TORONTO - Lou Lamoriello gets chills at the mere suggestion that Pat Burns could be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame some three years after his death.
"He loved the game, was very successful at what he did and really was a misunderstood person at different times," the New Jersey Devils general manager said of the late NHL head coach. "I would be just ecstatic if Pat went in."
The 2013 class will be announced Tuesday, and Burns is one of a few borderline candidates yet again, joining the likes of two-time Stanley Cup-winning Philadelphia Flyers coach Fred Shero and Hart Trophy-winner Eric Lindros. A couple of the best defencemen of the 1990s—Chris Chelios and Scott Niedermayer—are favoured to get in, but after that it's up for debate.
Lindros won the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Art Ross Trophy during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season and was considered the most dominant player in the NHL for a short period of time. His career, spent mostly with the Flyers, was cut short by concussions, though his 1.138 points per game has him ranked 15th among retired players.
Burns won 501 games, one Stanley Cup and three Jack Adams Awards as a coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils. In 12 full seasons behind the bench, the team he coached missed the playoffs only once.
"It's the resume from top to bottom of a Pat Burns that gives him the criteria to be considered, and then it's up to the committee and the people there to make that decision on what they do as far as how the voting process goes," Lamoriello said in an interview Monday.
Lamoriello hasn't campaigned on Burns's behalf, but Flyers owner Ed Snider has for Shero, who won back-to-back Cups as Flyers coach in 1974 and 1975. Shero was considered an innovator when it comes to having a coaching staff and integrating systems of play, and his posthumous candidacy has become stronger in the decades following his death in 1990.
"I think it's a disgrace that he's not in the Hall of Fame," Snider said. "The guy has accomplished all kinds of great things, and I don't know what he's being punished for. Is it because of the Broad Street Bullies? If so, then I shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, Bobby Clarke shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, Billy Barber shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, Keith Allen shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. The bottom line is he did an outstanding job, and he deserves to be in it."
Snider pointed to Shero leading an expansion team to a Cup and beating the Soviet Red Army in 1976 as primary reasons he should be in the Hall of Fame in the builder category.
Though Shero hasn't made it yet, it's hard to find a reason to keep Niedermayer or Chelios out in their first year of eligibility.
Niedermayer captured the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenceman in 2003-04 and was a first- or second-team NHL all-star four times. He was part of four Cup-winning teams, three with the Devils and one with Anaheim and was the Conn Smythe winner as the Ducks captain in 2007.
"I don't think you can ever overestimate how important he was," Lamoriello said. "He was a team player and a teammate that everybody respected."
Chelios played 1,651 games in 26 seasons, good for fifth all-time. He took part in his final game at age 48 and is considered the best U.S.-born player in NHL history based on three Norris Trophies, seven first- or second-team all-star selections and three Cups.
"He was probably the most competitive player I have played with," said Eric Weinrich, who played defence with Chelios with the Chicago Blackhawks. "He was an underated offensive player, because he was such a tenacious defenceman. Cheli played just as hard during the lockout against the men's league guys. He always wanted to win. I learned about competing every night watching him practise and play. Cheli should be remembered as one of the greatest ever."
Brendan Shanahan, in his second year of eligibility, could be next in line after Chelios and Niedermayer. He recorded 656 goals and 698 assists in 1,524 games and was a first- or second-team all-star three times.
Other borderline candidates include defencemen Phil Housley and Rob Blake, and forwards Dave Andreychuk, Theo Fleury and Jeremy Roenick. Up to four inductees can make up a class, including someone from the builder category.
That builder could be Burns, who would be honoured 10 years after winning the only title of his career.
"Pat came here and he had never won a Cup, he came here and won the Cup," Lamoriello said. "You never realize how important that was to him, and then after he went through what he did, the relationship that he and I had and the type of person that I got to know, I'd be ecstatic."