Short of campaigning, there’s nothing more Keith Tkachuk can do to strengthen his Hall of Fame case. And he’s not losing too much sleep over it.
"I try not to think about that stuff. It’s out of your hands," Tkachuk told ESPN.com. "Would it be an incredible honor? Of course it would be. It would be unreal."
Tkachuk is a fascinating case because his impact as one of the best American forwards to play the game is undeniable. But how does he stack up against the best in the world from his era? That’s where the debate begins.
The Case For
Let’s start here: Tkachuk was one of the best power forwards of his era. He was a big, immovable body who scored 538 goals in 1,201 career regular-season games. That’s a big number that puts him right in front of Frank Mahovlich and Bryan Trottier on the all-time list. He was especially deadly on the power play, where he scored 212 career goals, No. 12 all time. Now, consider his impact on the game in the United States. He was part of that legendary group that emerged after 1980 that included Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick, a group that cemented the U.S.'s place in international hockey -- most notably with the 1996 World Cup championship.
"To be on that team was a real special moment for me in my career," Tkachuk said. "I’m very fortunate, I had a lot of fun doing this with quality players."
Modano and Hull are the only Americans with more career goals than Tkachuk, and they're both are in the Hall.
Tkachuk’s career spanned several eras and he remained an impact player even as the game evolved toward faster players after the 2004-05 lockout, an accomplishment of which he’s proud.
The Case Against
As good as Tkachuk was during the regular season, he never had a really great playoff performance. In 89 career playoff games, he had just 28 goals, well short of his normal pace of production. Once he got into his 30s, he scored just twice in 20 playoff games. He played in four Olympics -- an incredible accomplishment -- but scored just one Olympic goal. He was named to five All-Star Games, but the closest he ever came to winning a major award like the Hart Trophy was when he finished 10th after scoring 52 goals for the Coyotes in the 1996-97 season. He retired without a Stanley Cup ring.
There are some incredible players in Tkachuk’s era who we’d put in the Hall first, so we’ll make Tkachuk wait a few years. But eventually he’d get our vote to join the hockey immortals. Ultimately, it’s his gaudy goal totals and impact on the American game that push him over the top.
ESPN Panel: 45 percent voted into Hockey Hall of Fame.