Few current players are Hall of Fame locks the moment they decide to hang up their skates -- Jarome Iginla and Jaromir Jagr come to mind. But what about the next generation? What if one of today’s NHL stars under 30 years old decided to quit early in the name of health or to pursue other interests? Are there any Hall of Fame locks in the under-30 crowd?
Analyzing Sidney Crosby, the best player in the world, is one way to start. If Crosby woke up tomorrow and decided the risk wasn’t worth playing hockey anymore, he’s put up a pretty compelling Hall of Fame case. Here’s a look:
The Case For
At 28 years old, Crosby’s already won everything one could set out to win in hockey. With his win in the world championships in Prague this spring, Crosby became the 26th player to join the Triple Gold club, earned by winning gold in the Winter Olympics and world championships to go with a Stanley Cup. His game-winning goal in overtime against the Americans to win Olympic gold in 2010 on home soil will go down as one of the most unforgettable goals in Canadian history. He has played in two Olympic tournaments and has two gold medals, also scoring a goal in the gold-medal game against Sweden in 2014. When he was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was the youngest captain in NHL history, and he lifted a Stanley Cup just two years later. He has played in 100 career playoff games and has 118 points, even as the Penguins have struggled at times in the postseason since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. He has won the Hart Trophy twice and the Ted Lindsay Award three times.
The Case Against
Good luck. The only case to be made is that, if he retired today, he hasn’t piled up the career statistics that place him with the greats. He currently has 853 career points (in 627 regular-season games), the exact amount as Slava Kozlov. It puts him in a range of players Bill Guerin, Tomas Sandstrom, Kozlov, Tom Lysiak, John MacLean and Ryan Smyth. All of those players got to those point totals by playing at least 900 games or, in the case of Guerin, 1,263 career games. Crosby’s 302 career goals is 186th all-time but still more than active veterans Pavel Datsyuk (298 career goals), Henrik Zetterberg (296 career goals) and Corey Perry (296 goals). If you really wanted to reach, you could argue that Crosby’s teams have underachieved in the playoffs since winning just one Stanley Cup. It’s a reach because Crosby has been the furthest thing from the problem on those teams.
Crosby is in. The Hall of Fame is a place for generational talents who have lived up to the expectations that come with those talents. Crosby has done exactly that individually and with his team accomplishments. He would undoubtedly deserve a spot with hockey’s immortals even if he never plays another game.