The Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its 2010 class Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Which players should get the call? Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun debate the candidates:
Scott Burnside: Well, my friend, it's that time of year again. It's time to welcome a new class into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as the phone calls will go out Tuesday. Unlike the past couple of years when the classes were virtual slam dunks, this year provides a significant challenge to the selection committee, and not just because this is the first year women (as many as two) are eligible for induction.
In my mind, there is only one lock, and that's three-time Stanley Cup champ Joe Nieuwendyk. He's got the numbers and was a proven winner. But the rest of the class is a lot iffier, especially when dealing with Eric Lindros, the player who will surely draw the most debate. For me, he doesn't belong. What say you?
Pierre LeBrun: Agreed on Nieuwendyk; the classy, three-time Stanley Cup champion (with three different teams) amassed 1,257 points while also picking up a Conn Smythe Trophy in 1999. I can't imagine he doesn't go in on the first try.
But I disagree with you on Big E. I suspect I will be in the minority on this one, but I believe Lindros is a Hall of Famer. My definition of a Hall of Famer (and let's face it, the bar is lower in hockey than other sports) is a player who was among the very best in the NHL for at least a short era. During Lindros' "Legion of Doom" days, when he was a Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP, he was among the very best in the league.
This may surprise many, but Big E's points-per-game average (1.14) is better than the likes of Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Marcel Dionne, Bryan Trottier, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille -- all Hall of Famers. But make no mistake, I'm not saying Lindros is a slam dunk. The fact he never led the Flyers to a championship and wasn't impressive in the second half of his career (riddled by injuries) will give his naysayers weight. His Hall of Fame argument is a polarizing one, in part because of his off-ice persona that has left many people cold. But if I were on the selection committee Tuesday, I'd be voting yes. We should mention a player needs 14 of the 18 members' votes to get in.
Which other players do you feel deserve consideration?
Burnside: Pierre, your argument for Lindros is well thought out, but misguided. Sorry, his failure to lead his teams to anything but disappointment (and I include the 1998 Canadian Olympic team, which he captained) outweighs his brief turn in the spotlight as a dominant player.
I am not overwhelmed by any of the other first-year candidates, but think it's time Doug Gilmour was included. He was a dominant player and one who delivered in the clutch, leading Calgary to its only Stanley Cup championship in 1989 and re-energizing a moribund Toronto franchise with back-to-back trips to the Western Conference finals in 1993 and 1994. His 1,414 points are top 20 in NHL history. He should be in.
How about a player like Tom Barrasso? Not much in the way of personality, but two Cups and became a star right out of high school. Or Dave Andreychuk, who reinvented himself from a pure scorer into a two-way player who helped pave the way for Tampa Bay's seminal Stanley Cup win in 2004? I know you'll bring up Pavel Bure, but sorry a lot of flash, but not enough dash for me. This is the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Occasionally Exciting.
LeBrun: I totally agree with you on Gilmour. I think it's a disgrace he's been passed over for this long. His numbers scream Hall, particularly the fact he's eighth all-time in playoff points. That's when it matters most. Let's put "Killer" in the Hall already.
Andreychuk's 640 goals can't be ignored, either, and I think he'll get some serious thought. Nothing against Barrasso, but Andy Moog had more wins and he's not in the Hall, either. And yes, I do believe the "Russian Rocket" should be in the Hall. As I argued a year ago in a blog:
"I will point out that he scored 437 goals in those 702 games. That averages out to 51 goals per 82 games. For eight seasons between 1992 and 2000, was there a more electrifying goal scorer? The 'Russian Rocket' posted back-to-back 60-goal seasons amid his five 50-plus-goal campaigns. Hall of Famer? You bet."
What about Dino Ciccarelli's 608 goals? Or the 1,420 points from Adam Oates? I think Steve Larmer and Alexander Mogilny are Hall of Famers, too. And I bring you Dale Hunter, a gritty, character guy who still put up 1,020 points. There's room for him in my Hall.
Burnside: Well, that's been the problem with the Hall for far too long -- too often, there's room made for players who hung around a long time and put up big numbers. This is in no way a knock on those guys, but my Hall of Fame is smaller. How about international stars like Boris Mikhailov, who had 169 points in senior international competition? Or Sergei Makarov, who had 118 points and was one of the pioneering Russian players to come to North America and played 424 NHL games? To me, they are more deserving than Oates, Ciccarelli et al. This is, after all, the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the NHL Hall of Fame, a distinction the current selection committee deserves kudos for recognizing over the past few years.
Which brings us to the novelty part of the proceedings: the inclusion of women in the Hall. My feelings on this remain consistent: I don't see the need for it, especially given that only two countries, Canada and the United States, have a significant historical body of work from which to choose. Plus, apart from the Olympics, I am guessing none of the selection committee (or anyone else outside of family and friends, for that matter) has seen a women's game in the past four years. That said, who do you think will become the first woman to be formally enshrined in the Hall?
LeBrun: Agreed on Makarov and Mikhailov. You know how urgently I pushed for Igor Larionov's inclusion two years ago.
As for the inclusion of women? Honestly, my friend, I feel like reaching across my keyboard and slapping the back of your head when we argue about this. It's massively overdue. It was completely chauvinistic for the Hall to have ignored them this long. You said yourself just now that it's not "the NHL Hall of Fame.'' Agreed! That's why there's a place in the Hall for the best women's players.
Listen, the women's game began a long, long time after the men's game, so let's not start comparing. It's not fair. The Hall did the right thing by introducing a separate category for women players; that way, we can stop the comparisons.
For my money, I'd like to see former American star Cammi Granato selected Tuesday, as well as Canadian Angela James, the first real superstar of the women's game. But regardless of which women are selected Tuesday, the institution will be better for it. Welcome to the 21st century, Hockey Hall of Fame.
But before we go Scotty -- and I hope you can recover from the beating I just gave you! -- here's another person I hope has his name called upon Tuesday: Pat Burns. The former coach, a three-time Jack Adams Award winner with three different teams, and, of course, a Stanley Cup champion with the 2003 Devils, is fighting cancer, as we all know. He deserves to be in the Hall in the builders' category, so why not do it now?
Burnside: Pierre, I will ignore your bleatings on the inclusion of women in the Hall, but couldn't agree more with Pat Burns. It would be a timely, not to mention well-deserved, inclusion. One last name before we close: Fred Shero, the innovative Philadelphia Flyers coach who has been too long ignored by the committee.
Entertaining as always, my friend. We shall see how this all shakes down Tuesday.