We know this year's Hall class, but who's in line for 2010? It'll be a tough call

June, 23, 2009

This year was a walk in the park.

Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille -- was there really any need for the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee to meet for its 2009 class?

A year from now, the 18-member committee won't have such an easy time. There will be heavy debate. And much intrigue.

The notable first-year eligibles are Joe Nieuwendyk and Eric Lindros, then you've got Dave Andreychuk and Alexander Mogilny, who were squeezed out Tuesday in their first years of eligibility. Add in the mix the players who continue to get passed over -- Mark Howe, Kevin Lowe, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, Pavel Bure, Dino Ciccarelli and Steve Larmer, among others -- and you've got a wide-open affair for 2010.

Now try to get 14 of 18 votes from the selection panel to get in. It's going to be very, very interesting to see who makes the cut.

For my money, it's time to get Gilmour in. That's long overdue. The guy had 1,414 career points, but more importantly, was a clutch playoff performer. He helped the Calgary Flames win their only Stanley Cup championship 20 years ago and also nearly single-handedly lifted the underdog Toronto Maple Leafs to thrilling back-to-back conference finals appearances in 1993 and 1994.

For those who argue a Hall of Famer had to be among the best players at his position for a few years, let's just say Gilmour didn't take a back seat at center behind many players not named Gretzky and Lemieux during the early 1990s. He's a Hall of Famer no matter how you cut it.

But the real debate, the player who will dominate the conversation on both ends of the argument next year, will be Lindros. His Hall of Fame credentials were intensely argued the moment he retired and the discussion will pick up again before the selection committee meets next year.

Lindros in the Hall of Fame, yes or no?

"Obviously it would be an honor," Lindros told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "But it's not up to me at all. Just to have people talk about it is an honor in itself."

His 865 career points do not rank among the top 100 all time and, in fact, sit one behind Ivan Boldirev. That's a name you're going to hear a lot from the media types trying to knock Lindros down. The difference is, Lindros played 292 fewer games than Boldirev.

The Big E's points-per-game average (1.14) is better than the likes of Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Marcel Dionne, Bryan Trottier and even newly chosen Hall of Famers Robitaille and Hull.

Injuries (mostly concussions) severely hampered a career that seemed to know no boundaries when Lindros took the NHL by storm in 1992. And again, if you're a person who defines a Hall of Fame career by the fact the player was among the best at his position for a few years, then I think a Hart Trophy in 1995 and several dominating seasons fits that criteria.

In my mind, Lindros is a Hall of Famer.

Then there's Bure, who, like Lindros, was a star player whose career was limited by injuries. His detractors will point out that he played only 702 regular-season games in the NHL. 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.

But so are Andreychuk, Mogilny, Larmer, Nieuwendyk … well, all the players I listed at the top.

Good luck in 2010, Hall of Fame selection committee. You've got your work cut out for you.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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