Power rankings: Bound for the Hall …
The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted four new members on Monday, two of whom were ex-players – Glenn Anderson and Igor Larionov. That brings the total to 240 players enshrined at the corner of Front and Yonge Streets in downtown Toronto. Before the red carpet is even rolled up the debate will begin on who should go in next among the retired players, builders and officials of the game. But let’s look at this in a different light. We’re certainly watching future Hall-of-Famers, some we know are headed for hockey immortality and others we’re not so sure. This week’s rankings project who are the most likely Hall-of-Fame candidates from each team, keeping in mind, of course, that many will finish their careers elsewhere.
1. San Jose Sharks (13-3-0, Previous: 1) – Jeremy Roenick is a slam dunk; Joe Thornton and Rob Blake, probably; Patrick Marleau still has some work to do. If the team wins a couple of Stanley Cups and he were to string together two or three Vezina Trophies, Evgeni Nabokov could have a shot, as well. There is one current omission: General manager Doug Wilson deserves to be in there.
2. Detroit Red Wings (9-2-2, Previous: 4) – Where do we start? Chris Chelios is a given. So, too, is Nicklas Lidstrom. Top forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg certainly have a shot if they each play at least another 10 years, remain elite players and win more Cups. And where does goalie Chris Osgood fit into the equation? It’s hard to look past the career numbers he is compiling and his success in the playoffs. It gives pause for thought.
3. Montreal Canadiens (8-2-2, Previous: 2) – There’s no debating Alexei Kovalev’s skill, but his entry to the Hall of Fame isn’t guaranteed. Then again, he’s only 35, already with 1,085 career games played. He could go another five or six years, and if they continue to be productive ones, you never know. And hey, while we’re at it, let’s project goalie Carey Price as a candidate if he lives up to the billing and plays 18-20 seasons. He already plays the most scrutinized position on any team in the sport.
4. Buffalo Sabres (8-3-3, Previous: 3) – Thomas Vanek has a lot of work ahead of him to fit into this category, but he’s the most likely skater on the roster to put up dazzling numbers. Goalie Ryan Miller would be the best hope, but again, he isn’t really in that kind of conversation so early in his career.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (8-4-2, Previous: 10) – Oh, let the conjecture start here. It’s very early in their careers, but you can’t deny the fact Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and even Jordan Staal project as elite players for many years. If the group stays together and has the kind of success enjoyed by the dynasty Oilers and Islanders teams, well, it’s not unlikely more than a handful of members make it. Don’t forget about Sergei Gonchar. He’s got a ways to go, but if he’s part of two or three Cup winners in Pittsburgh, who is to deny him?
6. New York Rangers (11-5-2, Previous: 5) – If this were last year you could comfortably say Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan, but the Blueshirts didn’t want either this season so we look elsewhere on the roster. Chris Drury and Scott Gomez will have to settle for the U.S. Hockey Hall; don’t see either making it into the NHL one. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has certainly had a splendid start to his career. It’s a long road, but the possibility exists.
7. Boston Bruins (8-3-3, Previous: 11) – No obvious choices here. In fact, it doesn’t really appear anyone would come close to that kind of consideration. Zdeno Chara is the Eastern Conference’s best defenseman, but that doesn’t make him bound for the Hall of Fame.
8. Anaheim Ducks (9-7-1, Previous: 9) – No lack of candidates on this roster. Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne are locks. Chris Pronger may be knocking on the door. Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere could sneak up on everyone before his career is over. Keep an eye on youngsters Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, though both of those paths are long. We’re just sayin’ …
9. Chicago Blackhawks (7-3-3, Previous: 13) – It’s almost silly to speculate on a pair of forwards that are 19 and 20 years old, so we won’t go anywhere near Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. That would be a resounding no on Nikolai Khabibulin.
10. Minnesota Wild (8-4-1, Previous: 6) – While Cal Clutterbuck and Stephane Veilleux possess Hall-of-Fame names, we’re not going to get carried away here. And we’re not going to fall into the trap of suggesting either of the team’s top two players – Marian Gaborik and Pierre-Marc Bouchard – are Hall-bound. Maybe this is another example of just how good a coaching job Jacques Lemaire does year in, year out.
11. Washington Capitals (8-4-2, Previous: 17) – Sergei Fedorov? Yes. After that, all eyes are on Alexander Ovechkin. His season-starting scoring drought aside, Ovechkin, only 23, is a remarkable offensive talent. Hard to imagine he won’t produce the kind of career that would gain automatic entry into the shrine.
12. Carolina Hurricanes (8-5-2, Previous: 12) – It’s going to be an interesting debate, but Rod Brind’Amour has to at least be in the conversation. Longevity, production, leadership and at least one Stanley Cup are all in his favor. He’s no automatic and it’ll spark a good debate, too. Eric Staal is only 24 years old, but he, like the young Penguins, figures to enjoy a long and productive career. He could be a candidate, too, once it’s said and done.
13. New Jersey Devils (7-5-2, Previous: 8) – Martin Brodeur is a lock, obviously. The only question is will he be regarded as the greatest goalie of all time? We suggest the answer is yes. And unless you’re a goalie or defenseman, the Devils’ system is going to restrict big offensive numbers so if Zach Parise has any designs on future enshrinement he might have to pile up those numbers elsewhere.
