Monday, 5 March 2012

The Maybe-Meritorious Men of the 1920s

Last time we looked at players whose career was centred in the 1920s, and who probably merited election to the Hall of Fame, based on their TPAK results. Today we take a step down, and examine the next tier of players, those who might deserve the honour, but might not.

The list is below. We know the actual Hall of Fame got 19 of the top 21 players "right" - they only missed two of the deserving players from this era. We can see that only three of the 12 players in this tier have been given hockey's highest honour: Frank Fredrickson, Babe Dye and Punch Broadbent.

22FREDRICKSON, Frank511503.1584.9Yes
23ROACH, John RossG10943.3084.6No
24GAGNE, Art79523.3683.5No
25DYE, Babe77833.4283.3Yes
26HITCHMAN, Lionel38223.5383.0No
27DUNCAN, Art311303.0080.6No
28BROADBENT, Punch711562.7479.3Yes
29ABEL, Taffy37983.5378.8No
30WINKLER, HalG11592.8877.3No
31LeDUC, Albert37493.2876.1No
32CORBEAU, Bert311622.6775.0No
33REISE, Leo310083.0274.6No

I can't argue with the inclusion of Fredrickson and Dye, but I'm not sure about Broadbent. He had one massive season in 1921/22, but other than that he produced solid but un-outstanding years. On the other hand, he did miss three full seasons to the war, in his prime hockey years. Three more seasons of 3.50 TPAK or so would certainly lift him up to the "probably yes" level rather than the "probably no." So it depends on whether you think players should be given credit for hockey they might have played if not for major international conflicts.

It would lead to the sticky situation of his being deemed meritous, while the player directly above him, Art Duncan, would not. Duncan, a defenceman who spent most of his career in Western Canada, is very close to being deserving, to my eyes. But he never had that one huge season that most Hall-of-Famers have. He did lead the PCHA in scoring in 1923/24, but of course he played left wing that season, not defence. As a blueliner he contributed to the offence but was merely good in his own end. I think his career is just not quite good enough for the Hall, and the actual voters have agreed to date.

Just above Duncan on the list is Lionel Hitchman, who I think probably deserves to be called a meritous man. He was a hard-rock defenceman, and his presence this high on the list is a testament to the ability of the Point Allocation system to recognize the excellence of stay-at-home blueliners. Hitchman is credited with only 8.2 offensive points in his NHL career (not a complete zero, but very low), but 68.7 points for his defence.

I would draw the line below Hitchman. Players like Taffy Abel and Battleship LeDuc, both physical defencemen, don't have quite enough to their careers to deserve the honour, though at their best they were very good indeed. Bert Corbeau and Leo Reise, on the other hand, have length to their careers but not depth. Neither were truly among the very best defenceman of their time. Hal Winkler is a personal favourite of mine, but I couldn't honestly recommend him for the Hall either. He too was never an elite player, "merely" an excellent one.

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