June 27, 2011
The Hockey Hall of Fame's selections for the Class of 2011 will be announced at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, broadcast live on NHL Network and TSN rather than shared first with a bunch of crusty writers on a conference call as in years past. (The crusty ones get their Q&A session with inductees a half hour later).
Dino Ciccarelli was the only NHL player elected to the Hall last year, a selection that was frankly overshadowed by the snub of Pat Burns as a builder. (Hopefully rectified, posthumously, this year.)
Will the Hall of Fame selection committee go solo again? Will it be two players, perhaps even three or four?
Coming up, our filtering out of Hall-eligible players to reduce the field down to the essential candidates.
Who makes the cut this year … and will Eric Lindros be one of them?
Check out our Hall of Fame odds from 2010 for plenty of debates about the candidates that are still in the mix this season. But before we can get to the key candidates, we have to filter out a few runners-up and also-rans. (Keep in mind these aren't the total group of eligible players, but just some prominent and recent names.)
The No-Chance-In-Hell Club
Jocelyn Thibault, Mattias Norstrom, Richard Matvichuk(notes), Eric Weinrich, Mariusz Czerkawski, Andrew Cassels, Dallas Drake, Travis Green, Claude Lapointe, Martin Lapointe, Yanic Perreault, Geoff Sanderson, Scott Thornton.
These players are among the first-year candidates for the Hall of Fame who really stretch the accepted definition of "eligibility" to its breaking point. You know, with all due respect to the Mariusz Czerkawski fans out there. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Obviously Mariusz Czerkawski's Cousin.
The Better Than Average Club
These are first-year eligible players (save for Burke, a carryover from last season) who are a better cut of steak than the ones in the NCIH Club, but still fall short of the Hall of Fame. These guys are always players that are elevated higher than their accomplishments by local fans who adore them. They've got impressive numbers and international hockey glory in some cases. But they're not great players in the context of the Hall.
The Stu Barnes Club
Because Stu Barnes is eligible for the Hall this year. And even if he doesn't get in, he deserves his own club. Because he's Stu Barnes.
The Flashy Stats Club
The numbers here are mind-blowing: 1,327 points for Turgeon; 503 career goals for Bondra; a 70-goal season for Nicholls. These are players who have the numbers to be considered close to immortality but either lack the trophies or the impact that's required for the Hall of Fame in most cases. (Or in Barrasso's case, he was really mean to people. Boo-hoo.)
(Note: Makarov deserves to be among the group in the next heading, but we can't imagine the Hall would give him his due.)
Which brings us to ...
The Hall of Fame Pool
Dave Andreychuk, LW
He's 13th all-time in goals with 640 and fifth in games played, playing a vital role in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup championship. He's the best power-play goal scorer in NHL history with 274, better than Brett Hull or Mario Lemieux. As with others on this list, he name means something: He's the immovable object with great hands in front of the net, a connoisseur of garbage goals and a consummate professional.
Ed Belfour, G
The only first-year eligible player with a prayer of making the cut. Two Vezina Trophies, four Jennings Trophies, the Calder for rookie of the year and a Stanley Cup championship to his credit. He's third in wins for his career (484) and fourth in career saves (22,434). The knocks on Eddie are that he wasn't as dominant a goalie as some of his peers, posting a career .906 save percentage despite playing during the trap years; and his off-the-ice troubles may have him Ciccarelli'd out of a first-year induction.
Pavel Bure, RW
Bure has 437 goals in 702 games, placing him sixth all-time (0.623) in the NHL. Of the rest of the top 10, only Alex Ovechkin(notes) and Tim Kerr aren't in the Hall of Fame. He has 779 points in 702 games, a points-per-game average that ranks him 24th all-time. He won the Calder and two Richard Trophies, leading the League in goals three times.
The case for Bure as a Hall of Fame player has been made again and again and again and again. The reasons are simple: He has the numbers, despite not having a Hart or a Stanley Cup; and his name means something to a generation of fans and peers. To be compared to Pavel Bure today is to be compared to an offensive star of unparalleled speed and goal-scoring ability. He was a once in a generation player; will he be counted among the immortals?
Guy Carbonneau, C
If membership in the Hockey Hall of Fame was ever dedicated to being the best player at your position during a given era, then Carbonneau would warrant serious consideration. He won three Selke Trophies and three Stanley Cups, ranking 14th all-time in shorthanded goals (32). He was one of the best shutdown centers of all-time, and scored 663 points along with it.
Doug Gilmour, C
"Killer" was thought by many to be tabbed for the Hall in 2010, but as snubbed. He has 450 goals, 1,414 points, one Stanley Cup and a Selke Trophy, as well as some other impressive intangibles from Joe Pelletier:
Gilmour has reputation as a hockey warrior. He was an imperative piece of the 1989 Stanley Cup championship in Calgary. He willed Toronto to two consecutive final four appearances in the 1990s, not to mention two more in St. Louis a few years before that. He is seventh all time in Stanley Cup playoffs scoring, 5th in terms of assists. His points per game production actually increased in the playoffs. The only other of the NHL's top 50 all time to also be able to make that claim is Mark Messier. So there can be no doubting Gilmour's big game presence.
Pelletier joked last year that he was surprised Gilmour wasn't already in the Hall given its Toronto-centric focus. Perhaps that will be remedied this year.
Eric Lindros, C
Yup, time to fire up this debate for another year.
The case for Lindros isn't necessarily stats-based, although he's 18th all-time with a points per game average of 1.14. It isn't awards-based, despite having both a Hart and a Pearson in the truncated 1994-95 season. It's impact-based: Lindros was one of the dominant, game-changing forces in the NHL during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers in the dead puck era, before concussions cost him his career.
Joe Nieuwendyk, C
He's 21st in goals scored with 564 and 11th in power-play goals at 215. He won the Calder in 1988 and the King Clancy in 1995. But the case for Nieuwendyk is based on the prestige: Three Stanley Cups with three different teams, and a Conn Smythe Trophy in 1999 with the Dallas Stars for 21 points in 23 games and six game-winning goals. Never the most dominant NHL player; just one of the most clutch and well-respected ones.
Adam Oates, C
What if we told you a player had 1,420 career points, placing him 16th all-time behind 12 Hall of Famers, two sure-things (Sakic, Jagr) and one probable (Mark Recchi(notes))? What if this player led the League in assists three times, and ranks sixth all-time with 1,079 helpers — surrounded by nine Hall of Fame players in the Top 10?
Sure-fire Hall of Famer?
OK, but what if this player never won a major NHL award or championship? What if his only claim to postseason fame is a second-team NHL All-Star Team appearance in 1991? What if his greatest claim to fame is as the co-star to a legendary sniper named Brett Hull?
Does he get in the Hall? Because these are the Adam Oates questions.
Joe Nieuwendyk and Doug Gilmour, with Ed Belfour spending a year in HOF jail for offering the Dallas police a billion-dollar bribe to stay out of jail in 2000. Both centers have Cup rings and accolades that Oates does not.
Bure deserves the Hall. Lindros is on the cusp, but we'd let him in. If either one is in the Class of 2011, it would be a pleasant surprise. We just don't expect it.