First off, I’ve got no problem that Ken Holland was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame today by the distinguished panel of judges. He is a current general manager who has four Stanley Cups to his resume, all with the Detroit Red Wings.
Hey, it’s no problem to me, despite the likely truth that Jimmy Devellano and Scotty Bowman were responsible for several of the key moves that benefited Holland’s regime after the fact (Devellano was hugely instrumental in bringing the Russian Five to Detroit when it was considered politically dangerous, in the mid-1990s, before he relinquished control as Red Wings GM in 1997 AFTER the Wings won their first Stanley Cup since 1955. So, Holland actually won three Cups as the officially titled general manager, not four. But his name is on four Cups with the Wings, so let’s go with that.
I’ve got no problem with Holland getting voted in by the distinguished committee today, despite some very, very questionable moves as Wings GM in his final years with Detroit. Those include:
- In a three-way trade in 2012, Holland traded defenseman Sebastien Piche and a first-round pick, who turned out to be Andrei Vasilevsky, to Tampa Bay for Steve Downie (who went to the Avalanche) and Kyle Quincey (who went to the Wings). Vasilevsky has gone on to win the Vezina Trophy once and has been a finalist twice.
- Signing Stephen Weiss to a five-year, $24.5 million contract in 2013. Weiss scored 11 goals for Detroit over three injury-plagued season, and he’s still on the Detroit books, salary-cap-wise, through next year.
- Signing Justin Abdelkader to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract extension in 2015. Abdelkader has been awful since.
- Signed oft-injured winger Darren Helm to a five-year, $19.25 million contract in 2016. Helm has rewarded Red Wings management with 37 goals in 254 games, and he’s still got one more year left on that deal.
Holland parachuted out of Detroit just in Detroit time. He took a job in Edmonton, and has led the Oilers to mostly a lot of…mediocrity since, despite Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as inherited assets. The Red Wings have sunk to the bottom of the NHL standings, much of the damage done by his final couple years as GM.
But, truly, I don’t begrudge Ken Holland getting in as a builder. He did a lot of smart things I haven’t given credit for here, including a revamp of a scouting staff that found many gems in later rounds under his reign (Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are two) and the introduction of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, which everyone loves.
Here’s what I am saying: the clock is ticking, HHOF selection committee, to recognize Pierre Lacroix too.
Lacroix, the first Avalanche general manager in team history, has two Stanley Cups on his resume. He also has something Holland or any other GM in PRO SPORTS HISTORY – IN ALL SPORTS – can say. He won nine division titles his first nine years as an NHL GM (one with Quebec, eight with Colorado). Again, nobody in pro sports can say that, in any sport.
Lacroix has all criteria needed as a “builder” for the Hall. He made some of the greatest trades in NHL history, starting with the fleecing of Patrick Roy out of Montreal in 1995, and the fleecing of Ray Bourque out of Boston in 2000 (after he was all but assured to go to the Philadelphia Flyers, before Lacroix stepped in). Like Holland, he made a couple of bad trades too (ugh, Chris Drury to Calgary in 2002, Radim Vrbata for Bates Battaglia, signing Brad Frigging May as a free agent in 2005).
More than his tenure as a GM though – and this is important: Lacroix had a big influence on the Francophone hockey community in the 1970s, 1980s and early ’90s as a player agent. He signed players such as Patrick Roy and Mike Bossy and really fought for them in some tough early days of their careers. He helped rejuvenate a Francophone hockey community that had gone somewhat quiet in the days after Guy Lafleur and some of the other Canadiens greats.
What I think has hurt Pierre Lacroix in his HHOF candidacy since essentially retiring a little more than a decade ago with the Avs: He never was a big schmoozer with the good old boys club of the league, much of which is still firmly intact. He never went on hunting and fishing trips with other GMs in the off-season, like many still do. He never drank gin and tonics with the boys at the bar at GM meetings (he never drank alcohol, during his days with the Avs at least).
He was a French-Canadian GM of a team in a time where the vast majority of his brethren were either American or English-Canadians. Believe me when I tell you: there was quite a bit of, well, racism against French-Canadians in those days (and may still be). Despite great superstars in hockey history from Quebec, such as Lafleur, Rocket Richard, Roy and Mario Lemieux, it still was largely a league dominated by those from Ontario and Western Canada.
I think it’s high time that Pierre Lacroix gets much more consideration for the Hockey Hall of Fame. His credentials are there. He is a good and decent man, and his accomplishments seem to have been, shamefully, forgotten in recent years. Those two Stanley Cup banners that hang in the Pepsi Center to this day? They have zero chance of being there without the world of Pierre Lacroix.
If Ken Holland deserved to get into the Hall, Pierre Lacroix sure as (bleep) deserves it too.