We’ve had quite a run of Hall of Fame induction classes the past several years.
This year’s foursome of Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille ranks among the best ever. But even slightly better was the 2007 class of Mark Messier, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens and Ron Francis.
And these two groups come just five years after the best induction class for defensemen ever, that being Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy in 2004.
Looking ahead, the 2010 field isn’t nearly as strong. Among players first-time eligible (three years retired) Joe Nieuwendyk is the best bet for induction while Eric Lindros and John LeClair are bubble candidates. Long-shot first-timers are Peter Bondra and Pierre Turgeon.
Also in the mix is an impressive list of holdovers from previous years. Because a maximum of four per year get in, the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-best players from the 2009 class – Alex Mogilny, Dave Andreychuk and Theo Fleury – are effectively first-timers in 2010. There was no room for them this year.
Wait, there’s more.
Pavel Bure, Doug Gilmour, Tom Barrasso, Phil Housley and Mike Richter were first-time eligible in 2006. They were all turned down even though there was room with Patrick Roy and Dick Duff that year.
Igor Larionov and Adam Oates were the No. 5 and 6 candidates in the stacked class of 2007. Larionov got in with longtime holdover Glenn Anderson in 2008, but Oates is still a worthy candidate.
Holdovers from previous years include Guy Carbonneau, Dino Ciccarelli, Dale Hunter, Sergei Makarov, Steve Larmer, Kevin Lowe, Mike Vernon and Mark Howe. So that’s 20 solid names to consider in 2010.
One thing I’ve learned about the Hall of Fame’s selection committee in my years monitoring their results is they’re never in a hurry to induct former stars who had run-ins with the law or NHL’s disciplinary board, or were not model players or citizens.
Anderson was first-time eligible in 2000, but didn’t get in until 2008. Hunter, Ciccarelli, Gilmour, Bure, Barrasso, Housley and Fleury also fall into that category of players who were special on the ice, but caused a headache or two off it.
And for that reason I don’t think Lindros, a high maintenance player if there ever was one, will get Hall of Fame approval from at least 14 of the 18 men on the selection committee. Not in his first year eligible.
My picks for 2010 induction are Nieuwendyk, Bure and Carbonneau. And I haven’t yet made up my mind on the fourth opening.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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