Ron Hextall appeared headed toward a no-doubt Hall of Fame career with the way it began.
Hextall’s rookie season of 1986-87 was unlike many others as he took home the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies while leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals. His skill, spectacular saves and feistiness around the net quickly made him a fan favorite. Hextall’s career never reached that high point again, but it was still full of plenty of other successes and worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.
The case for
The numbers only partly tell what Hextall did in his NHL career. He influenced the future of the game and the position of goaltender by the way he played. Hextall’s ability to skate and handle the puck made him different. That versatility made him a dangerous opponent in a variety of ways. Hextall could make a save and quickly create an offensive opportunity the other way. He even scored two empty-net goals in his career. He also wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. His rookie season was extraordinary as he went 37-21-6 with a 3.00 goals-against average, which was third in the league, and a .902 save percentage, which was first, and helped the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals as a 22-year-old. Nearly a decade later, Hextall put up a similar type of season. At 31, he went 31-13-7, was tied for first in the league with a 2.17 goals-against average and was fifth with .913 save percentage in the 1995-96 season. Hextall’s teams also won throughout much of his career. He had more wins than losses in 11 of 13 seasons and fell just short of 300 career victories as he went 296-214-69. He also played in 93 career playoff games.
The case against
Hextall’s career was full of highlights and he is one of the most memorable goaltenders of his generation. The problem is the Hall of Fame isn’t a popularity contest. It’s mostly about numbers and what players accomplished in their careers. Hextall certainly had his share of accomplishments over the course of his career, just not enough to warrant a place in the Hall of Fame. He had a couple of great seasons and was solid for many others, but there just wasn’t that high-level consistency that’s needed for the Hall of Fame. When compared to other Hall of Fame goaltenders from his generation, he falls short of what players such as Patrick Roy and Grant Fuhr did in their careers. Aside from his rookie season, Hextall finished in the top five in goals-against average just twice more in his career and once more in save percentage. And he finished in the top five in Vezina Trophy voting just once more.
Hextall falls short of the Hall of Fame.
ESPN Panel: 22 percent voted into Hall.