The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its latest class on Monday with Dominik Hasek leading a full class of honorees for induction in 2014.
Hasek joins Mike Modano and Peter Forsberg as first-ballot inductees while Rob Blake gets in after a two-year wait on the player's side, maxing out the class. On the builders side the incredibly overdue induction of Pat Burns will finally happen along with referee Bill McCreary.
From the moment that he officially retired, Hasek was a mortal lock to make it in the Hall of Fame right away. He isn't the most decorated goaltender of all time or even in his era opposite Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur among others, but he might be the best of the bunch. The Dominator starred for years in Buffalo and led the Sabres to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final where they lost to Modano's Stars.
In his prime, Hasek was simply unbeatable in Buffalo. For six straight seasons in the mid-to-late '90s he led the league in save percentage, peaking at .937 in 1998-99. He's in rare company with six Vezina Trophies and with two Hart Trophies as the NHL MVP, the only goalie to ever win the award twice.
In his later years Hasek added the missing piece to the resume with a Stanley Cup in 2001-02 with the Red Wings. He played 23 games that postseason and posted a .920 save percentage. He won a second Cup with the Wings in 2007-08 at the ripe age of 43 but primarily as the backup with little action. He also led the Czech Republic to gold in the 1998 Olympics when he allowed just six goals in six games. There are plenty of reasons why he was a shoo-in and why he has been so often imitated but never duplicated.
Modano was not quite the lock that Hasek was to get in on the first ballot but there wasn't much doubt he'd be there either, almost as much for his significance as one of the USA's best players as much as his NHL career.
Modano was taken first overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988 where he made an impact almost immediately. He played 80 games as a rookie in 1989-90 and finished with 29 goals and 46 assists, finishing second in the Calder Trophy voting. It was the start of a 20-year career spent with the Stars whether it was in Minnesota or later Dallas, a career in which he finished with 561 goals and 813 assists, both the most among American players all time.
A seven-time All-Star, Modano never won any individual awards, which is something that was a minor knock on his candidacy but it's hard to argue with the rest of his resume, especially after he helped lead the Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999 and then back to the Final in 2000. He also earned a silver medal with the USA in the 2002 Olympics and was part of the USA's gold-medal effort in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Like Hasek, he also has a lasting legacy as his move with the team to Dallas helped grow hockey in a non-traditional market in the south and gave the franchise a star right out of the gate.
Forsberg was even more of a question mark to get in on the first ballot, even if it sure feels right that he's already a Hall of Famer. The biggest issue with Forsberg was his longevity, or lack thereof in the NHL. Over his 14 seasons spent with the Nordiques/Avalanche, Flyers and Predators (11 of the 14 with the Quebec/Colorado franchise), he played just 708 career games. But what he did in those games (249 goals, 636 assists for 885 points) was pretty phenomenal.
Still, his situation figured to be similar to that of Pavel Bure and Eric Lindros, players who also had short careers. Bure finally was inducted last season while Lindros continues to wait to see if his phone will ring after concussions shortened his career, giving him a pretty similar resume as Forsberg. Where Forsberg trumps both, though, is in points per game. His career mark of 1.25 is eighth all time, better than Lindros (1.138) and Bure (1.110).
Also putting the Swede ahead is the fact that he won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche as well as two Olympic gold medals (1994, 2006) to go with his Calder Trophy in 1995 and Hart Trophy in 2003. Ironically, Forsberg was a member of the Nordiques/Avs because of the trade that sent Lindros to the Flyers.
Blake rounds out the class on the player's side, meaning two former Avs will go in from their Cup-winning days. A fourth-round pick by the Kings in 1988, Blake spent the majority of his career in LA, putting up strong numbers as a blue-liner including his Norris Trophy-winning season in 1997-98 when he had 23 goals and 27 assists. He has since returned to LA, now serving as their assistant general manager.
He was traded to the Avalanche in 2000-01 just in time to help the Avs win the Stanley Cup, the first and only title of Blake's career. On the international level Blake was part of Canada's gold medal-winning team in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
In total over 21 NHL seasons (he also spent two with the Sharks at the end of his career), Blake finished with 240 goals and 537 assists in 1,270 career games as a No. 1 defenseman for most of it. Oh, and he was quite the big-hitter too.
On the builder's side, it took a lot longer than it should have but Burns finally gets the recognition his career deserved. Unfortunately, it is an honor that will come posthumously as Burns succumbed to cancer in 2010.
Burns spent 14 seasons as an NHL coach, four each with the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Bruins before spending the final two with the Devils, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2002-03.
Interestingly, Burns was a three-time Jack Adams Award winner as the NHL's top coach, each coming in his first season in each of his first three stops, meaning he left all four of his destinations with some meaningful hardward. In his career of 1,019 games cut short by his cancer, Burns' teams were 501-353-151 with 14 OT losses.
McCreary rounds out the class as the first official to be elected to the Hall since 2008 when Ray Scapinello got the call. McCreary officiated 1,700 career regular-season games and another 282 in the postseason.