Hall of Fame botched Pat Burns call 

November, 22, 2010

It was another interesting weekend of hockey across NHL rinks. There were some high highs (the Detroit Red Wings' last second comeback against the Flames) and some low lows (the Isles dropped their 13th straight, this one in Atlanta -- and in OT).

Those results, however, were overshadowed by the passing of one of the game's top coaches. Here's a look at it all in today's edition of the Monday 10.

1. Sadly, longtime NHL coach Pat Burns succumbed to cancer Friday. He'd been fighting different forms of the disease since 2004. Burns was just 58.

I wish the Hall of Fame induction committee had done right by Burns this past June, when it could have elected him while he was still alive to appreciate the honor. He had the credentials for election -- a Stanley Cup, 501 regular-season wins and three Jack Adams Awards (won with three different teams). So, there was really no reason not to elect him.

Now, I've heard some say -- in the HOF committee's defense (Is there one?) -- that if Burns hadn't been ill, there probably wouldn't have been such a call (which included a campaign on Facebook) for Burns' immediate induction. Of course, if he hadn't been ill, he probably would still be coaching and adding to his already impressive numbers.

If, if, if …

The reality is he was ill. We all knew he was very ill. The HOF committee had a chance to do something special. We here on this planet don't get that chance every day. The 18-person HOF selection committee decided to pass.

And, because of the crazy secretive nature of the process (Is world peace at stake here?), we'll never really know why. If someone had a case to make against Burns' induction, I'd love to hear it. Wouldn't you?

I've heard others say, in rationalizing the decision over the weekend, that the committee's decision in June did bring a firestorm of controversy that allowed many to speak out about Burns and his HOF worthiness. In that way, Burns knew just how many of us felt about him and the decision. Although that might be true, it's said as if it's some sort of silver lining to something I can only call a dreadfully bad decision.

For me, if there's going to be any silver lining to this whole thing, it would be that the HOF reconsider its process. The super-secretive nature of the selection committee should be scrapped. Why shouldn't the committee members be accountable to the public for their decisions? I mean, sorry, guys, but in the grand scheme of things, it's just not that important.

If this frat-house process gets revamped into a more open procedure, maybe that will be a silver lining worth talking about.

2. Throughout his long battle with cancer, Burns kept an eye on the NHL. So much so, that he felt compelled to send a preseason note of encouragement to embattled young Canadiens goalie Carey Price. The note, according to Price, was delivered to him by Habs assistant coach Kirk Muller, who had played for Burns in Montreal.

Price wouldn't go into detail about the contents of the message, but he said it "really touched him."

On Saturday night, before the Toronto-Montreal game at the Bell Centre, Canadiens management presented a pregame video tribute to the team's former coach. As usual, the Habs did it right.

And so did Price. The goalie had painted Burns' initials onto his mask for the game. He completed his personal tribute by turning back all 25 Toronto shots in a 2-0 win. It was his fourth shutout in just 19 games.

Price's sensational start (12-6-1, 2.00 GAA and .932 SP) is among the feel-good stories of the early season. Maybe an old coach had a little something to do with it.