Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Posted: 10:23 p.m.
By Jay Greenberg
Mark Howe finally is what the players who played with him on three of the best teams to never win a Stanley Cup believed all along: A Hall of Famer. So Tuesday was splendid for the Flyers.
Their best defenseman ever has been elevated to forever, finally getting the ultimate recognition he deserved, leaving one huge oversight corrected and one even bigger one to go.
Fred Shero did not get elected by the 18-member Hall of Fame Committee. Again. And maybe that had something to do with a quota of one Flyer at a time, or with the late Pat Burns, a three-time Coach of the Year and a Stanley Cup winner, not getting in Tuesday either. But Shero, a two-time Cup winner, a three-time Stanley Cup finalist and the brain behind one of the most remembered triumphs in the history of team international sports, coached his last game in 1981. And still has not been inducted.
I just can't understand it, said Bob Clarke Tuesday. It should be easy.
A lot of people who have done less than he did are in the Builders category. I just don't see what else Freddie could have done.
Already in the Hall from Shero's Flyers are Clarke, the sometimes conscienceless captain of maybe the most despised team of all time; Keith Allen, who put it together; Ed Snider, who owned it; plus Bill Barber and Bernie Parent. Are committee members holding only the coach personally responsible for a team still perceived to have stained the game?
I would never have believed the people on the group that makes the selections would have that type of feeling, said Clarke. But there is something going on that is keeping him out. And its not his record for sure.
Among coaches of at least 200 NHL games, Shero is 10th all-time in regular season winning percentage (.612). His record in playoff series was 16-6. He is the only coach who won multiple Stanley Cups since World War II who is not a member of the Hall.
Shero was the first coach to win it all with any of the post-1967 teams, and he came close to a third Cup with what proved over time to be a hardly-loaded Rangers team.
The history of his innovations -- the first to embrace an assistant coach, have game-day skates, put a system of both leaving the zone and forechecking onto paper rather than just reinforced by word of mouth -- would have earned Shero only footnotes had he not won. But he won like only two handfuls of coaches in the games history.
The Flyers were driven by Clarke, backstopped brilliantly by Parent, and relentlessly drilled and manipulated by a man who earned their trust with practically every move he made.
"'Patience and repetition,' that was how he coached, but there was a warmth to him, too, at the same time he kept his distance from us, said Barber Tuesday. And I think his greatest strength of all was as a bench coach.
When things got dull, Bob Kelly went over the boards to get the blood flowing. Freddies timing always was good. He played me with Ricky for the finals against the French Connection and we contained them well to win the second Stanley Cup. There was a reason for him to do that and everything he ever did even if at the time we didnt always understand it.
The strategy for the Russian game was brilliant. Don't get caught up in all the swinging they do. Put your wall up, play your 1-4, do what you do best, relax and play and youll beat them.
Not only did we beat them, but it was a mismatch.
So are the track record and Shero's year-in, year-out denial of an honor he clearly earned, when Emile Francis and Roger Neilson, good coaches who never won a Stanley Cup, have been long inducted.
Is longevity an issue? Shero coached only 10 NHL seasons but would have, should have, coached more had it not taken 13 minor-league years, four championships, and nothing lower than a third place finish in any of those seasons to get his first NHL shot with the Flyers.
I think all these years later people are still envious of the Flyers' success is what I think, said Joe Watson Tuesday.
With three players, the GM and owner of the Broad Street Bullies already in the Hall of Fame, that doesnt seem logical, but neither continues to be Fred Shero not being in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for 14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of the Flyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Related: Former Flyer Howe elected to Hall of Fame New Flyers arrive in Philly with big skates to fill