Tomorrow afternoon, the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its newest inductees for the class of 2020. There will be no New York Islanders getting that distinct honor.
In fact, the Islanders organization hasn’t had the chance to see one of their own be bestowed such an accomplishment since 2003. That ’03 class — featuring goalie Grant Fuhr, the late Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch, and Brian Kilrea, who played an instrumental role in the development of the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players Association) — was headlined by Pat LaFontaine.
LaFontaine, who was drafted third by the Isles in 1983, played eight seasons for the franchise before a contract dispute sent him to Buffalo. He would go on to play for the hated Rangers as well, but it was the Islanders where LaFontaine became an American hockey legend, built his Hall of Fame resume and earned his place as one of the top 100 greatest players in NHL history for which he was named in 2017.
The Islanders haven’t had a player of LaFontaine’s stature in the past few decades besides John Tavares. It remains to be seen whether Tavares will get the call to the Hall one day. He had some excellent seasons in orange and blue and it has translated to his new home in Toronto. If Tavares does get the nod, a lot of Isles fans will have differing opinions because of how his reputation with the franchise was sullied based on his exit back in 2018.
Besides the possibility of Tavares, there’s a small list of names who could be the next to break the drought.
From the current crop, Mathew Barzal seems like the obvious choice.
Sure he’s only in his third season as a pro, but Barzal has already secured some hardware and is recognized as one of the most dynamic players in the league. He’s averaged 60 or more points each year, so keeping up that same production over a 12-15 year career would have Barzal close to 900 points. Again, this is all hypothetical, but the way Barzal continues to develop, those projected numbers could get him serious consideration for a Hall of Fame nod. A Stanley Cup or two wouldn’t hurt too.
Doug Weight and Ray Ferraro are also a possibility.
Granted he only played three years with the Islanders and did most of his numbers in other destinations, Weight has the credentials to warrant a nomination. Already inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013, Weight recorded 1,000 points in his career, over 700 assists, and won a Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes. He did coach the Islanders as an assistant and head coach for six seasons, even though his record wasn’t anything to write home about.
Ferraro, part of the Isles’ rebirth in the early ’90s, was only two points shy of 900 in his career when he retired in 2002. He had some of his best years with the Islanders, most notably 1991-92 where he recorded a career-high 80 points. There have been players who have gotten enshrined in the Hall of Fame for a lot fewer points and years played; Guy Carbonneau, inducted in 2019, had only 663 points in his career. Those three Cups and Selke trophies might have been the deciding factor.
John Tonelli and Brent Sutter also deserve consideration. Both players were key elements to the Islanders’ reign in the early ’80s.
Sutter has two Cups to show for along with 829 points in 1,111 games. If not for those accomplishments alone, Sutter was a constant in the Selke Trophy conversation for the majority of his career. Although it was when he was with Chicago, Sutter was fourth in the Selke voting three straight years. One of the most underrated players of his era.
Tonelli was drafted by the Islanders in 1977 and is a four-time Stanley Cup winner. He was an All-Star twice — 1981-82 and 1984-85 — and has a 100-point and 93-point season on his ledger. Tonelli averaged no less than 55 points in a season for a long stretch of his career.
Finally, we come to Barry Trotz.
The current bench boss of the Islanders will most definitely have his name be recognized one day. Trotz is the model for coaching in the game today. He’s been behind the bench for over 20-plus years and changed the fortunes of two franchises — the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals. Trotz was the original coach in Nashville and helped establish hockey in the city and mold the Predators into a successful organization. In Washington, he led a star-laden Capitals squad to three straight Metro Division titles, five straight playoff appearances, and the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2018.
As for what he’s done on Long Island, Trotz has already led the Isles to the playoffs back-to-back years, become the fourth-winningest coach in NHL history, won the Jack Adams Award.
No one can predict the next time an Islander will be headed to the Hall of Fame. But one thing is certain, there’s a list of those who deserve to being considered.