Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Case for Paul Kariya

Tha Sports Junkies 101-Sports News Sean Russell/via Wikimedia Commons


Last month, the 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class was announced, highlighted by former Philadelphia Flyers captain Eric Lindros. Lindros had been on the ballot since 2010 before finally being selected to join the Hall this year.

As is the case every year, there were players who were on the ballot that were not selected. One of those players was former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim captain Paul Kariya. Kariya has been on the ballot since 2013.

A lot of the times, these type of selections are objective, with one being able to make cases either for or against a specific player. Today, I’ll be making the case as to why I believe Kariya should be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

We’ll get this out of the way first: I’m a Paul Kariya guy. Growing up in the mid ’90s, he and Teemu Selanne were, and are, my favorite hockey players.

However, this will be more than just a “he should be in because he was my favorite player” argument. I’m going to compare his career stats with those of other Hall of Famers and see how Kariya stacks up.

First, as is the case with most players that are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, we’ll look at Kariya’s numbers in the NHL.

The Vancouver native came into the league at a time when the league was changing. After seeing scoreboards being lit up during the ’80s, the game started seeing more elaborate defensive schemes, as well as more clutching and grabbing, when Kariya entered the league in 1994.

The game changed so much, in fact, that the era from about 1994 to the 2003-04 season has been referred to as the “dead puck” era. Scoring went down drastically during that time and physicality, especially in front of the net, was seen as a necessity if a player wanted to last and produce in the league.

Smaller players, like Kariya, were very often overlooked in the draft or much wasn’t expected from them because of how tough the league was.

However, none of that kept him from producing.

In 657 games between 1994 and 2004, he would score 311 goals and 705 points. Six times during that time period, Kariya would score at least 32 goals in a season. Three of those six times he would reach 40+ goals, highlighted by his lone 50-goal campaign in his second year in the league.

Apart from six 30-goal seasons in his first ten years, Kariya also accumulated 81 points or more five times. He would break the 100-point plateau twice in that span (1995-96 and 1998-99).

Let’s put these numbers into perspective.

Since his first year of eligibility, there have been five forwards inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. If we were to compare their goals and points to Kariya’s from 1994 to 2004, Kariya has the second-most goals and points among the group.

This scoring prowess helped him develop into one of the best players in the league and he was recognized for it.

Kariya was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team in 1995 and finished second for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, losing out to Peter Forsberg. He would win the Lady Byng Trophy in 1996 and 1997 as the league’s most gentlemanly player. In 1997, he also finished second for the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

He was a three-time first-team All-Star (1996, 1997, 1999) and a two-time second-team All-Star (2000, 2003). Kariya was also voted to participate in the All-Star Game seven times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003).

Injuries kept his numbers from being even better.

Five times during his first ten years in the NHL, Kariya failed to play at least 75 games. The 1997-98 season saw him play in only 22 games due to a contract dispute and suffering a fourth concussion in three years.

Had he not been injured that year, Kariya was on pace for 39 goals and 70 points in 50 games after missing the first 32 because of the dispute. He finished with 17 goals and 31 points that year.

The 2003-04 campaign was the only other time in his first ten seasons that he would miss 30 or more games. That year, with the Colorado Avalanche, he would score only 11 goals and 36 points in 51 games.

The post-lockout season of 2005-06 saw Kariya get back to his usual scoring ways as he tallied 31 goals and 85 points in 82 games with the Nashville Predators.

The effects of multiple concussions seemed to catch up to him in his last four seasons in the league, however, as he scored a mere 60 goals and 199 points in his final 250 games.

Kariya finished his NHL career with 402 goals and 989 points in 989 games.

Some people may argue that he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame because he didn’t reach the 1,000-point plateau. However, in recent years, the Hall has inducted forwards who didn’t score 1,000 points.

Lindros, Forsbergand Pavel Bure are all forwards who didn’t reach 1,000 points in their career, yet were still inducted into the Hall in the last four years. In fact, neither of them even reached the 900-point mark like Kariya did.

Others may argue that he shouldn’t be in because he didn’t play 1,000 games in the NHL. Lindros, Forsberg, and Bure didn’t reach 1,000 games, either. All three of them played over 230 games less than Kariya.

Another argument that may be had is that he never won a Cup. Lindros, Bure, Mats Sundin, Mark Howe, Phil Housley, and Kariya’s former teammate Adam Oates are all recent Hall of Fame inductees that never won the Stanley Cup in their career.

Lindros and Bure reached only one Stanley Cup Final in their careers, like Kariya did, and Sundin never even reached the Final.

Another Hall of Fame inductee that we can compare Kariya’s numbers to is former Boston Bruins great Cam Neely.

Neely, one of the league’s first true power forwards, had his career cut short due to injury, as well. He would only play in 726 career games and tallied 395 goals and 694 points. He also was unable to win a Cup during his playing career.

Yet, all of that didn’t keep him from being inducted into the Hall in 2005. Some people believe that Neely’s induction opened the door for guys like Bure, Forsberg, and Lindros, players who had their careers cut short by injuries, to be inducted into the Hall.

As we’ve seen, Kariya is a player that falls into that group and one that has greater numbers than the four previous mentioned players.

Kariya not only produced on the NHL stage, he also did so as an amateur and at the international level. (It is the HOCKEY Hall of Fame, after all, not just the NHL Hall of Fame, so numbers and impact outside the NHL should also be taken into account.)

As a freshman at the University of Maine in 1992-93, Kariya lit up the NCAA.

In 39 games, he would score 25 goals and compile a whopping 100 points. Those numbers would help him lead Maine to win the Hockey East and national championships. He also won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s best hockey player, becoming the first freshman to ever win the award.

Not only did Kariya won the Hobey Baker, he was also named an All-American and part of the All-NCAA All-Tournament Team. Hockey East rookie of the year, player of the year, All-Rookie Team, and First Team were all distinctions he also won in his freshman season with Maine.

Before joining the Mighty Ducks in 1994, Kariya played 12 games in his sophomore season with Maine, tallying eight goals and 24 points. He finished his college career with 33 goals and 124 points in just 51 games.

Internationally, he would represent Canada in eight different tournaments at both the junior and senior team level. As a junior, Kariya would win a silver medal in 1991 at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and a gold medal at the 1993 World Junior Championship.

At the senior level, he won a silver medal at the 1994 Olympics, as well as at the 1996 World Championships. Kariya would win gold at the 1994 World Championships and 2002 Winter Olympics.

He would finish his international career with 24 goals and 61 points in 56 games with Canada.

2017 will be the next chance Kariya has to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and, honestly, it would only be right if he goes in with that class.

Only four players can be inducted in one class. He should have a pretty good chance as there are only two sure first-ballot Hall of Famers next year. One of them is Selanne, his former linemate.

When the Mighty Ducks acquired Selanne late in the 1995-96 season, they paired him with Kariya on their top line and the two instantly became one of the most explosive duos in the league. In their time together in Anaheim, the pair scored over 350 goals and over 800 points combined.

With a career that has 1,451 games played, 684 goals, 1,457 points, and a Stanley Cup, among other things, it is a no-brainer that Selanne will have his name called next summer to join the Hall of Fame.

Only time will tell if Kariya gets into the Hall of Fame with Selanne next year, or if he ever does. If we compare his resumé to those of others in the Hall, though, it looks like it’s just a matter of time before he joins them in hockey immortality.