by PuckStopsHere on 04/22/13 at 11:53 PM ET
I try to monitor what time in a player's career he becomes a clear Hall of Famer. At what point is he a Hall of Fame player regardless of what happens in the rest of his career? I think Sergei Gonchar has passed that point.
Gonchar has been one of the better defencemen in the league for well over a decade. He has never been the best defenceman in the league but he was good enough to make the NHL Second Team All Star twice. Had he been stronger defensively he probably would have been a Norris Trophy winner at some point. His defensive play has improved over his career but it was a weakness fifteen years ago. His career numbers have reached the point that they are clear Hall of Fame numbers and this is remarkable given the fact that he played in a relatively low scoring era with the loss of 1.5 seasons due to lockouts (and possibly the 1994 lockout as that shortened his rookie season). In a different higher scoring era, a player of Gonchar's ability would have even more impressive career numbers.
As things stand, Gonchar has 773 career points. That is good for 18th all time among defencemen. Three defencemen have more career points and are Hall of Fame eligible but not (yet) inducted. These are Phil Housley, who as the fourth highest scoring defenceman ever should get there someday (it is an oversight that he hasn't been inducted yet), Gary Suter and Doug Wilson. The latter two played in a higher scoring era in the 1980s and are less than 70 points ahead of Gonchar. Were it not for lockouts, Gonchar would have more career points. In terms of era adjusted points Gonchar is well ahead of either of them without taking lockouts into account at all.
Gonchar is having a strong season with the Ottawa Senators this year. He is their team leader in terms of ice time this season. He is currently the fourteenth highest scoring defenceman this season. Thus it is clear that he is a key player on his team and not merely holding on to a career well past his prime to inflate his career numbers.
This is a hall of Fame career. There have been few offensive defencemen with Gonchar's ability or longevity in the history of hockey. He has been one of the best in his position and remains to this day a candidate to appear in an All Star Game.
This gives us fourteen non-retired Hall of Famers. They are:
Martin St Louis
This list may continue to grow into the playoffs. It may then shrink a bit in the off-season. Since Chris Pronger and Tim Thomas did not play at all this season they are prime candidates.
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