Patrik Elias: Hall of Famer?

Patrik Elias

Patrik Elias is a good hockey player, a versatile player — I would even go as far as to call him a model hockey player.

But a Hall of Famer? Not quite.

There is little doubt he is the best forward in Devils history. He has more points than any player in Devils history — and has for almost six years now. His No. 26 will undoubtedly hang from the Prudential Center rafters whenever he hangs up his skates.

He’s the first Devils player to ever register 1,000 points, a mark he reached Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres. His next goal will be his 400th, also a franchise record, and considering he put up those types of numbers in the era in which he played, Elias has to garner some consideration for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Still, this isn’t baseball. Recording 1,000 points isn’t like 500 home runs used to be. There’s no sure-fire number that assures enshrinement — and even if there were, it likely would be more like 1,200 points not 1,000. Elias is one of 82 players to post 1,000 points, but it took him 1,187 games to reach that mark — Paul Kariya recorded 11 fewer points in 200 fewer games, and he likely isn’t a Hall of Famer either. Plus, Elias won’t reach 500 goals, unless he hangs around another seven seaasons, which seems highly unlikely.

I know Elias is versatile. He’s played both left wing and center in his career, and I know he’s not solely an offensive player like many 1,000 pointers. He plays a 200-foot games, takes faceoffs, kills penalties, and plays on the power play, even at age 38.

But the Hall of Fame is about greatness. If there were a Hall of Very Good, Elias would be enshrined with players like Propp, Bellows, Verbeek, Alexander Mogilny and Steve Larmer. Elias has only ever finished in the top-10 in Hart Trophy voting once — he finished sixth during his 96-point (40g, 56a) campaign in which he was a tied with Joe Sakic as a plus-45 in 2000-01. He’s never been a Selke Trophy finalist — he’s never finished better than eighth in Selke voting.

And the argument “He played for a defensive-minded team” doesn’t hold water for me. For starters, the Devils were the highest scoring team in the NHL in 2000-01 and finished in the top-two in scoring three straight seasons between 1998 and 2001, and Elias’ only season that pops out at you offensively is 2000-01.

He posted nice, consistent numbers throughout his career, but eight 60-plus point seasons out of 18  — especially from a forward — does not a Hall of Famer make. And the question you should ask yourself is, was he even among the NHL’s five-best wingers — let alone forwards — in any season in which he played?

This isn’t about the market in which he played either. Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer have gotten Hall calls playing in New Jersey. Martin Brodeur will undoubtedly too.

The case against Patrik Elias is not about any narrative or rationalization a Devils fan would want to make. It isn’t about disrespect or being overshadowed or any of it. I like Patrik Elias. He’s good with the press, he has a good sense of humor, he answers questions honestly, he seems like a good guy, and has won almost every season in which he’s played. There’s something to be said for all of that.

There are a lot of things that make up great hockey players.  Teams don’t win the Stanley Cup without depth and guys who are willing to play their roles. Patrik Elias is a winner, a skilled player and one fans in New Jersey can say they grew up watching.

But he’s not a Hall of Famer.

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Pat Pickens
Pat Pickens covers the NHL for the New York Times, and XN Sports.