On Tuesday, former Tampa Bay Lightning center and captain Vincent Lecavalier announced he was retiring after a 17-season career in the NHL, which began when the Lightning drafted him number-one overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. In his sophomore season, he was named captain of the Lightning at the age of 19. He was the youngest captain in NHL history at the time, surpassing the mark set by the Lightning’s current general manager, Steve Yzerman. Yzerman was 21 at the time he was named captain of the Detroit Red Wings. Lecavalier’s mark has since been surpassed by Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog.
Lecavalier’s accomplishments didn’t stop there. In the 14 seasons he played with the Lightning, they went to the playoffs five times. Playing in 75 playoff games, he scored 26 goals, had 30 assists, and won the Stanley Cup in the 2003-04 season. He broke the Lightning’s single-season scoring record in the 2006-07 season with 108 points. Martin St. Louis previously held this record with 94 points. During the same season, Lecavalier became the first Lightning player to score 50 plus goals in a single season, earning the Rocket Richard Trophy with a league-leading 52 goals that season. In the following season, Lecavalier became the first player to record eight straight multi-point games since Jaromir Jagr did so back in 1996. He would win the King Clancy Memorial Trophy that same season. This trophy is awarded to the player that best exemplifies leadership qualities for both on and off the ice while making a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
Just before the 2008-09 season Lecavalier would sign an 11-year contract extension with Tampa Bay for $85 million dollars. The Lightning would buy this contract out for $32.67 million dollars in 2013. The Philadelphia Flyers picked him up before the start of the 2013-14 season, and he played for the Flyers until halfway through the 2015-16 season when he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings and announced he would retire after the season. He made the playoffs one last time, only to be eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Are all these accomplishments enough for Lecavalier to make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame? I say no. He was a great player and a great human being, and it seems mean or unfair to not have him in there. Looking back on his body of work, he had 421 goals, 528 assists, and 949 points in 1,212 games played. The numbers just aren’t there to justify him getting in. Sure, he led the league in goals scored one season and had won one Stanley Cup, but I don’t feel it was enough. Maybe if Lecavalier had won multiple championships, a Hart Trophy, or multiple scoring titles, it would be different but that is not the case. Looking at other NHL centers in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lecavalier’s stats aren’t close.
The Tampa Bay Lightning should pay tribute to him and will probably honor him some time next season. Lecavalier was a great Lightning player who did wonderful things on and off the ice in Tampa Bay. As for his whole body of work, it just isn’t enough to make it in the Hall of Fame. So we say farewell to a great hockey player from the NHL. Tampa Bay thanks you for your play on the ice and you charity off of it in the community. We wish you well in your endeavors in retirement.
All stat information from NHL.com and Hockey-Reference.com
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