Deserving Hall Of Fame class inducted, Jackie Redmond drives home the point on Mogilny omission

Another class was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame on Monday night. All were deserving.

Former Canucks teammates Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo went in together in a nice two-hour ceremony up in Toronto. Along with former Senators star Daniel Alfredsson, they headlined a strong Class Of 2022 that included Riikka Sallinen and the late Herb Carnegie.

The speeches were excellent. I particularly enjoyed Henrik Sedin making a wise crack at twin brother Daniel Sedin about scoring more goals when he missed a month due to an injury. Maybe he could’ve been a 45-goal scorer instead of a brilliant two-way play-making center who won the Hart Trophy. An award brother Daniel nearly won during the best era in Canucks history under former coach Alain Vigneault.

If that was a joke that resonated with the audience, they definitely loved the always entertaining Luongo. He had many great stories and made certain to thank everyone dating back to his bantam days. The fourth winningest goaltender of all-time, Luongo did it mostly with the Panthers and Canucks. He was also presented by the legendary Dominik Hasek. The man affectionately known to fans as Lou admitted he was blown away because it was the first time he ever met Hasek.

Luongo made sure to mention his brothers who he played and competed with growing up. Both were emotional when the camera panned to them. You could see how much it meant. Seeing the classy Luongo pay tribute to his family including his grandparents who were there for him with both parents busy working, exemplifies what a great person he is. That includes his wife, daughter and son.

While it was well done, it still doesn’t make sense that one deserving player hasn’t been inducted yet. Alexander Mogilny has been eligible since 2009. I’ve echoed over and over again how he’s been omitted by the HHOF Committee. It’s extremely disappointing that such former legends Lanny McDonald and Mike Gartner continue to overlook the credentials of Mogilny.

The first ever player drafted by an NHL team to defect from the Soviet Union during an era when it was very risky, Mogilny was brave enough to leave his home country behind and make it safely to North America. His defection lead to more Russian players coming over.

The list included former World Junior line mates Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure. Alongside Mogilny, they formed one of the best scoring lines. They won gold at the 1989 World Junior Championships and ’89 World Championships. All three would have brilliant NHL careers. Bure was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 2012 and Fedorov joined him in 2015.

Meanwhile, Mogilny still is waiting to take his deserving place in Toronto. It’s a mystery why he hasn’t been recognized yet by the committee. A Triple Gold Club member who won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in ’99-00, he topped 30 goals in eight different seasons. If not for injuries and the shortened ’95 season, it could’ve been more.

At 20, Mogilny defected to North America following the World Championships. A phone call to Don Luce on May 2, 1989 put into action the first ever player to defect the Soviet Union. It was his agent Sergei Fomitchev who represented him in the discussions to escape the USSR and relocate to Buffalo.

The previous year, the Sabres took a risk by selecting Mogilny in the fifth round of the 1988 NHL Draft when it was considered blasphemy to waste a pick on a Russian player. They selected him 89th overall. Then Buffalo GM Don Meehan knew it would be met with criticism. However, he felt it was worth it. He envisioned Mogilny coming over and proving he could produce in the NHL.

Mogilny had achieved everything possible back home. The line he played on with Bure and Fedorov is considered by many to be one of the greatest scoring lines in hockey history. Maybe not quite KLM Line. But the idea of three electrifying future Russian stars in Bure, Fedorov and Mogilny playing together in their teens is enough to wonder what they could’ve done had they played on the same team in the NHL.

When he debuted, the then 20-year old Mogilny scored in his first game for the Sabres against the Nordiques in a 4-3 victory. In 65 games during ’89-90, he registered 15 goals and 28 assists for 43 points as a rookie. He was just getting started.

Over the next five years including four with Buffalo, he was well over a point-per-game. It started in his second season when Mogilny went 30-34-64 in 62 games at 21. After being even better during ’91-92 when he totaled 39 goals, 45 assists and 84 points, he reached the pinnacle at 23.

It was during the ’92-93 season that Mogilny flat out dominated. Playing with Pat LaFontaine, he scored 76 goals with 51 assists for a career best 127 points in 77 games. The 76 goals tied Calder winner Teemu Selanne for the league lead. A remarkable 49 goals came at even strength while the other 27 were on the power play. He led the league with 11 game-winners. He followed that up by torching the hated Bruins for six goals in a first round sweep best remembered for Sabres legendary voice Rick Jeanneret’s May Day call for Brad May winning the series in overtime.

It was a memorable year. Mogilny’s former teammate Bure put up 60 goals for Vancouver in his second season. Fedorov had 87 points for Detroit. He’d win the Hart Trophy the following season when he went for 56 goals and 64 assists for 120 points with a plus-48 rating. Bure would help lead the Canucks on a great run to the Stanley Cup Finals in ’94. They were all established stars.

After ’93-94 and ’95 where he still went over a point-per-game with 126 points (51-75-126) in 110 contests, Mogilny was traded to the Canucks for Mike Peca, a first round pick (Jay McKee) and Mike Wilson on July 8, 1995. Just like that, his brilliant career with the Sabres was over. He finished it with 211 goals, 233 assists and 444 points in 381 games.

Although his number 89 was never retired, there will never be another dynamic player like him to wear that jersey. Currently, Alex Tuch wears the number for a new batch of Sabres. He’s a good player who could become the future captain. One wonders if one day, the Sabres will have a change of heart and honor Mogilny. He deserves it.

Teamed with old friend Bure in ’95-96, Mogilny had to do it mostly without the Russian Rocket. Bure tore his ACL 15 games into the season. It was the beginning of the end for him in Vancouver. Astonishingly, Mogilny had a great first season with the Canucks. He scored 55 goals and added 52 assists for 107 points. That included a team high five shorthanded goals and three hat tricks.

They still made the playoffs due to having a good enough roster which included captain Trevor Linden, Cliff Ronning, Russ Courtnall, Martin Gelinas and Jyrki Lumme. They lost to the Avalanche in the first round in six games. That Colorado team won the Cup.

Sadly, that was the only year the Canucks made the playoffs when Mogilny played there. Even after Bure got back to full strength going for 51 goals and 90 points in ’97-98, changes were coming. Mark Messier had arrived along with Mike Keenan in a huge miscalculation by the organization that set them back.

They did steal future Canucks great Markus Naslund from the Pens. They also traded for Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe from the Islanders in an unpopular deal that sent Linden to Long Island. At least Brian Burke flipped McCabe and his first pick to the Blackhawks to wind up altering the franchise’s future by scooping up the Sedins.

Injuries limited Mogilny to 32 combined goals and 90 points in 110 games between ’97-98 and ’98-99. By the time ’99-00 rolled around, Bure had been sent packing to Florida for Ed Jovanovski in a seven player deal that included Kevin Weekes and Dave Gagner coming over while Bret Hedican joined the Russian Rocket in the sunshine state.

Mogilny’s days were numbered. After going 21-17-38 in 47 games, he was acquired by the Devils on March 14, 2000 for Brendan Morrison and Denis Peterson. The Devils were going for it. They also brought back former Conn Smythe winner Claude Lemieux. Although he played a secondary role on a strong Devils team that featured A Line members Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora, Mogilny helped them win a Cup with three goals and four assists at age 30.

As fate would have it, he was on in place of the injured Sykora when Elias set up Arnott for the memorable Stanley Cup winning goal in sudden death to dethrone the Stars. The Devils proved to be the best team thanks to future Hall Of Famers Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens. They also had Brian Rafalski on the blue line and featured Bobby Holik, Lemieux, Mogilny, Scott Gomez, Randy McKay and John Madden in support of the A Line. It was a deep roster.

After playing a minor role the previous Spring, Mogilny was instrumental in helping the Devils to a first place finish in the old Atlantic Division when they dominated for 111 points under Cup winning coach Larry Robinson. While Elias, Arnott and Sykora continued their assault on the league, it was a healthy Mogilny who paced the Devs in goals with 43. He added 40 assists for 83 points. His highest total in six years.

He did it playing with second-year pivot Gomez and Sergei Brylin. They both benefited. Brylin set personal highs in goals (23), assists (29) and points (52). Gomez followed up a 70-point Calder campaign with 63 points. That cohesive second line sometimes acted like the top line during games in ’00-01. Mogilny recorded a hat trick versus the Islanders. For his brilliant career, he finished with 18 hat tricks including a pair of four goals games with the Sabres.

The Devils again played for the Cup during the 2001 Playoffs. Although he performed better tallying five goals and 11 helpers for 16 points tying Holik for fourth in team scoring that postseason, it ended in bitter fashion. They blew a three games to two lead against the Avalanche, falling in seven to lose the Cup. It was the last game Mogilny would play for that team.

