Jere Lehtinen was a phenomenal player to witness. He was the essence of what the Dallas Stars were at their peak. Those teams were Mike Modano's teams, but Lehtinen stood for everything Dallas hockey: hard work, top flight defense, and chipping in offensively when the moment presented itself. He should be in the NHL Hall of Fame.
The biggest argument for Lehtinen's inclusion is the inclusion of one Bob Gainey. The main claim to fame for both players was their defensive reputation, but the similarities go even further.
Gainey won the first four Selke Trophies, awarded to the top defensive player in the league. He received votes ten times in the 12 years he played when the award was awarded. He was an all star five times. In 1160 career games Gainey scored 501 points all with the Montreal Canadiens.
Lehtinen won three Selke Trophies. He received votes in 12 of the 14 years he played. The only two exceptions were his rookie season and his final season. He was an all star two times. In 875 career games he score 514 points all with the Dallas Stars.
Lehtinen was better offensively in a more defensive era while playing with Modano. He had less all star appearances while playing in a league that was at times twice the size of the league in which Gainey played. There is zero reason for why Lehtinen shouldn't be inducted. He and Gainey are basically the same player with a few stylistic differences, and this shouldn't be a surprise given that Gainey was here at the critical developmental stage when Lehtinen was finding his way in the league.
(On a related note, Lehtinen's old teammate Guy Carbonneau should be in the Hall of Fame too.)
The NHL has had a hard time identifying players who contributed defensively. The Norris Trophy awarded to the league's top defenseman routinely goes to the top offensive defenseman. The Selke tends to avoid this problem, but these players also tend to avoid major recognition outside of the random Selke nomination. If you win a league award for on ice play three different times and put together a long career you've made enough of a mark on the league to merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame. The NHL should fix this.
Lehtinen has gotten relatively little recognition since his retirement despite the fact that he really should be in the Hall of Fame. The Stars can't turn into the Canadiens and retire every other number, but one that should never be worn by anyone else in this city is 26, He accomplished so much for this franchise and most importantly every bit of it was in this city instead of in Minnesota. The Stars retired numbers don't reflect enough about hockey in Dallas. Honoring Lehtinen would be a good start.
The odds of Lehtinen ever getting in seem slim. It isn't right. Bob Gainey sets a precedent for the inclusion of players deemed to be the best defensive forward of their era. During Lehtinen's time no one was better defensively. It's a slam dunk that he deserves to be included. Hopefully over time he will get the recognition that his fantastic career deserves, and that should start with a retired 26 hanging from the rafters in the near future.