November 30, 2010

Is Pat Burns really a Hall of Fame shoo-in?

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

After letting everyone settle down after a week of mourning the death of former NHL coach Pat Burns and with his funeral taking place Monday, I have something to say regarding him: Why was there so much commotion to put him in the Hall of Fame? Was he really that much of a sure-fire candidate?

I think the whole campaign to induct Burns was simply trying to give a dying man a last wish. But forcing the issue and seeing every single hockey columnist in Toronto write about how the Hall erred by not including Burns this season seemed sanctimonious and gave the appearance of people trying to grab headlines.
Burns was a very good initial impact coach. Just look at the three Jack Adams trophies he won, they were all in his first season with the teams and his squads never improved on their records afterwards.

The Canadiens never came close to the 115 points they had in 1988-89, the Leafs only declined after from the 99 points they had in 92-93 and the Bruins only matched 97-98’s 91 points before a sharp decline and Burns’ eventual firing eight games into the 2000-01 season.
In fact, Burns was fired twice mid-season; how many Hall of Fame coaches have something like that on their resumes? Another stat that would make Burns an outlier is that he only won one Stanley Cup – and it could be argued that it was Martin Brodeur, the Devils’ stout defence and the team’s overall talent that did the majority of the work for Burns.
If you want to talk about career statistics, of the 1019 games that Burns coached, he won only .491 percent of them. He’s also not in the top ten of career wins for coaches either, sitting at No. 11 with 501.
Do you think that there would be a campaign for a coach with a comparable record, like Joel Quenneville, if he was dying? I don’t think so, but “Coach Q” has currently has a 483 wins, a Cup and a Jack Adams trophy.
If Burns is worthy of the Hall, he’ll get there. But trying to speed up the process because he was dying and criticizing the Hall was not the way to do it. If and when Burns’ name is enshrined, I really hope it’s for his merits behind the bench and not because of his unfortunate death and some cries from columnists and Facebook groups.

Also, not to speak ill of the dead, but wasn’t the Stanley Cup shaped urn more than a little tacky?

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