Rod Gilbert is certainly someone deserving of the title “Mr. Ranger.” Along with Brian Leetch and Henrik Lundqvist, he has a claim to the title of Greatest New York Ranger of All Time (certainly if length of career with the franchise is taken into account).
But he was never one of the best players in the league during the regular season and his playoff numbers are not great.
So the question is, is his importance to the Rangers franchise and his compelling story of overcoming injury enough to put him in the Hall?
Listen to us talk about Rod Gilbert’s Hall of Fame case here:
But in those 8 seasons, he won six Stanley Cups as a starter (playing in nearly every game when they won those cups), five Vezina trophies, the Conn Smythe and the Calder. He was a 1st Team All Star six times and only missed the end-of-season All Star teams his first season, when he played in six games.
To play devil’s advocate, he played for the Greatest Hockey Team of All Time. And he might not have deserved his Conn Smythe.
So, is Ken Dryden the Greatest Goalie of All Time?
Many 21st century hockey fans likely think the answer to the question “Who is the Greatest Left Winger of All Time?” has an easy answer, Alex Ovechkin.
But it’s possible we don’t remember how dominant Bobby Hull truly was. Hull won 2 Hart trophies and 3 Art Ross trophies. But he was a Hart finalist for most of a decade. Additionally, he was, by most standards, the best offensive player of his era, both in the regular season and, crucially, in the playoffs.
And then he went to another league and dominated it in his late 30s. (It’s possible his departure to the WHA colours how we think of his career.)
So, is Bobby Hull the Greatest LW of All Time? Listen here:
If you didn’t see him play, it’s possible Stan Mikita’s resume is better than you think it should be. In addition to winning multiple Hart trophies, Art Ross trophies and the Stanley Cup, he’s likely the 2nd best centre of the ’60s and among the best centres of the ’70s.
So it’s clear Stan Mikita belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The question is, where does Stan Mikita rank among centres all time?
Why is it that we (our generation anyway) have trouble thinking of Esposito as one of the greatest hockey players of all time? Is it because he was on the same team as Bobby Orr, whose legend has endured far better? Is it because of Esposito’s extraordinarily unathletic physique? Is it because everything he did has since been done multiple times by multiple players so those records feel less important?
Sure, Espo benefited from playing more games per season in the newly expanded league (someone was going to set records) and, yes, he benefited from playing with the Greatest of All Time, but lesser players wouldn’t have excelled the way he did, over such a long period of time.
For two straight years, Bernie Parent was the best goalie in the NHL. He won two straight Vezinas (when it was the Jennings) and two straight Conn Smythes. Additionally, by Hockey Reference’s Goals Saved Above Average metric, Parent’s 1973-74 season is the greatest ever by an NHL goaltender.
Does this brief stretch of dominance put him among the ranks of the very best goalies ever? He’s certainly one of the couple best goalies of the 1970s.
Listen to us discuss Parent’s Hall of Fame case here:
Jacques Lemaire was one of the most consistent forwards of his era, and a member of the Greatest Team of All Time. He won an incredible eight Stanley Cups.
But he was never one of the best regular season players in the league, at least by offense, and he was only ever the best forward on one of those Cup winners. He has no major awards and never made an end-of-season All Star team.
So, does Jacques Lemaire belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen here:
By regular season numbers, Jean Ratelle was one of the best forwards of his era. And, had he been healthy in his best season, he might have competed for the scoring title. (His peers awarded him with the Pearson for that.)
However, his playoff numbers are noticeably worse. And, of course, he never won a Cup.
So, how great was Jean Ratelle? Is he one of the greats of his era or does his longevity make him look better than he was? Listen to us discuss Ratelle’s Hall of Fame case here: