It's August, or as hockey fans like to call it, "that month where nothing happens." We all get into meaningless debates to kill the time before training camps begin and pre-season pucks drop. Most of these debates are forgotten as soon as camp rosters are announced, but ESPN's Cross Checks Blog has a current daily series that may be worth a look.
There are hundreds of players that you could try to make a Hockey Hall of Fame debate for. Guys who have never won a Cup but who have had generally meaningful careers seem to rank high on this list; two of them are beloved former Blues.
Curtis Joseph, one of many Blues' goalies of tomorrow, had the inauspicious privilege of being run off by Mike Keenan, turning into a journeyman and a mentor down the stretch (remember his tenure with the Flames when he went 18-31-2?). Scott Burnside goes as far as to compare Joseph to Chris Osgood - both are constant fixtures of debate. Were they only as good as the teams in front of them allowed them to be? Are they overrated? Cujo was a finalist for the Lester B. Pearson (now Ted Lindsay Award), which is the players' MVP trophy. His fellow players don't think he's an overrated goalie; do fans? Should they look at the loss statistics (352) or the wins (454 wins, fourth all-time). Does he get to those numbers by virtue of longevity? Should his 63-33 playoff record weigh in?
Burnside says yes, CuJo should be in the HHOF by virtue of being one of the top five goalies in the world at one time. That's a subjective metric that a lack of hardware doesn't bolster. Still, it is hard to argue that Joesph wasn't one of the best in the world at one time, but his skill was hampered by teams who chronically could not get over the playoff hump. It is hard to get a Cup when you've spent more time with St. Louis and Toronto than any other teams. Pity has to factor in at some point.
Keith Tkachuk is also another subject of debate. Walt has the third most goals all-time for any American-born hockey player at 538. Much like Joseph, his playoff performance is highlighted as a potential reason that he should not make the HHoF; his international play is summarized as "four Olympics, one goal." Few other hockey players have been fortunate enough to represent their nation four times at the Olympics, though. A lack of NHL trophies may be an issue, but playing in five all star games is nothing to sneeze at either. Burnside and the panel vote Walt in, but only after letting some guys in first, mostly due to the fact that he hasn't been a big-time playoff and international performer.
Was Walt one of the top players of his time at any point during his career? Interesting. Different standards seem to be applied here to a goalie and a forward; perhaps it's just due to the shortage of goalies and dearth of forwards to choose from over hockey's history. For both players, the argument doesn't need to be "if," but "when." Both have been out of the league for a sizable number of years - Walt retired in 2010 which doesn't seem possible. Joseph retired in 2009. How many more years is appropriate to wait?