Taking a brief break from the Development Camp Preview series with the LA Kings prospects to focus on something else happening this week.
Tomorrow the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce the names of the four players who will forever be enshrined into the hallowed institution during a big ceremony in November.
Last year’s class was Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin.
Three of the four spots for this year’s class are assumed to be locked up by…
– Chris Chelios: 1,651 regular season games played, 185 goals, 763 assists, plus-350, 2,891 PIM, 266 playoff games, three-time Stanley Cup Champion (1986, 2002, 2008) and 1996 Norris Trophy winner.
– Scott Niedermayer: 1,236 regular season games played, 172 goals, 568 assists, plus-167, 202 playoff games, four-time Stanley Cup Champion (1995, 2000, 2003, 2007), 2004 Norris Trophy winner and 2007 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
– Brendan Shanahan: 1,524 games, 656 goals, 698 assists, plus-151, 2,489 PIM, 184 playoff games, three-time Stanley Cup Champion (1997, 1998, 2002) and 2003 King Clancy Trophy winner
Now comes the fun part. Who deserves the fourth and final spot?
Strong arguments – perhaps even very strong arguments – can be made for any of the following players, largely depending on your preference for the player and/or the city/team you’ve watched most through the years.
While the entire list of eligible players is much longer, here are the leading candidates: (in alphabetical order)
– Dave Andreychuk: 1,639 regular season games played, 640 goals, 698 assists, plus-38, 162 playoff games played (43 goals, 54 assists, minus-1), two-time All-Star and Stanley Cup Champion in 2004 (Tampa Bay). Scored at least 40 goals in four separate seasons and twice scored more than 50 goals. He’s also the all-time NHL leader in power play goals (274).
– Rob Blake: 1,270 regular season games played, 240 goals, 537 assists, minus-4, 146 playoff games played (26 goals, 47 assists, even plus-minus), seven seasons of at least 50 points, 1991 All Rookie Team, seven-time All-Star, 1996 Norris Trophy winner and 2001 Stanley Cup Champion (Colorado). LA fans will want to discount his value because of the bad blood created when he left the Kings, not once, but twice. However, he is worthy of being discussed as one of the best defensemen of his generation. While he didn’t win as many Norris Trophies as say, Ray Bourque or Chelios, Blake’s career numbers and accolades are pretty similar to Brian Leetch, and he’s already in the Hall of Fame.
Rod Brind’Amour: 1,484 regular season games played, 452 goals, 732 assists, minus-39, 159 playoff games played (51 goals, 60 assists, plus-7), 1990 All Rookie Team, one All-Star Game appearance, two-time Selke Award winner and was a Stanley Cup Champion in 2006 (Carolina). Although he had one of the 20th longest careers in NHL history, he’ll probably come up a bit short compared to most of the other candidates on this list. He’s very likely to get in at some point, just not this year.
– Phil Housley: 1,495 regular season games played, 338 goals, 894 assists, minus-53, 85 playoff games played (13 goals, 33 assists, minus-19), 1983 All-Rookie Team, seven-time All-Star. His six straight 20-goal seasons and 11 straight campaigns with at least 60 points made him one of the elite puck-moving defensemen of his generation. He never won a Cup or a Norris Trophy though (by comparison, Blake has both on his resume). So, does he have enough to get the call from the Hall? Like Brind’Amour above, probably not this year.
– Eric Lindros: 760 regular season games played, 372 goals, 493 assists, plus-215, 53 playoff games played (24 goals, 33 assists, plus-8), 1993 All Rookie Team, six-time All Star, Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner (1995). His 1.14 points-per-game ranks 19th all-time among NHL players. Obviously, the biggest question here is what could he have done if his career wasn’t cut short due to injury? Some argue he didn’t play enough games to be considered a Hall of Fame player. Others point to the fact that he was one of the most productive/dominate players ever and don’t want to discount or punish him for the limited number of games. Just like his career, his worthiness of inclusion can spark a heated debate.
– Jeremy Roenick: 1,363 regular season games played, 513 goals, 703 assists, plus-153, 92 game-winning goals, 154 playoff games played (53 goals, 69 assists, plus-21) and a nine-time All-Star. He scored 40+ goals four times and twice put up at least 50 goals. Perhaps the biggest knock on Roenick is that he never won a Stanley Cup. However, he was one of the best power forwards of his generation and is generally recognized as the second best American-born player, behind Mike Modano.
Now that you’ve had a chance to mull all that over, here comes the important part…