Critics called Pavel Bure an egocentric, one-dimensional player, but the fact remains that he was the NHL's most electrifying performer of the last decade.
He deserves his spot in Hockey's Hall Of Fame.
At a mere 5'11" and 185 pounds, the Russian Rocket used his eye-popping speed and mind-boggling maneuvers to dominate the competition. Bure was an absolute icon—for everyone from NHL opponents to young high school players like myself.
The Vancouver Canucks drafted Bure in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL draft—an absolute steal at No. 113 overall.
It was his time with Vancouver that put Pavel on the map—both for better and for worse.
Bure won the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1992. He went on to tally unprecedented back-to-back 60-goal seasons in '93 and '94, the second of which saw him lead the league in goals for the first of three times.
Bure made six All-Star teams in his career. Since 1993, no NHL player has posted more goals per season—even under the league's new rules.
That's 14+ years, folks.
Bure single-handedly carried the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994, racking up 31 points in 24 postseason games. The Canucks lost the Cup to the New York Rangers in seven games.
Bure controversially demanded a trade in the 1998-99 season, and did not report to Vancouver's camp. He was eventually dealt to the Florida Panthers, whom he led to the postseason.
A serious knee injury precipitated a move from Florida to New York during the '01-'02 season. After a second unsuccessful knee operation—and after playing only 51 games and scoring 32 points with the Rangers—Bure hung up his skates in 2005.
As a general rule, 1,000 games played and 500 career goals will get you into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Bure only managed 702 and 437—and his former teammates and coaches have been critical of his one-dimensional skills.
But the Russian Rocket is still plenty worthy of induction.
Bure established new standards of success in both Vancouver and Florida. The Canucks were compelled to get better by signing Marcus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi; the Panthers added Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo.
What's more, neither team would have been as exciting to watch—or been as successful in the postseason—if it hadn't been for Bure.
Who knows what Bure might have accomplished had he stayed healthy—he certainly had the God-given talent to be one of the best ever. As it stands, his performance was still good enough to land him among the game's legends.
On a personal note, it was saddening to watch Pavel attempt a comeback after two unsuccessful knee operations.
He was never the same—it was like seeing Bo Jackson attempt to come back from his hip injury.
Two studs, both of whom could have been the greatest of all-time, ruined by injuries. Not all stories have happy endings, I suppose.