LOS ANGELES — Throughout the long history of the National Hockey League, there have been many players who became tremendous, well-known stars who continue to be such, long after their retirement, and the overwhelming majority of them are honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Indeed, players like Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito and so many others come to mind.
By the same token, former Los Angeles Kings star right wing Dave Taylor probably doesn’t. But if you look at his accomplishments and where he was ranked on numerous all-time lists, it seems ludicrous that he isn’t a household name. This also raises the question:
Is Dave Taylor worthy of being an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame?
“He fits my criteria, which is that you have to be top five at your position for at least five years,” said former Kings right wing Jim Fox, who just completed his 31st season as the analyst on Kings television broadcasts. “Dave fits that. He wasn’t necessarily an all-star every year, but he was in the top five for a five-year period. Then you look at his numbers, and that he did it all with one team, which is an impact issue—the impact he had on the Kings. It’s right up there.”
“Dave Taylor should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame because when he retired, his numbers were ranked among the greatest in NHL history, and I’ve said it over the years since Dave retired in 1994,” said Kings Hall of Fame radio play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson. “If you look at his numbers, the body of work, the way he played, the consistency he had, the intangibles he brought, there should be no question.”
As Nickson indicated, one look at where Taylor ranked all-time upon his retirement presents a case that seems difficult to debate. Indeed, looking at statistics provided by Bob Borgen, who was the Kings Video Coordinator from 1980-90, followed by a stint as the producer of intermission features on their Prime Ticket television broadcasts from 1985-90, then becoming the producer of their television broadcasts on Fox Sports West for 18 years, tells a very compelling story.
- At Clarkson University, Taylor scored 98 goals, and contributed 153 assists for 251 points over four seasons.
- NCAA Player of the Year, 1976-77.
- Led NCAA in scoring with 41 goals and 67 assists for 108 points in 1976-77.
- Taylor continues to hold the ECAC all-time single season scoring record that he set in 1976-77.
National Hockey League
- After being selected by the Kings in the 15th round (210th overall) of the 1975 NHL Draft, he became best known for playing on the famed Triple Crown Line with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer, the first line in NHL history with all three forwards scoring 100 points (1980-81) in a single season.
- NHL Second Team All-Star in 1980-81
- Played in five NHL All-Star Games.
- First player to win the King Clancy and Masterton Trophy in same year.
At the time of his retirement in April 1994:
- Taylor was 10th in games played (1,111).
- Among players who played with just one NHL team, Taylor was ninth in goals (431), 11th in assists (638), and 10th in points (1,069).
- Among all retired players in April 1994, Taylor was 20th in goals and in assists, and was 18th in points. All leaders in this category are honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, except Taylor.
- Among the 21 players who had scored 400 goals, 600 assists, 1,000 points, and had played 1,000 games, All are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, except Taylor.
- All-time goals by right wings: Taylor was 12th. All in the top 13 are in the Hockey Hall of Fame except for Rick Middleton and Rick Vaive.
- All-time assists by a right wing: Taylor was ranked fourth.
- All-time points by a right wing: Taylor was ranked sixth.
- Most career points among those in the 1975 NHL Draft Class: Taylor was ranked number one despite being drafted in the 15th round (210th overall).
- Most career points by former college players: Taylor was ranked number one.
- At the time of his retirement, Taylor was the only player to play right wing with six different line mates who scored 50 goals that season: Jimmy Carson, Dionne, Gretzky, Bernie Nicholls, Luc Robitaille, and Simmer).
Los Angeles Kings
- Taylor was the Kings captain from 1985-86 to 1989-90.
Taylor held the following Kings records at the time of his retirement:
- Third in scoring (Taylor remains third in scoring for the Kings today).
- Most goals in one season for a right wing: 47 (1980-81).
- Most assists in one season by a right wing: 67 (1981-82).
- Most points by a right wing in one season: 112 (1980-81)
- Taylor won two bronze medals (1983 and 1986) and one silver medal (1985) for Canada for in the World Championships.
Of course, a little over 27 years have passed since Taylor retired. As such, some players have moved ahead of him in some of those statistical categories. But when you look at the players Taylor was ranked with when he retired, you see nothing but some of the all-time greats, such as Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Alex Delvecchio, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Yvan Cournoyer, Dionne, Phil Esposito, Guy Lafleur, Mark Messier, Stan Mikita, Bryan Trottier, Gilbert Perreault, Jean Beliveau, Bobby Hull, Frank Mahovlich, John Bucyk—and that long list of some of the NHL’s legendary greats doesn’t stop there. All but two players—Rick Middleton and Rick Vaive, who ranked just ahead of Taylor in career goals scored, are honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Nickson illustrated that point further.
