The late Rick Martin will be immortalized in bronze on Friday night when the seven-foot high French Connection statue is unveiled in the new Alumni Plaza at First Niagara Center. But more than 30 years after his NHL career was cut short by injuries, one question still lingers: Does Rick Martin belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?
The answer is yes.
Buffalo fans are well aware of Martin’s accomplishments as they pertain to franchise history. Martin’s 382 goals are second only to Gilbert Perreault; and his 695 points in the blue and gold trail only Perreault (1,326) and Dave Andreychuk (804). Although it should be noted that Martin collected his points in 156 fewer games than Andreychuk.
Drafted fifth overall by the Sabres in the 1971 Entry Draft, Martin is also third all-time in Sabres history with 114 power play goals, and second with 47 game winners. His 21 hat tricks remain tops in franchise history, as does his single-season record of seven three-goal games that has been matched only by Alexander Mogilny during his remarkable 76-goal season in 1992-93.
In his 1971-72 rookie season, Martin finished tied for the team lead in scoring with 74 points – a total that is still the team’s single-season rookie record. The 44 goals he scored that year also remain the most ever by a Sabres freshman. Martin finished second in Calder Trophy voting for Rookie of the Year that season, losing out to eventual Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens.
Martin played four games with Los Angeles following a trade in March 1981, and concluded his 10-year NHL career with 701 points (384-317) in 685 games. His sudden passing in March 13, 2011, came just weeks after being reunited with his French Connection linemates at center ice on the night of Terry Pegula’s first game as Buffalo’s new owner.
Martin became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1985, following the mandatory three-year waiting period. There have been 76 players elected to the Hall over the past 28 years, and somehow he has not been one of them. While some of the inductees have been no brainers (Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman), Martin’s omission is puzzling.
He was named to four consecutive postseason All-Star teams: earning First Team accolades in 1974 and 1975, followed by consecutive Second Team honors in 1976 and 1977. Martin played in seven straight NHL All-Star Games, and was named the MVP at the 1977 contest in Vancouver. He also played for Team Canada at the 1976 Canada Cup, scoring a hat trick against Finland in the preliminary round. That Canadian squad is widely considered to be one of the best international teams ever assembled.
But when you compare Martin’s career numbers with those of his peers in the Hall, the snub becomes even more egregious.
POINTS PER GAME
When stacked up against all the left wingers that have been elected to the Hall of Fame, Martin’s career points per game average of 1.023 would rank third, behind only Bobby Hull and Michel Goulet.
|PLAYER ||GP ||pts ||PTS PER GAME AVG |
|Bobby Hull ||1063 ||1170 ||1.101 |
|Michel Goulet ||1089 ||1152 ||1.058 |
|Rick Martin ||685 ||701 ||1.023 |
|cy denneny ||328 ||333 ||1.015 |
|bill barber ||903 ||883 ||0.978 |
GOALS PER GAME
Just like his point production, Martin’s career goals per game average would position him among the top three left wingers in the Hall of Fame, trailing Cy Denneny and Hull.
|player ||gp ||g ||gpg avg |
|Cy DenneNy ||328 ||248 ||0.756 |
|Bobby Hull ||1063 ||610 ||0.574 |
|Rick Martin ||685 ||384 ||0.561 |
|Michel Goulet ||1089 ||548 ||0.503 |
|luc robitaille ||1431 ||668 ||0.467 |
To put Martin’s career numbers into further perspective, we’ve compared him to a pair of wingers from his era that are in the Hall of Fame: Bill Barber (elected in 1990) and Steve Shutt (1993). Barber played his entire 12-year career in Philadelphia from 1972-84; Shutt spent 14 years in the NHL from 1972-85, playing 871 of his 930 games with the Montreal Canadiens.
Here’s a side-by-side look at the three using career offensive numbers, top goal seasons and postseason All-Star selections as a comparison.
| ||MULTIPLE GOAL SEASONS ||ALL-STAR SELECTIONS |
|player ||gp ||g ||a ||pts ||30+ ||40+ ||50+ ||1st ||2nd |
|martin ||685 ||384 ||317 ||701 ||3 ||3 ||2 ||2 ||2 |
|barber ||903 ||420 ||463 ||883 ||4 ||4 ||1 ||1 ||2 |
|shutt ||930 ||424 ||393 ||817 ||5 ||3 ||1* ||1 ||2 |
|(*Shutt’s only season of 50 or more goals was a 60-goal campaign in 1976-77.) |
Besides career length, the biggest difference among the three is the teams they played on. Shutt won four straight Cups with the firewagon Canadiens from 1976-79, playing on teams that regularly scored over 300 goals per season. Barber and his Broad Street Bullies took home Lord Stanley in 1974 and 1975, and also made two other Finals appearances (1976, 1980). Martin’s Sabres only made one trip to the Finals, losing to the Flyers in 1975.
MODERN DAY COMPARISON
To take Martin’s career one step further, we’ve compared him to 2005 Hall inductee Cam Neely. Similar to Martin, Neely’s 13-year career (1983-96) was prematurely derailed by injuries. Although the two played different styles, their career totals are very similar.
| ||multiple goal seasons ||averages |
|PLAYER ||GP ||G ||A ||PTS ||30+ ||40+ ||50+ ||PPG ||GPG |
|MARTIN ||685 ||384 ||317 ||701 ||3 ||3 ||2 ||1.023 ||0.561 |
|NEELY ||726 ||395 ||299 ||694 ||2 ||1 ||3 ||0.956 ||0544. |