Melrose: Hull is lock for Hockey Hall

The lockout has cost us another great veteran player. Scott Stevens, Mark Messier, Al MacInnis, and now Brett Hull.

No one player was hurt worse by the lockout than Hull. If there was a season in 2004-05, Hull would have passed Gordie Howe on the all-time scoring list. Hull leaves the NHL after 18 seasons with 741 goals, behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Howe (801), respectively.

It's hard for an older player to miss 18 months of hockey and then come back ready to play. Hull, 41, lost some of the passion to play and couldn't get fired up this season. If we didn't have a lockout, he would have easily scored 25-30 goals in 2004-05, and he would have had an easier transition into this season. He definitely would have finished second in all-time scoring.

Even though Hull won't accomplish that feat, there is no doubt that he's a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame. With his hard slap shot and clutch goal scoring, he made his teams better.

Brett tried to return this season with the Phoenix Coyotes, playing just five games. He registered one assist in that time, and I don't think he was happy with how he was playing. Maybe he thought he lost a step, or couldn't contribute as well. He likely figured he would step aside and let a younger guy take his spot. He's also not the kind of guy to just take a paycheck. I think that says a lot about Hull's character, to know when to step aside and give someone else a chance.

The other great thing about Hull was that he was a great spirit, a spirit that helped the league and didn't get as much attention as it should have.

Brett always had a good line for the press. Sometimes those lines were good, sometimes they were bad. Either way, it wasn't bad for hockey. He rallied against the obstruction issue, he rallied against the league, and he even rallied against the rise in players' salaries. Either way, he was fighting for what he thought was right. He took a stand.

The NHL is better with players like Brett Hull, and the game is going to miss him.

Barry Melrose, a former NHL defenseman and coach, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.