“If you look at comparable players who have been inducted, I always go back to Rod Gilbert,” he noted. “If you look at his career statistics and match them up with Dave’s, they’re almost identical. Rod Gilbert is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and Dave isn’t.”
“Bernie Federko is in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” he added. “He was a center, and Dave was a right wing, but they have comparable stats.”
Retired, legendary ‘Voice of the Kings,’ Bob Miller saw more than his share of bad hockey during his 44-year career behind the microphone, and a lot of the Kings teams that Taylor played on were not the greatest.
“You can go through the numbers of a lot of NHL forwards, and in some cases, their numbers are going to jump out at you more than Dave’s,” he said. “But he was putting those numbers up while playing on some very mediocre teams.”
“The other thing with Dave—talk about a responsible player,” Nickson emphasized. “Look at his plus/minus (+185) compared to other players who have played for the Kings. Nobody is close, and we’ve had some great players. Wayne Gretzky played eight years here, but he was a minus player for the Kings. Even Marcel Dionne [ranks behind Taylor with +105]. It’s just something else that solidifies his standing, in terms of how valuable he was for his team.”
Nickson pointed to Taylor’s intangibles, and took specific note of his character.
“I don’t think you can discount somebody’s character, and there are not many, if any, in hockey, who I’ve met, in my 45 years now who have more character than Dave Taylor,” he said.
To be sure, Taylor has a tremendously strong case for induction into the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame, based on his statistics alone. So what has kept him on the outside looking in?
Fox offered one possible reason.
“A lot of guys who scored 1,000 points are not in the Hockey Hall of Fame because it was an era with a lot of scoring,” he observed. “It used to be automatic if you scored 1,000 points.”
Then there’s the fact that the Kings failed to win a championship during Taylor’s playing career.
“I can see where not winning championships might be to his detriment,” said Nickson. “But Rod Gilbert didn’t win a Stanley Cup. Bernie Federko didn’t win a Cup. There is also the fact that his teams here in L.A. did not have a lot of playoff success.”
“We never won a Stanley Cup when Dave was a player,” Miller noted. “The number of championship teams you’re on is a factor in getting into the Hockey Hall of Fame, whether it should be or not.”
But the biggest factor is likely that Taylor played in obscurity outside of the Forum in Inglewood, California.
“He played in the West, in Los Angeles,” Miller observed. “He didn’t play in the major cities of the East, where people would see him on TV, and not be in bed when he was playing.”
“They would be more aware of what he meant to the Kings if they had [greater opportunities to watch him,]” Miller added. “We only did 15 TV games a year back then, so he wasn’t seen very much at all compared to players in the East. He just wasn’t in the consciousness of people in the East.”
“It’s not as prevalent today because there are so many teams, and everybody gets covered, nationally,” said Nickson. “But the East Coast bias, or the lack of knowledge about players on the West Coast, especially 25-30 years ago, [has been an issue].
It could very well turn out that Taylor’s situation could mirror that of former Kings superstar goaltender Rogie Vachon, who became an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame 32 years after he retired.
“If you look at Rogie Vachon, when he retired, he was in the top ten in all-time wins. Goalies ahead of him are in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Nickson. “Goalies behind him are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Rogie won [three] Stanley Cups and was an all-star goaltender for the Kings. But it took 32 years after he retired to get in. Maybe that’s going to be the case with Dave.”
“You could talk to ten people, and five would make great arguments for Dave, and five would make strong arguments against him,” added Nickson. “It could go either way. Maybe if Dave had been able to play two more healthy years and reached 500 goals—that’s a benchmark. Most players who scored 500 goals are in.”
One of Taylor’s teammates is very much in his corner.
“I spent time with him,” Fox noted. “I saw his impact, as a player. I’m going to say that [he should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame].”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings star right wing Dave Taylor’s is shown here during his time playing for Clarkson College in the East Coast Athletic Conference. Photo courtesy Dave Taylor Family Collection.
Frozen Royalty’s Dave Taylor Coverage
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- LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Reflects on Retirement and Time as General Manager
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