Every Nashville Predators fan loves Pekka Rinne. Will the Hockey Hall of Fame show Rinne some love when it’s all said and done?
Only two former Nashville Predators have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. While we all love Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya, their brief play in Nashville wasn’t what got them into the Hall. As longtime Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne approaches the final years of his career, people are starting to wonder if he’ll be the first man to spend the majority (or entirety) of his career with the Predators and be enshrined in Toronto.
The Hockey Hall of Fame’s criteria judges a player on their “playing ability, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her team or teams and to the game of hockey in general”. Rinne’s sportsmanship and character have been praised by everybody that’s played on a team with him. He’s been the best player on the Nashville Predators for most of his time with the club, and at this point has to be considered the best in franchise history.
There’s no doubt that Rinne will be honored by the Predators after he retires. The number 35 will likely be the first player number raised into Bridgestone Arena’s rafters. The question before us today: Is Pekka Rinne deserving of induction into Hockey’s Hall of Fame?
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How Pekka rates all time
For somebody that had a late start as a starting goaltender (twenty-six years old), Rinne has accumulated some incredible numbers. He ranks twenty-fifth all-time in wins, twenty-first in shutouts, eleventh in save percentage and nineteenth in goals-against average. He’s forty-eighth in games played.
Granted, many of these stats are biased towards today’s goalie, who plays more games than goalies in the Original Six era did. So it’s important to keep in mind where Rinne ranks among today’s goalies in these categories. Rinne is fifth in wins, behind Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ryan Miller.
How important are stats to HOF consideration? Most of the top people in these categories are in the Hall of Fame, but it’s more mixed than you would think. Only three retired goalies ahead of Rinne in shutouts aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Save percentage is dominated by current players.
How somebody looks compared to their peer’s matters. Rinne’s been part of an interesting crop of goalies where there hasn’t been one dominant presence. Lundqvist has some name value but the New York Rangers haven’t won much with him. Luongo is one of those guys that slide under the radar, as he’s spent most of his career with the Florida Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky has had two amazing seasons. Most of the dominant teams of this era haven’t had the top regular season goalies, but guys that turn it on at the right time. Matt Murray led the Pittsburgh Penguins to two Cups before he was the starting goalie.
Stats matter, in that goalies with better statistics are typically on better teams. Even if the Hall of Fame is meant to reward individual performance, team performance plays a role too. A goalie that’s a key cog in a team that wins a Stanley Cup or two is more highly revered than a goalie who is awesome in the regular season but routinely comes up short in the playoffs. Or, in some cases, don’t get the chance. Curtis Joseph had very good numbers and played a ton of games, but he spent most of his career on teams that stunk. He doesn’t get much HOF consideration.
Playoff performance is always the first argument that anti-Rinne pundits make. He’s made it to one Stanley Cup Final. Even that season fell apart at the end when Rinne came up short against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The next season saw Rinne’s worst playoff numbers to date, so it’s not like he’s trending in the right direction. International play doesn’t do much for Rinne’s case either, as he missed the 2014 Olympics due to a hip injury and everybody in the NHL missed 2018.
Hall of Fame voters prefer it when players turn it on at the most important moments. The best way for Pekka Rinne to increase his likelihood of making the Hockey Hall of Fame is for him to lead the Nashville Predators to a Stanley Cup or two. A Conn Smythe Trophy wouldn’t hurt either, and Rinne might want another Vezina Trophy just to make sure.
Pekka Rinne isn’t a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame yet. He’s still got a couple of years to make that happen. Still, he is one of the best goalies in today’s game.