From their days together as roommates at boarding school in Saskatchewan to winning a Memorial Cup together in Rimouski to a Stanley Cup in Tampa and signing contracts later in their careers that didn’t quite work out as well as everyone had hoped, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier have had almost parallel tracks when it comes to their hockey careers.
So it is only fitting that they would retire from the NHL in the same year and maybe, just maybe, enter the Hall of Fame together in the fall of 2019. The call on both players will be a vexing decision for the Hall of Fame selection committee. To be sure, there are players who are inferior to both Richards and Lecavalier and accomplished less in the NHL than they did who are in, but induction into the Hall seems to be something of a moving target that is unpredictable.
Richards and Lecavalier had very good NHL careers. But were they truly great, Hall of Fame careers? It’s debatable, which makes things really interesting. Let’s take a look at both players:
The case for: There was a period of four seasons when Richards was an elite playmaker and offense producer at the NHL level. And he made players around him better. The thing that likely bolsters his case more than any is his Conn Smythe Trophy win in 2004, when he helped lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup. Off all the skaters who have won the Conn Smythe and are eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Butch Goring and Claude Lemieux have not been inducted. And along with Richards, Scott Niedermayer is the only other player who was MVP of both the Memorial Cup tournament and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Richards also won a bronze medal with Canada’s World Junior team in 2000 and was part of Canada’s World Cup championship team in 2004. And he won a second Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. Richards did not average a point per game during his career and eclipsed that mark in just three of his 16 seasons, but it should be taken into account that his most productive years were at the height of the Dead Puck Era™ and one was wiped away by a full-season lockout. Richards had just 298-634-932 totals in 1,126 games. But according to hockey-reference.com, when you adjust Richards’ totals for the lack of scoring, his totals are 337-695-1,032.
The case against: Richards was never named to a post-season all-star team and his point totals are inferior to other players who are still waiting to hear their names called. Mark Recchi scored 1,533 career points and his points-per-game mark of 0.92 is far superior to Richards’ 0.83. Dave Andreychuk, who won a Cup with Richards and Lecavalier in Tampa, is at 0.81 points per game and scored 1,639 career points and is the NHL’s all-time leader in power-play goals and he hasn’t been inducted yet.
The case for: He might not have put up eye-popping totals during his career, but Lecavalier was a model of goal scoring consistency. He scored at least 20 goals in 13 of 14 seasons, with the only exception being 2012-13 when the season was truncated by a lockout. He was the league’s best goal scorer in 2006-07 when he scored 52 goals and won the Rocket Richard Trophy. He was a second-team all-star that season and was part of Canada’s 2004 World Cup team. In his prime, Lecavalier was a big man with a deft scoring touch with the ability to make plays and be a leader.
And like Richards, his totals were also blunted by the fact that scoring was at historic lows and a prime season was taken by a lockout. Lecavalier had 421-528-949 totals, but when adjusted for scoring, they improve to 471-580-1,051.
The case against: Aside from the Rocket Richard Trophy win, Lecavalier never won an award that was voted upon and he has just one second-team berth to his credit. And like Richards, if Lecavalier were to get in right away, there’s a possibility he would bump a couple of players with similar or better accomplishments who could still be waiting for induction.
The verdict: Both Richards and Lecavalier are borderline choices, with Richards having a slight edge over Lecavalier. It could go either way and one or both of them might have to wait a few years.