Short time Devil Alexander Mogilny and long time Devil Patrik Elias both missed out on Hall of Fame induction this year. Let’s examine the case for each player to make the Hall of Fame.
First off, I don’t want to give the impression that I think any of the players elected to this year’s Hall of Fame class don’t deserve to be honored in the hall. The Sedin twins, Daniel Alfredsson, Roberto Luongo, Riikka Sallinen and Herb Carnegie all deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. The Sedins, Alfredsson, and Luongo all had outstanding NHL and international careers that speak for themselves. Riikka Sallinen had a superb international career for the Finnish women’s team, and Herb Carnegie was a pioneer for Black hockey players, even though he never made it to the NHL. Willie O’Ree has even said that he believes that Carnegie should have broken the color barrier in the NHL before he did. In the spirit of “hockey is for everyone”, it is long over due that players like Carnegie who fought to integrate the sport be honored and remembered and it is a shame this didn’t happen while Herb Carnegie was still alive. That being said, let’s look at some deserving former Devils who didn’t get the call this year, starting with Alexander Mogilny.
Mogilny was one of the earliest Soviet born players to defect from the USSR to the NHL, making the then risky decision to sneak out of the Soviet Union and into North America. Mogilny’s NHL career spanned from 1989 until 2006. In which time, Mogilny played 990 games, scored 473 goals and 559 assists for 1,032 points. In that time, Mogilny scored at least 30 goals in eight seasons, including leading the NHL with a staggering 76 goals in the 1992-93 season. Moglinly also compiled impressive playoff numbers, earning 86 points (39G, 47A) in 124 playoff games. After being traded to the Devils, Mogilny helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2000 and helped the franchise return to the finals the next season. He would also go on to win the Lady Byng Award in 2003 as a member of the Maple Leafs for his good sportsmanship and gentlemanly like conduct along with his excellent play. So why would a player like this be excluded from the Hall of Fame for all these years?
- Lack of All Star appearances: Shockingly, Mogilny only made the All Star team in five of his 16 NHL seasons. 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2003 were the only years in which Mogilny was elected to the All Star game. Furthermore, the All Star teams selected at the end of each season by the pro hockey writers only saw Mogilny make the cut twice, making the second team in both 1993 and 1996. This shows that while he was playing, Mogilny was not consistently recognized as one of the best players at his position. Players such as Brett Hull, Pavel Bure, Jaromir Jagr and Mark Recchi were in their primes around the same time as Mogilny and they were producing as much, if not more than Mogilny was.
2. Super Star Teammates: For most of Mogilny’s best seasons, He played on the same teams as players who were as good, if not better, than he was. Pat LaFontaine in Buffalo is the best example. In Mogilny’s 76 goal season with the Sabres, he finished a distant second on the team in points to LaFaontaine. Despite leading the NHL in goals that season, Mogilny’s 127 points that season were 21 fewer than LaFontaine, who led the Sabres with 148 points. Mogilny would go on to play with the likes of Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden and Mark Messier in Vancouver after moving on from Buffalo. Playing with super stars like Mogilny did can lead to being overshadowed, or one’s success being discredited and chalked up to a by product of playing with elite teammates.
3. Mediocre Teams Early: Mogilny made the playoffs 7 times in his first 10 seasons, but wasn’t able to move past the first round in his first decade in the NHL. Moglinly only played past the first round four times in his 16 season career, twice with the Devils and twice with the Leafs. In none of those playoff runs into the second round of farther was he relied upon to carry the team. He was mostly a third player in New Jersey and those Toronto teams were led by the likes of Mats Sundin and Joe Nieuwendyk among others.
Patrik Elias was drafted by the Devils in the second round of the 1994 draft and remained with the organization until he retired after the 2016 season. Elias played 1240 NHL games, all with New Jersey, and scored 408 goals along with 617 assists for 1025 points in his regular season career. He is a two time Stanley Cup Champion who also holds franchise records for career goals, assists and points. Elias had at least 60 points in a season six times and scored at least 30 goals in four seasons. In his playoff career, Elias earned 125 points (45G 80A) in 162 games to go along with his two Stanley Cup championships in four trips to the finals. So what is holding Elias back from being elected to the Hall of Fame?
- Absence of Dominant Offensive Seasons: Despite ending his long career with great numbers, Elias never dominated the NHL in any single season. He never led the NHL in goals, assists or points in any single season. He also never won an individual award in either the regular season or playoffs. Elias also never reached major milestones for an offensive player in a single season. Elias never had a 100 point or 50 goal season, coming closest in 2001 when he scored 40 goals and 96 points respectively, although neither total was close to the top spot in the NHL that year.
2. Defensive Minded Teams: Elias spent much of his career coached by the likes of Larry Robinson, Pat Burns, Claude Julien and Jacques Lemaire. These coaches prioritized team defense over offensive creativity and were generally more focused on limited the opposition’s chances instead of creating for themselves. This is likely part of why Elias never reached his full offensive potential. Furthermore this led the greater hockey community outside of the Garden State to overlook individual Devils players and instead credit Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and the Devils systems for the team’s success.
With all of these things considered, do I think either of these players should be in the Hall of Fame? It is my opinion that Mogilny deserves to be in the Hall of Fame while Elias doesn’t quite get there. Mogilny defected from a brutal regime to come to North America, putting himself and his family in considerable danger. He then went on to be one the NHL’s most exciting players, averaging 39 goals per 82 games played over his 16 season career. He was one of the top players of his generation that was often overlooked and I think remains overlooked to this day.
Patrik Elias is one of my favorite Devils of all time, but I don’t think he is worthy of the Hall of Fame. While his career numbers are very impressive with over 400 goals and over 600 assists in over 1200 games, but he was never the best player in the league. Elias never truly put a team on his back and carried them. Elias was never able to win a league wide individual award despite his very good play. Elias was very responsible defensively and a key piece on teams that won championships and made deep playoff runs. However, I don’t think he was one the elite players of his generation. That being said, Elias is, in my opinion, as qualified or more qualified than current Hall of Famers such as Guy Carbonneau, Bob Gainey and Joe Nieuwendyk. If I had a vote, I wouldn’t have voted for any of those guys, and despite my love for Elias, likely wouldn’t vote for him either. I think the Hall of Fame should be reserved for players who were the absolute best of the best of their generation across the league.
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