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Marian Hossa's Hall candidacy bolstered by third Cup

by Dan Rosen / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane picked three ways to describe Chicago Blackhawks teammate Marian Hossa.

"The ultimate hockey player, the ultimate teammate, the ultimate human being," Kane said between games of the Stanley Cup Final. "He's got everything."

Hossa will soon be given his third championship ring after helping the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup for the third time since 2010 on Monday at United Center, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in Game 6.

The forward's credentials are enough to earn him the distinction as one of the greatest players in Blackhawks history. They're also enough to crown him the unquestioned king of hockey in Slovakia, according to fellow Slovak and Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik.

"I think so, definitely," Gaborik told NHL.com. "It means more for us, for fans and for the city [of Trencin, Slovakia], for his close people, but it obviously means a lot as well for Slovakia. Now he's got a third [Stanley Cup]. It's huge, definitely.

"People are big fans of his. Everybody roots for him."

Gaborik said Hossa is the only reason he watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs and, in particular, the Cup Final as closely as he did.

"I root for him, not necessarily for the team," Gaborik said, with a hint of the Kings-Blackhawks rivalry in his comment. "If he wasn't playing in the playoffs, maybe I wouldn't watch at all until the Final, and I certainly wouldn't watch the Final as closely."

Gaborik said he thinks winning the Stanley Cup for a third time should be enough to eventually get Hossa, 36, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, something that's been a topic of discussion for the past two weeks.

"He's got 1,000 points, the Cups, and I think that is definitely a Hall of Fame career," Gaborik said. "A lot of people agree with me."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is one of them.

"I think likely for sure," Quenneville said of Hossa's potential for future induction. "The way he competes, the way he plays both sides of the puck, I don't think there's been a player as consistent."

Hossa has the statistical credentials for the Hall of Fame, with 1,056 points, including 486 goals, in 1,176 regular-season games and 144 points in 194 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

He has the team credentials with three Stanley Cup championships and five trips to the Cup Final in the past eight seasons, including losses with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and the Detroit Red Wings in 2009. His five Cup Final appearances are the most among active players.

Hossa is only lacking an individual trophy. Kane wonders how he doesn't have one.

"He's one of those guys that if you watch him every night and you watch other games around the League you'd say, 'Hey, why isn't this guy up for a Selke Trophy?'" Kane said. "He plays penalty kill. He backchecks better than anyone in the League. He's always up there in takeaways."

Hossa finished fifth last season in the voting for the Selke Trophy, which has gone to a center every season since Jere Lehtinen won it for a third time in 2002-03. It has been awarded to a wing five times since Bob Gainey won it four consecutive times from 1977-81.

Otherwise, the closest Hossa has come to winning an individual award was in 1998-99, when he finished second to Chris Drury in the voting for the Calder Trophy.

But it's fair to wonder how much individual awards matter in the Hall of Fame voting?

Brendan Shanahan's only individual award was the King Clancy Trophy for community service in 2002-03. His only other top-10 finish for any award was in 2001-02, when he was ninth in the Hart Trophy voting.

Shanahan, like Hossa, won the Stanley Cup three times. Shanahan was inducted in 2013.

Glenn Anderson never finished in the top-10 in any individual award voting, but he won the Stanley Cup six times and was inducted in 2009.

Luc Robitaille won the Calder Trophy and finished 13th in the Lady Byng Trophy voting in 1986-87, but never again finished above 14th in the voting for any other individual award. He won the Stanley Cup once and was inducted in 2007.

"Maybe in [Hossa's] early years when he was putting up the numbers, but he wasn't on a team that won," Gaborik said. "Now he's on a team that the puck gets spread around, but he does things that everybody can see in terms of playing two-way hockey. Obviously the proof is in the Cup wins so far."

Hossa is widely considered one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. Gaborik said it's a result of how he changed his game since joining the Blackhawks in 2009.

"He enjoys stripping the puck off a guy as much as he does creating a chance for a guy," Gaborik said. "That's made him such a beast."

For a long time, Hossa was considered mainly an offensive player. He had 632 points in 630 games with the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Penguins and Red Wings from 2001-10. He scored 45 goals with the Senators in 2002-03, 43 with the Thrashers in 2006-07, and 40 with the Red Wings in 2008-09.

Hossa's high mark with the Blackhawks has been 30 goals, which he hit last season. He has 337 points in 397 games with Chicago.

"I obviously played against him, saw how talented he was offensively, especially down in the Southeast [Division] when he played in Atlanta," said Blackhawks center Brad Richards, a former Lightning player. "Until I got here, I didn't realize how good he is all around, on the puck, defensively, what a force he is in every zone.

"That's why he's been to five [Cup] Finals in his career. It's crazy."

Hossa doesn't appear to be slowing down. He was one of the Blackhawks' best forwards throughout the playoffs.

He has six years left on his contract, so there might be more championships to be won, more opportunities to make Slovakia proud, and eventually fewer questions about how the player Kane said is the ultimate in everything is a legend worthy of making it to the Hall of Fame.

"I think he's the whole package," Quenneville said.

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