Given some of the bizarre (Dick Duff) and self-serving (Jim Gregory) decisions it has made in the past, it’s impossible to predict what the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee will do when it meets Tuesday to determine the 2010 inductees.
One thing is almost certain and that is the Hall will be dragged into the 21st century when it announces the induction of the first woman’s player – with Angela James, Cammi Granato and Geraldine Heaney the top three contenders for the first two spots.
But for the first time in a number of years, the Hall of Fame class isn’t exactly brimming with no-brainer first-year candidates. My esteemed colleague and THN’s resident expert on everything Hall of Fame, Brian Costello, believes Joe Nieuwendyk is a shoo-in and while it’s hard to argue with his credentials, I’m not sure he falls under the slam-dunk category. Nieuwendyk is a worthy inductee in this writer’s mind, but hardly a slam-dunk.
But after that you have Eric Lindros and John LeClair as the most notable players who are first-year eligible. LeClair is something of a stretch, but Lindros will certainly pose a raucous debate. As this corner has previously said, Lindros is a Hall of Famer if you believe Cam Neely should be in the Hall of Fame, which he is. However, I don’t view Neely as a Hall of Fame player and since you don’t correct a mistake by making another one, my vote would not go to Lindros.
That potentially leaves three spots open. And since next year the pickings are even slimmer, it leaves the selection committee with an interesting opportunity. If you can believe it, the only credible potential selection is Ed Belfour in 2011, meaning that if Nieuwendyk and Belfour get in, that leaves six spots over the next two induction classes to make up for historical omissions.
(Of course, the Hall of Fame could do the courageous thing and induct no players if it believes none is worthy, but that’s a long shot. The induction ceremony is a huge money-maker for the Hall and it knows the event would lose its luster if it inducted only builders.)
So now if the selection committee believes Doug Gilmour, Pavel Bure, Dino Ciccarelli, Tom Barrasso, Dave Andreychuk, Adam Oates or Alexander Mogilny are worthy candidates, now is the time to bring their names forward, because it might be a while before they receive consideration again. Whether or not you believe any or all of them are Hall of Famers, you could certainly make a credible case for each of them.
Upside: One of the NHL’s all-time great two-way talents, was ferociously competitive, won a Cup and a Selke and scored 1,400 points. Also meets the Hall’s unofficial criteria of having played for the Toronto Maple Leafs at one point during his career.
Downside: Never a first- or second-team all-star.
Upside: For a period of four years, he might have been the most dynamic player in the game. Won the Calder Trophy in 1992 and two Rocket Richard Trophies, three if the award had existed in 1994.
Downside: Never won a Cup and injuries cut short his brilliant career.
Upside: He and Andreychuk are the only 600-goal scorers among players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame or will be once their careers end. We’re going on the assumption that Jaromir Jagr is a lock three years after he eventually retires.
Downside: Never won a Cup and had off-ice character issues.
Upside: Not only was he the first goalie to go directly from high school to the NHL, but he won the Calder and Vezina Trophies in his first season. Was terrific in Pittsburgh’s Cup triumphs in 1991 and ’92.
Downside: Lacked consistency and might have been the most cantankerous individual ever to play the game.
Upside: The highest goal scorer among players who aren’t or will get in and holds the NHL record for power play goals. Won a Cup in a defensive role with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Downside: Aside from the one Cup, playoff performance was lacking and he had just one 50-goal season.
Upside: Has more assists than Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman and has more helpers than any player not in the Hall of Fame.
Downside: Averaged only 18 goals a season and never won a Stanley Cup or scoring title.
Upside: A dynamic talent who shared the league lead in goals with 76 in 1992-93 and his bold decision to defect helped pave the way for Russians to play in the NHL.
Downside: Rarely brought it in the playoffs and was often perceived as petulant and moody.
When it meets Tuesday and next summer, the committee will almost certainly consider these players and others for induction. None of them would be considered a travesty to be sure, but all of them are on the borderline.
Things are filling up after 2011. The summer of 2012 will have shoo-ins Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan with Mats Sundin and Jeremy Roenick as good possibilities.
But in 2013, how would you like to be forced to pick four of Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer?
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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