Thursday, May 19, 2005


Is John Vanbiesbrouck worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Although there is no NHL hockey, the Hockey Hall of Fame is still open for business and will be looking to induct some new members soon.
NHL Article

Among the most notable names are Dino Ciccarelli, John "Beezer" Vanbiesbrouck, Glenn Anderson, Gary Suter, Brian Bellows, Kevin Lowe, Mike Vernon, and Kevin Stevens. It's not really a prime group.

I wanted to have a look and see if my all-time favourite goaltender, John Vanbiesbrouck, had any shot at the HHOF. As much as I loved the Beezer, I knew he was always underappreciated and I never thought that he would ever make the HHOF. Still, it's worth a look considering he had a good career and was spectacular at times.

Using "Dr. Love's" modified Gartner List, let's have a look at Beezer's credentials:

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in hockey? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in hockey?

Only I ever suggested Vanbiesbrouck was ever the best in hockey, during the 1993-94 season which he carried the Panthers on his back. Nobody with a non-biased position would ever say this.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Yes, Vanbiesbrouck was undoubtably the best player in Florida Panthers history, and was their best player from 1993-1997 .

3. Was he the best player in hockey at his position?

Vanbiesbrouck was the best at his position in 1985-86 when he won the Vezina Trophy. He was arguably also the best during the 1993-94 season, when he was runner-up for the MVP in the eyes of the voters.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of playoff runs?

He almost carried the Panthers into the playoffs during their first two years of existance, carried them to the finals the very next year, and then was key in their return to the playoffs in 1996-97 (When they bowed out to the New York Rangers, led by Gretzky). During his 1985-86 Vezina season, Vanbiesbrouck took the Rangers to the semi-finals and had quite an impact on that playoff race.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Beezer was 35 when he joined the Flyers, and played fairly well for 3 seasons after that. I would say yes.

6&7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame? Does Vanbiesbrouck meet 'Hall of Fame' standards?

Looking at 'wins', from the article, "The winningest goalie among those who were previously passed over is Andy Moog, who won 372 NHL games. Vernon won 385 and Vanbiesbrouck 374." I'd say those goalies are fairly compatible overall (although neither Moog nor Vernon had quite the impact Beezer did during a few excellent seasons). Yes, other peers have been left out.

Hall of Fame Standards? The HHOF is fairly 'easy' to get into compared to baseball, so I'll look to Roman Nepomnyaschev's study, posted on Daryl Shilling's Hockey Project site.

(Edit: I previously credited Daryl with the HOF Monitor numbers. The study was actually done by Russian stats freak Roman
Nepomnyaschev, and I apologize for the original error)

Ouch! There are plenty of goalies above Beezer not in the Hall of Fame such as Mike Liut, Tom Barrasso, Rogie Vachon, and Ron Hextall(!). Vanbiesbrouck doesn't appear to be nearly a favourite among non-elected goalies.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Beezer played much of his career during the inflated high-scoring era of the 80s and early 90s. His GAA is above the magical 3.00 mark and most of his stats won't look good compared to the goalies from the lower-scoring eras preceding and proceding his time in the league.

Beezer also played with 'poor' teams for much his career, so he never got the same boost that a Chris Osgood or Martin Brodeur would. Still, Beezer's stats aren't skewed badly.

9. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
See question 7. The answer seems to be NO.

10. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an award? If not, how many times was he close?

Beezer won the Vezina in 1985-86, and was runner up for the Vezina and MVP awards in 1995-96. During his first 3 seasons with the Panthers, Beezer was always in good running for the Vezina. I would say he had 1 MVP season, 3 'close' Vezina seasons, and 1 Vezina season.

11. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Beezer played in the All-Star game in 1994, 1996, 1997, WITH MVP HONOURS IN the 1994 game.
I don't have easy access to this information (All-Star game appearances and such), but I don't think many HHOF goalies played in only 3 All-Star games.

12. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could reach the Finals?

Yes, the 1995-96 Panthers reached the finals and he was, by far, their best player.

13. What impact did the player have on hockey history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Vanbiesbrouck had a major impact on South-West Florida for a few years as the Panthers were winning and Beezer was the 'star'.

He suggested that Scott Mellanby had scored a 'rat trick' after killing a rat in the dressing room and scoring 2 goals in a game. This led to the infamous rat-tossing after every Panthers goal, and eventually the NHL did put in a rule about tossing stuff onto the ice after goals.
This isn't really something HHOF voters will notice, but it’s interesting folklore, nonetheless.

14. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Vanbiesbrouck is a devout Christian who was very much a 'nice guy' during his playing career and even appeared in that 'Hour of Power' TV show.

After his career was over, he went into coaching for his junior club (Sault Ste. Marie) and has to resign over some racist comments he made in regards to one of his players (Trevor Daley?). This incident tarnished his reputation a great deal, and I know one Beezer fan who was very upset when he heard what happened.


In the end, Beezer's playoff failure with the Philadelphia Flyers (where he somehow forgot how to make saves on the short-side on backhands), racist remark, and lack of popularity combined with his HHOF Standards numbers will likely mean Beezer will have to buy a ticket if he wants into the HHOF.

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