It’s nice to see Brian Leetch’s No. 2 retired by the New York Rangers. He’s easily one of the most talented and classiest defensemen of the past generation.
I’m not willing to declare Leetch the best U.S.-born defenseman of all-time – the still active and ageless Chris Chelios gets my vote – but I am prepared to say Leetch is a shoo-in for an exceptionally strong Hall of Fame class in 2009 (read more about Leetch's rise to prominence HERE).
At first blush, it’s hardly a bold statement saying Leetch is destined for the Hall of Fame. That’s a no-brainer, really.
The only aspect that puts a 2009 Hall induction in question at all is the quality of class to which Leetch belongs. Players who played their final season in 2005-06 are eligible for 2009 induction and history unfolded in such a way that at least one or two worthy candidates will be forced to wait a year or two.
Having said that, I believe Leetch ranks third among Hall of Fame candidates in 2009. Here’s my ranking of the top nine candidates in order. And remember, only four get in per year.
Steve Yzerman – The face of the Detroit Red Wings franchise for a generation. A leader, a producer and a winner.
Brett Hull – The game’s most lethal scoring weapon of the 1990s. He never met a one-timer he didn’t like.
Brian Leetch – Graceful and smooth, he almost made the game look easy from the blueline.
Luc Robitaille – The top scoring left-winger of all-time, Lucky Luc had a pair of magic hands.
Dave Andreychuk – Career leader in power play goals and one of just 17 members of the 600-goal club.
Keith Primeau – His calling card was strong, reliable two-way play, especially in the clutch.
Peter Bondra – 500 goals and often the sole bright light on some forgettable teams.
Zigmund Palffy – Ziggy had both flair and finish during a productive career.
Eric Desjardins – Often unheralded, he was solid at both ends and always a regular in key situations.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.