14. Edmonton Oilers (8-6-1, Previous: 14) – Lots of tradition to live up to here. The talent on the roster is very young. Way too premature to suggest that kind of stardom for Sam Gagne, Dustin Penner or Ales Hemsky.
15. Vancouver Canucks (9-6-0, Previous: 18) – It’s looking pretty good for goalie Roberto Luongo, especially if you take a snapshot of what he has done already this season. The only fear for Luongo, 29, is the fact he could languish with too many bad teams in his career. If Vancouver ends up like it was for Luongo (briefly) on Long Island and too long in Florida, it could be a total waste of what figures to be a great career.
16. Calgary Flames (8-7-1, Previous: 7) – Is there any other 31-year-old in the league more obvious a choice than Jarome Iginla? Didn’t think so. And he’s not nearly done. Dion Phaneuf is building the resume, but still has a long way to go. Miikka Kiprusoff is an intriguing thought. He has a Vezina, and reached Game 7 of the Cup finals. He’s obviously a star and has several prime years ahead, one would assume. It feels like he’d need to win a Cup or two and pile up big numbers for five or six more seasons to really have a shot.
17. Ottawa Senators (6-6-2, Previous: 16) – Daniel Alfredsson might be one of those real head-scratchers by the end of his career. He’ll have big numbers, probably 500 goals, 1,200 points, the same number of games. A Stanley Cup or two wouldn’t hurt. Otherwise, he probably falls short. It’s going to be interesting, though. Dany Heatley could end up with eye-popping goal production, and who knows if Jason Spezza will join the elite?
18. Philadelphia Flyers (4-6-3, Previous: 15) – As much of a warrior as Derian Hatcher has been throughout his 16-year career, we just don’t see the defenseman ending up in the Hall. Daniel Briere and Kimmo Timonen are really good players, but not in the mix.
19. Phoenix Coyotes (7-6-0, Previous: 24) – This might be the youngest roster in the league. Let’s not even go there. Besides, they’ve got all the Hall-of-Fame presence anyone could ever ask for coaching the team.
20. Toronto Maple Leafs (6-5-4, Previous: 19) – Don’t laugh. Just move along quickly. OK, wait, Curtis Joseph is on the roster. There’s an argument to be made there. Maybe. And Mats Sundin is barely out the door, so that’s another thought. But don’t both come up a tad short? Maybe. Maybe not.
21. Colorado Avalanche (6-8-0, Previous: 21) – No question about Joe Sakic’s destination. He’s Hall-bound. And while he’s not an Avalanche at the moment, where exactly does Peter Forsberg stand? It could be argued he didn’t play enough games (746), but he had a huge impact, especially in the postseason. He could be an interesting call. Did we hear any love for Adam Foote? Didn’t think so.
22. Dallas Stars (5-7-2, Previous: 26) – Mike Modano is statistically the best offensive U.S.-born player in history and he’s a classy champion. No doubt he goes in first ballot. You have to take a long hard look at Sergei Zubov, especially if he plays another couple productive seasons. And there’s still time for Marty Turco, too, but a couple Vezina Trophies and at least one of the big shiny ones they give at the end of the playoffs might help, too.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (7-6-2, Previous: 28) – OK, let’s take Rick Nash, who has 159 goals in 378 career games. If he maintains the same pace, he’ll have scored 500 goals by age 35. Snicker now, but imagine if he chugs along at a slightly better pace as the Jackets improve and consider, too, he could play until age 40. Suffice to say, he’s on the radar, even if it’s early in his career.
24. Los Angeles Kings (5-6-2, Previous: 27) – Like the other young and skilled teams in the league, it’s really premature to speculate, but no doubt there are raw, potentially top-flight players on this roster who should evolve into stars if developed in the proper manner.
25. Atlanta Thrashers (6-7-2, Previous: 30) – Because we feel obligated to throw a name out there – Ilya Kovalchuk. Hey, he’s got major talent. What we don’t know is whether he has the desire to truly be a winner. Something suggests his best days are coming in another city, but for now he has to prove to everyone he’s ready to live up to the press clippings.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-5-4, Previous: 22) – He’s still got a ways to go, but Vincent Lecavalier at age 28, with a Stanley Cup, 279 goals and 613 points in 723 career games, is building a case. He can still be a very effective scorer for at least 10 years. The numbers could be staggering. Mark Recchi? Gary Roberts? Martin St. Louis? No, no and no.
27. Florida Panthers (5-8-1, Previous: 25) – Move along, please, nothing to see here. Be on your way.
28. Nashville Predators (6-7-1, Previous: 20) – If you want to read some really bad fiction, how about Alexander Radulov returning from the Russian League to tear up the NHL for 15 more seasons? Didn’t think so. Jason Arnott, Radek Bonk, J.P. Dumont and David Legwand were all high first-round picks, and while all are decent players, none would fit into any Hall-of-Fame talk.
29. St. Louis Blues (5-7-1, Previous: 23) – As soon as the name Keith Tkachuk rolls off your tongue there’s a pause. Then you look at the 36-year-old’s numbers – 509 goals, 995 points, 1,068 games – yeah, he’s a Hall-of-Famer. Paul Kariya? Nope.
- Power rankings: Bound for the Hall …
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