The new inductees to the hockey Hall-of-Fame will be announced Tuesday afternoon and as I mentioned recently, arguing about who should—and shouldn’t—be in the hockey Hall is one of the fun aspects of being a fan. Opinions often collide when it comes to the merits of individual players.
On the surface, this would seem to be a year when there aren’t a ton of “big names” that are pretty much automatic to get in. So there is an opportunity for players who have been passed over previously to step to the front of the line.
Speculation suggests first-year eligible Joe Nieuwendyk—a Leaf very briefly and a fine player over his career—may head the list this year. He was an excellent all-around player and may well merit the honor. That said, I don’t look at his career and think it’s a given, but I won’t be surprised if he makes the grade on Tuesday when the announcement is made.
The fact that he has been considered one of the gentlemen of the game- with no off-ice issues during or after his career to cloud his candidacy—no doubt helps his cause.
I always hated Dino Ciccarelli and that’s all the more reason that he belongs. While everyone seems to make a deal of being on a Cup-wining team—and that can be a consideration, of course—there’s way more to judging a guy’s career than that. To me, Ciccarelli not only scored a lot of goals (over 600 in his career) but it’s the fact that, despite his small stature, he took a pounding in front of the net to get a lot of his goals. I would have him in the Hall ahead of the speedy Mike Gartner, who scored 700+ goals in his career and has been in the Hall for many years already.
I’m a bit surprised that there is any question about Doug Gilmour’s candidacy. Here is a guy who put up “numbers”, won a Cup in Calgary as a key contributor, but way more than that, may have been the best all-around player (at least the most valuable) in the game for a period of time while he played in Toronto in the early 1990s. I realize Toronto fans often over-rate players in blue and white, but I don’t think we were deceived by what we saw during Gilmour’s stay with the Leafs. He was all guts, drive and determination, the closest thing we’ve had to a Bobby Clarke-type player that I can remember.
For me, Gilmour should get in, and this is as good a year as any to make it.
There are many other guys who should serious consideration.
Dave Andreychuk, another former Leaf, is best-known as a goal-scorer with the Sabres and Leafs through the first decade-plus of his career, but he evolved into a more complete player in later years and was a captain and Cup-winner with the Lightning. He also put up big goal-scoring totals, and I believe he deserves consideration. He wasn’t the fastest player—or the toughest, in terms of hitting guy—but he certainly spent time in front of the opposition net.
John LeClair had a very nice career as a true power forward, but I think he may just miss the grade. Eric Lindros will get support. There’s no question Lindros was, for a very short time, one of the best players in the game, a talented, plysical force. But I sense a lot of support for him would be based on “what might have been” and I don’t think that’s sufficient reason for him to get the nod.
Pavel Bure was certainly one of the most exciting and dynamic offensive players the game has seen. He came painfully close to winning a Cup with the Canucks in 1994, but he may fall short, as well. Alex Mogilny was not quite as explosive as Bure, but awfully talented, despite fighting through injuries for much of his career. I believe he, too, will fall short in terms of support.
Steve Larmer had a fine career, but perhaps not quite a Hall-of-Fame career. Brian Propp was a great scorer and how could you not like the splendid Rick Middleton as a player, especially during his years with the Bruins?
For his part, Adam Oates looks even better as the years go by. He was such an outstanding playmaker. Dale Hunter played with an edge for many years, and earned a ton of points, too. For me, he’s on the doorstep, but in the next group of players, after the Hall-of -Famers.
I was a big Pat Verbeek fan, but I can’t see him making it. Dave Taylor of the Kings falls into that category too. Close, but no.
Rick Vaive I actually appreciated more later in his career (after he left the Leafs) when he was so tough in front of the net, but his all-around game wasn’t there to be considered in this elite category. Another ex-Leaf, Steve Thomas, deserves discussion, but it may end there.
If I had to pick four guys this year, I would go with Gilmour, Ciccarelli, Verbeek and Bure—all the while hoping that Andreychuk will get in soon.