He became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Maple Leafs that summer. He still performed well in Toronto over three years. In ’01-02, he had 57 points (24-33-57) in 66 games and added eight goals and three helpers for 11 points during the postseason. Thanks to some clutch goals from Mogilny in two deciding Game Seven’s during the first two rounds, the Leafs went to the Conference Finals before getting upset by the surprising Hurricanes. Detroit won the Cup over Carolina in five.

Mogilny went over a point-per-game in ’02-03. At 33, his 33 goals placed second on the Leafs behind captain Mats Sundin. He paced Toronto in assists (46), points (79) and game-winners (9) over 73 games. Despite a good season, the Leafs were ousted by the rival Flyers in seven during a back and forth first round. Mogilny led the Maple Leafs with five goals and seven points. But they lost in the deciding Game Seven badly to get eliminated.

His final year in Toronto was limited to 37 games due to major hip surgery. However, he returned and recorded career point 1,000 against the Sabres. A game the Leafs came back in to pull out. A Mogilny assist on a Gary Roberts’ game-tying goal was Mogilny’s 1,000th career point. He also set up the overtime winner by Tomas Kaberle.

Despite another good season that included a first round triumph over Ontario rival Ottawa, the Maple Leafs ultimately were eliminated again by the Flyers in the second round. This time, Jeremy Roenick broke Toronto hearts by scoring in overtime to oust the Leafs. It took six games.

Instead of completing the fourth year of his contract with the Maple Leafs, Mogilny was forced to sit out due to an ugly labor dispute that forced the cancelation of the entire 2004-05 season. It was a black eye for hockey. Even baseball didn’t lose the whole season in 1994. But the players strike ended a special year on Aug. 12, 1994. The NHL joined MLB as the only two major sports to not have a champion due to a canceled season. Sad.

Instead of retiring, Mogilny decided to take Devils GM Lou Lamoriello up on his offer to return to New Jersey for ’05-06. He actually didn’t want to leave the first time. But the Devils couldn’t match the Leafs’ offer of $22 million over four years.

In returning to Jersey, the hope was that the veteran Russian still had enough left to help the Devils compete. Although he was still productive putting up 12 goals and 13 helpers for 25 points in 34 games, his hip wouldn’t allow him to stay healthy. Eventually, Lamoriello bit the bullet and asked Mogilny to play for Albany in the AHL. He agreed. He only lasted 19 games.

The original contract he signed was for $7 million over two years. Due to his hip issues, Mogilny couldn’t get medically cleared to return for ’06-07. He was eventually placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). He retired after the season concluded.

It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t go out on his own terms. However, Mogilny had an outstanding career. He finished with 473 goals, 559 assists and totaled 1,032 points in 990 games. Among the highlights were the 76-goal season which led the league with Selanne in ’92-93. The first ever Russian hockey player to pace the NHL in goals.

He hit 1,000 points before Fedorov joined him as the first two Russians to achieve the feat. Of the 18 hat tricks, seven came during ’92-93. He managed to score three in a game on all four teams he played for. Over a point-per-game for his career, it’s unbelievable that Mogilny hasn’t gotten the call from the Hall Of Fame. He is so deserving of the honor.

It’s ridiculous that Alexander The Great isn’t in. He was that guy before Alex Ovechkin. When you consider what he did internationally combined with his NHL career, it’s nuts that Mogilny is still waiting. But they can induct Guy Carbonneau because he was a checking center for the Canadiens and Stars. Nothing against Carbonneau. But he isn’t in the same stratosphere as Mogilny. Neither is Kevin Lowe, who won plenty of Cups with Edmonton and then was instrumental in helping the Rangers finally win.

I could go on. NHL Network host Jackie Redmond went on a mini rant about Mogilny on her Instagram earlier this week. It was one of the best things I’ve seen. Kudos to Jackie on making all the valid arguments for why Mogilny belongs. She is excellent at her job and always has interesting things to say with her daily Top Five. A must watch if you follow her.

There’s nothing else to add. I’ll always view Alexander Mogilny as one of the most exciting star players I ever saw. I’m glad I got to see him light it up with the Devils during ’00-01 at the old Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford off the old Exit 16W on I-95. It was a pleasure.

It’s time for them to right a wrong. And while they’re at it, add Stan Fischler as well. He deserves the honor. Maybe that’ll be my next hockey column.


About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
This entry was posted in Column and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.