Hall of Fame debates may seem like a bunch of puckheads pissing in the wind half the time, but they're actually interesting psychological tests that measure several attitudes and beliefs.
How you feel about a specific player, his team, his position or his era. How you approach that players' numbers in comparison to those of his peers; or how you much weight you lend to the awards or championships he's won. Perhaps most of all, the call to accept or reject a player's "immortality" speaks to how you feel about the principles of the Hall of Fame itself.
Tomorrow afternoon, up to four names will be added to the Hockey Hall of Fame's list of legends. The leading candidates include Doug Gilmour, Igor Larionov, Pavel Bure, Dino Ciccarelli, Glenn Anderson, Sergei Makarov, Claude Lemieux, Adam Oates, Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter, Mike Vernon, Guy Carbonneau, Steve Larmer, Pat Verbeek and Phil Housley. Sportsnet is running a reader poll of selected candidates, with Gilmour leading the way. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has Larionov as his top candidate followed by Bure, Anderson, Gilmour, Oates and Carbonneau.
If I had to pluck four from this field, the following players would make my Hall of Fame:
Pavel Bure: The Russian Rocket had 437 goals and 779 points in 1,129 regular season games for teams like the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. He had two 60-goal seasons and three seasons with over 50 goals. From the brilliant minds at Hockey-Reference.com, we know that he twice led the League in "goals created," including during a brilliant 2000 season. He was a transcendent offensive player and a lock for the Hall.
Dino Ciccarelli: You'll notice this list did not begin with Glenn Anderson's name. This is because Glenn Anderson is not a Hall of Famer. The Edmonton Oilers are like the Big Red Machine in baseball: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez are in Cooperstown, and Pete Rose would be. At some point you have to say, "Sorry, Dave Concepcion." Anderson was a great player, and an exceptional playoff performer: Six Stanley Cups and 17 game-winning goals in the postseason. But based on their respective ranks on the points and goals lists, I find it rather ridiculous that his candidacy is advocated while Ciccarelli's is ignored; simply because Anderson played on Gretzky's Oilers, Ciccarelli never won a Cup and one was much more well-liked than the other.
Dino scored 608 goals and 1,200 points in 1,232 regular season games. Every player ahead of him on the career goals list is in the Hall of Fame or will be soon (depending how you fell about Dave Andreychuk). He also scored 232 power-play goals; more than Gretzky and way more than Anderson. Ciccarelli was never a star, never revered by his peers and obviously had his share of controversies. So he's basically been blacklisted by the hockey punditry. But they don't call it the Hockey and Clean Arrest Record Hall of Fame. If you really believe Anderson is a Hall of Famer, then at least put Ciccarelli in first. He's got one hell of a case.
Doug Gilmour: Sometimes it's about more than numbers. In the case of Clark Gillies, it was about intangibles that go beyond the box score. In the case of Doug Gilmour, it's about Fame. His name evokes an endless array of emotions and memories for anyone who watched hockey for the last two decades. You can count on two hands the number of his peers that can do the same. His 450 goals and 1,414 points for teams like the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres don't hurt, either; and neither do his Stanley Cup and Selke Trophy.
Case closed. He's a lock.