Monday, March 28, 2011

Keith Tkachuk

Keith Tkachuk is a bit of a funny case for me. Despite his status as an elite power forward who, in his hey day, was scoring 50 goals and accumulating 200 penalty minutes in a season, not unlike a Cam Neely, I never really warmed to him. I'm not sure why. I was always left wanting more.

Tkachuk was arguably the best power left wing of his era, an era that also included John LeClair and Brendan Shanahan. He had soft hands for scoring goals with his strong wrist shot and quick release. He was a hulk of a fan made more physically dangerous thanks to his powerful and well-balance skating. He could drive right by most defensemen. The others he would simply try to plow right over.

Perhaps the reason I did not like him as much as I probably should was his penchant for taking bad penalties. He was mean and volatile, which is often great with such hockey beasts. But he had a reputation for keeping his stick high and for throwing retaliatory punches once the safety of the scrum had arrived. That, and he had little post-season success and was seemingly always in a contract squabble.

All that being said, let's take a look at his final resume:

  • 1201games played in 18 NHL seasons
  • 538 goals, 525 assists, 1063 points, 2219 penalty minutes
  • Led NHL in goals 1997
  • Only NHL player to lead league in goals while accumulating 200 PIMs
  • 2 times post-season 2nd all-star - 1995, 1998
  • 4 time Olympian - silver medal in 2002
Is that enough to get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Traditionally, the answer is yes. 500 goals, 1000 points, 1200 games are all strong numbers. He was an elite player in his era, as suggested by his all star status and Olympic inclusion.

But somehow I still don't think of him a Hall of Famer - not like Neely, or Shanahan or even Leclair. Neely was a controversial induction, Leclair still waits while Shanny is eligible for the first time in 2011. Is Tkachuk as good as him, or is a level south, on par with the likes of Adam Graves or Gary Roberts? Excellent players, but not Hall of Famers.

I rank Tkachuk somewhere in between based on regular season numbers. His playoff numbers are brutal though - just 28 goals in 89 post season games, and a career -15. Yeah, Tkachuk never played on a great team. But only once did his team make it to the third round of the playoffs. That year - 2001-02 - Tkachuk scored just 2 goals in 15 games.

Keith Tkachuk is a tough player to judge in history's eyes. It will be interesting to see what the consensus will be. 


Anonymous,  7:41 AM  

Keith should have his spot on The Hall Of Fame bench.
I recall his speech for his last NHL game in St Louis.
It was heart-warming to see Keith and his child getting on so well on the ice.
Great big guy!

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