Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hall of Fame Standards for the Major-League Era (Part Two)

This year's new edition of the Hockey Abstract includes a lengthy chapter on the Inductinator, which is a system I devised to determine implicit standards for the Hall of Fame, trying to figure out why each Hall of Fame player was selected as such. It may not be that the best or most deserving players are inducted according to your personal standards or indeed mine, but the Inductinator proceeds with the assumption that the Hall of Fame Selection Committee acts in a reasonably rational manner, and has a reason for each of its selections, even if the justification for using such a reason might be weak.

Last time we had a look at goaltenders and defencemen who played in what I call the Major-League Era, specifically the years 1912 to 1929 when the Stanley Cup became the domain of only a top few hockey leagues. Today we'll be looking at the forwards from this era. Remember that the system is designed so that every player with an Inductinator score of 100 or more meets the implicit Hall of Fame standards.

For most players, the criteria are pretty straightforward. If we look at the top man as an example, Newsy Lalonde. He earns 22 points for the senior-level hockey games he played in excess of 200, and another 42 points for the points he scored in excess of that number. He earns 67 points for his senior career points-per-game average; anyone in excess of 0.95 gets points for this, up to a maximum of 70. Lalonde receives 43 points for his 19 seasons of senior hockey; 14 is the minimum number to earn any points in this category. Newsy earns a ridiculous number of points for his top-four finishes in major-league scoring. He led a major league in scoring three times, was second once, third once and fourth four time, resulting in 112 points. Only Joe Malone (with four) and Fred Taylor (with five) led a major league in scoring more often during this period. Lalonde also served as a player-coach in the major leagues for nine seasons, and earns 60 points for that, giving him a total of 346. He was also head coach in the NHL for seven seasons after his playing career was over, but only those players with at least nine such seasons earn any points for it. It may seem odd to reward a player for something that happened after his playing career, but without this category there would be no way to explain Jack Adams' induction into the player category in 1959.

This isn't the only post-career accomplishment that has to be considered in this era to explain some player selections. You might notice Conn Smythe on the list below, with 60 points on the scale despite playing literally only a handful of senior games. All of these points come from the fact that he was the coach of a Canadian Olympic hockey team (in 1928). Without this massive amount of points, you could not explain Frank Rankin's induction; he was the coach of the 1924 team. Ranking was quite a good player, but had a very short career. His high career points-per-game gives him 47 points, and the other 60 come from the Olympics. It's even worse in the case of Steamer Maxwell, who is recognized as the coach of the 1920 Olympic team, and receives 100 points on the Inductinator scale for this. You can explain the extra 40 points either because he was the first Olympic coach, or because he had a longer senior career than Rankin or Smythe. Once again, Maxwell was a good player in his day, though he never played professionally. He was an extremely fast rover, but he used his speed largely in defence, and never scored very much. He's nowhere near the Hall of Fame purely as a player.

There are some other kludgy work-arounds needed in this era, awarding a large amount of points to a player for an accomplishment that would not seem to be worth that much at first glance. Shorty Green is probably the best example. Based on his playing career alone, his Inductinator score would be precisely zero. He was a decent player, but nothing special. There are two things for which he might be renowned, both of which arise from his captaincy of the 1924/25 Hamilton Tigers. This was the first (and to date, only) NHL club that went from worst to first in the span of a single season. Green was also the leader of the Hamilton player strike before the 1925 playoffs, which earned them a good deal of fame. So we can assign arbitrary values to these events, and give Short Green 50 points for each of them to get to the Hall. It's not terribly satisfying, but it works.

Rusty Crawford is another one. Based purely on his career numbers, despite his very long career Crawford would score only a 50. The only thing that sticks out about him at all, that other players cannot match, is the range of his major-league career. He is the only player from this, so far as I can tell, to have played for a major-league team in every Canadian province that had such a team (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Québec). He played for the Vancouver Maroons, Calgary Tigers, Saskatoon Crescents, Toronto Arenas, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs in his career. I can't find anyone else who meets this criteria. Newsy Lalonde missed out Alrberta and Tommy Dunderdale didn't play in Ontario. They're Hall of Famers nonetheless. Art Gagne and Eddie Oatman both also hit four provinces, but not five; Gagne missed BC and Oatman, Saskatchewan. So if we give Crawford 50 points for this feat, his induction makes sense.

Rewinding a bit, there are a number of things that Newsy Lalonde missed out on for Inductinator points. Players who won at least three Stanley Cup championships earn points for the feat, while Lalonde had only one. Captaining a Stanley Cup championship, and scoring a Cup-winning goal also garner points. Playing and scoring goals in the Olympics are also rewarded, as are Allan Cup accomplishments. The Hart and Byng awards are also valuable, though they arrived relatively late in this time period.

As you can see from the table below, there are a number of players who could just as easily be Hall-of-Famers as not. Bernie Morris, Corb Denneny, Harry Smith and Dubbie Kerr are all only a few points off of the 100 threshold. Personally I would have put each of these men in before Rusty Crawford among others, but the Inductinator is not about merit, about who should be in the Hall of Fame. It's about explaining who is in the Hall. It's an attempt to shed some light on history, not to call down the efforts of the selection committee.

We'll finish up our look at the Inductinator next week, when we examine the Hall-of-Fame players from the Challenge Era, up to 1911.

Newsy Lalondeyes34634444394537806
Joe Maloneyes27727834573418221
Fred Tayloryes242206218110328219
Frank Nighboryes231438255119374324
Didier Pitreyes23134431379392457
Cy Dennenyyes17739831090400450
Dick Irvinyes16032436793460409
Ernie Russellyes15110017616192299
Duke Keatsyes150301234117351764
Frank Fredricksonyes145366246112358499
Harry Broadbentyes14138522463287829
Frank Foystonyes14036725582337206
Tommy Dunderdaleyes14030226074334609
Mickey MacKayyes138422274118392334
Jack Walkeryes13844426299361129
Hobey Bakeryes130416533982
Billy Burchyes12741216673239255
Jimmy Gardneryes1201699029119431
Frank Rankinyes10721630630
Scotty Davidsonyes10749521870150
Harry Watsonyes1066094201142
Gord Robertsyes10617120744251325
Tommy Smithyes10521336533398359
Jack Darraghyes10425820873281355
George Hayyes102410208118326145
Jack Adamsyes10229724956305518
Babe Dyeyes10128121648264221
Moose Goheenyes1011436515800
Barney Stanleyyes10126519094284257
Steamer Maxwellyes1003720123263
Shorty Greenyes100126751893183
Rusty Crawfordyes10030316569234435
Harry Hylandyes10015519234226398
Bernie Morrisno9923720283285139
Corb Dennenyno9835022572297365
Harry Smithno921122468254229
Dubbie Kerrno9116619145236340
Eddie Oatmanno85320198101299456
Tony Conroyno8418654146880
Art Gagneno8239517990269434
Louis Berlinguetteno803469257149304
Odie Cleghornno7729923165296444
Herb Druryno72294591675205
Cully Wilsonno6535520485289814
Fred Harrisno6128217581256449
Conn Smytheno6052020
Bert McCaffreyno5232110349152202
Jack McDonaldno3424419559254179
Carson Cooperno333412157428997
Ty Arbourno3137013769206184
Don Smithno2718918927216359
Billy Boucherno2525211641157442
Sibby Nicholsno219910227129150
Harry Meekingno1727410641147330
Charley Tobinno1420115439193139
Jimmy Herbertno112388933122255
Ken Mallenno1018218227209277
Harry Scottno91231787185182
Alf Skinnerno925711732149432
Carl Kendallno86733195252
Skene Ronanno513810825133244

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