Hasek was 46 years old when he completed his final season in the KHL.
6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Yes. Usually I must preface this answer to include only hall of Fame eligible players, but in Hasek`s case that is unnecessary.
7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Goaltending statistics do not translate well for this question. If we start with 6 Vezina Trophies and 2 Hart Trophies as stats, these are clear Hall of Fame numbers. Hasek has 389 career wins and 82 career shootouts in his NHL career. Curtis Joseph and Chris Osgood have more career wins and are Hall of Fame eligible. This makes a better case for why wins is a poor stat to rank goaltenders. Shutouts can also be problematic, but there are no hall of Fame eligible goalies with more than Hasek. Thus even if we accept wins and shutouts as the most meaningful goalie stats (and they are quite problematic to do so), it is fair to say most players with comparable statistics are in the Hall.
8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
His numbers do reach hall of fame standards. His career Hart and Vezina Trophies are far beyond the level needed for induction.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
The fact that Hasek was 28 before he got a chance to be a starting goalie in the NHL is strong evidence that he was even better than his career numbers show. Hasek could have record career wins and shutout numbers if he started playing in the NHL at a younger age.
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
Yes. Hasek is the best goaltender ever. Thus he is the best goaltender in or out of the Hall of Fame.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
He was a two-time MVP. He won the Vezina Trophy six times. The Vezina Trophy is (or should be) an MVP candidate. That gives Hasek six years as a serious MVP candidate. Had he been healthy longer, he probably would have had more MVP type seasons.
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?
Hasek made six All Star games. He missed the 2001 game due to injury, so he only actually appeared in five All Star Games. He should have made the 1995 game as well except there was no game due to a lockout. He also won the Vezina Trophy in 1994 and was not selected for the all star Game that year. Had there been a 2006 All Star Game, his year in Ottawa, he might have made it as well. There was no game due to the Olympics and Hasek got hurt and missed the rest of the season during those Olympic Games. Hasek was a Vezina candidate until that point ended his season. Most players who make six All Star Games make the Hall of Fame, though counterexamples do exist. Hasek`s All Star Game total is lower than one might expect under other circumstances.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
When Detroit won the 2002 Stanley Cup, some argue he was the best player on his team, though there is debate because of how deep the 2002 Detroit Red Wings were. He clearly was the best player on the 1999 Buffalo Sabres and they made the finals. Essentially that is the equivalent of a pennant since baseball has two leagues. Thus it is demonstrated that a team with Hasek as its best player could win the pennant. They essentially did that and may have also won a Stanley Cup.
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?
Hasek made a significant impact on NHL history by winning back-to-back Hart Trophies. No goalie has ever done that other than Hasek. He won six Vezina Trophies. Perhaps his most significant success was winning the 1998 Olympic gold medal. This was the first time NHLers went to the Olympics. Being the key player on the first NHL Olympics is a significant impact on hockey. Hasek paved the way for European goalies in the NHL. He was the first superstar goalie from Europe. Today many top goalies in the NHL are European. Hasek had a distinctive style - though few other goalies succeeded with his style of "flopping around" often without his stick. Hasek`s impact on hockey history is significant.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
Hasek was a bit unorthodox as a player. Sometimes teams claimed he gave up on them when he took time off due to injury during significant runs. Hasek was once accused of assaulting a player in an online hockey game in the Czech Republic. This incident was probably exaggerated as Hasek was not prosecuted despite two investigations. This is the only question on this list where I am uncertain whether or not Hasek should get a clear "yes", although he does not get a clear no either. Hasek is revered especially in the Czech Republic for his successes and it would be hard to convince those who revere him that he was not a character player. I think the best conclusion is Hasek was a goaltender and goaltenders are often "different".
Dominik Hasek was the best goalie in hockey history. That he had such a dominant career despite not being a starting goalie in the NHL until age 28 is amazing. Dominik Hasek belongs in the Hall of Fame and is one of its most significant players.
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