The 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame class, which will be revealed Tuesday, is one of those tricky transition-year groups, sandwiched in between the mortal locks of 2018 (Martin Brodeur, Martin St. Louis) and 2020 (Jarome Iginla).
At least that's true of the male players, because there's one icon of women's hockey who is going to the head of the class this year.
Who joins her? Let's break down the field by devising our own set of odds.
Lock: Hayley Wickenheiser, center (first year of eligibility)
The lock of all locks. The Canadian icon has four Olympic gold medals, with 18 goals in 26 games, and seven golds in IIHF world championships action. A star in every sense of the word, to the point where she's synonymous with women's hockey in Canada. In a year when other candidates all have caveats and flaws, Wick is the only eligible player whose immortality can't be debated.
Near lock: Daniel Alfredsson, right wing (third year of eligibility)
The former Senators captain had 444 goals (No. 63 all time) and 1,157 points (No. 54 all time) during his 17-year run with Ottawa (and that other year in Detroit). He won the Calder Trophy, although no other individual hardware, and won Olympic gold and silver for Sweden.
Is he destined for the "great, but not a Hall of Famer" bin? Or will the selection committee succumb to the flood of fans in Ontario who would make the trek to the Hall for induction weekend to celebrate the Senators' franchise standard-bearer and one of the game's greatest ambassadors? We figure he'll be in ... although we felt that way last year, too.
3-1: Rod Brind'Amour, left wing (sixth year), Alexander Mogilny, right wing (10th year); Jeremy Roenick, center (seventh year)
There's a sense as the Hall of Fame selections draw closer that another forward will likely get the nod for enshrinement.
Mogilny had two of the best offensive seasons of the past 25 years, with 76 goals in 1992-93 and 55 goals in 1995-96. While those two seasons are by far his best, he finished with a stellar 1.04 points-per-game average (38th all time, in a career that included playing in the trap era) in 990 career games over 16 seasons. He's also a Triple Gold Club member, and there are only 28 of them in history. Just as important to anything he did on the ice, he was the first Soviet defection to the NHL, a landmark moment in hockey history. The selection committee has been much more open to Russian candidates in recent years, with three of the past four classes including former Soviet players. Will the trend continue with Mogilny?
The test for Roenick is how much emphasis the committee puts on the "fame" part, because at his peak, very few NHL players could rival his star power. His 513 career goals rank him 40th all time, although it's a number that doesn't guarantee enshrinement; just ask Pat Verbeek (522) and Pierre Turgeon (515) about that. His 0.892 points-per-game average puts him right with Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk. No awards. No Stanley Cups. No gold medals internationally. But few players have had more cultural impact than Roenick in his prime.
Thanks to his stint as Carolina Hurricanes head coach, Brind'Amour's stock has skyrocketed recently. There's a case to be made for the former Hurricanes, Flyers and Blues center as one of the best 200-foot forwards of his era. He had 1,184 points (50th) in 1,482 career games, including 452 goals (58th). He won the Selke Trophy in consecutive years from 2005 to '07 in his mid-30s. He had 18 postseason points in the Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup win. He had longevity, intangibles and a heck of a career. One to watch.
5-1: Defensemen Sergei Gonchar (second year), Kevin Lowe (18th year), Doug Wilson (23rd year), Sergei Zubov (seventh year)
Would the selection committee make it four straight seasons without a defenseman in the class? That's hard to believe, which means one assumes a player from this list gets in.
Gonchar played 1,301 games and amassed 811 points, which is 17th all time for defensemen. He won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009.
Lowe got a full endorsement from former teammate Wayne Gretzky at the 2018 Hall of Fame induction as the player he felt most deserved to be in the Hall who wasn't. He was the backbone of six Stanley Cup championship teams, including five with the dynastic Oilers who have already produced six Hall of Famers.
Wilson is the latest in a line of NHL greats whose wait time would seem to indicate he's not getting in but whose candidacy continues to be trumpeted by prominent voices. Wilson ranks seventh in NHL history among defensemen with 0.81 points per game (at a minimum of 1,000 games played). He won the Norris Trophy in 1983 and finished in the top four of the voting four times. Is the 23-year wait finally over, or will it never be?
Zubov's points-per-game rate was 0.72, putting him on par with the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom. He also has two Stanley Cup wins. The analytics community loves him as an overlooked immortal from the 1990s. Dallas Stars fans will basically fight you if you don't agree he should be in the Hall.
10-1: Curtis Joseph, goalie (seventh year)
A classic case of stats vs. impact. CuJo is fifth in career wins (454), sixth in games played (943), but he never won a Vezina Trophy (despite being in the top four five times) nor a Stanley Cup. To date, Ed Giacomin is the only Hall of Fame goalie not to have won a Cup. Goalies rarely get into the Hall of Fame -- Martin Brodeur last season was just the seventh since 1990 -- which also isn't working in his favor.
20-1: Theo Fleury, right wing (13th year); Steve Larmer, right wing (21th year), Boris Mikhailov, right wing (35th year); Chris Osgood, goalie (fifth year)
A quartet of worthy candidates, each of whom has a unique angle to his bid for immortality: Fleury's endearing offensive flourish, the Soviet top-line dominance of Mikhailov and the postseason heroics of Osgood. Larmer is the new addition to this tier, as there seems to be a renewed appreciation for his scoring prowess (64th in goals, with 441) and consistency. Plus, he has a Calder and a Stanley Cup. Alas, none of them seems like the total package for the Hall.
25-1: Dan Boyle, defenseman (first year), Patrik Elias, forward (first year), Vincent Lecavalier, center (first year)
The only freshman candidates worthy of consideration, and none of them look like first-ballot guys.
Elias has two Stanley Cups to his credit, and had 1,025 points in 1,240 games from 1995 to 2016 with the New Jersey Devils. That puts him 13th in points in the NHL during that span and 14th in points per game. Internationally, Elias had 33 points in 40 games. He's generally considered one of the NHL's most underrated talents in recent history, and there's certainly been a reconsideration of his impact after his retirement.
Lecavalier certainly has the most star power of the three. He played 1,212 games, primarily with the Lightning (1998-2013) before finishing up with the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings. He had 949 points, including 421 goals, putting him 16th in goals-per-game average during his career. He won the goal-scoring title in 2006-07 with 52 tallies, as well as the Stanley Cup in 2004. A star player, and a consistent one, but a first-ballot Hall of Famer he is not.
Of the three, Boyle might have the most compelling case, given his scoring prowess as a defenseman: 605 points in 1,093 games. From 1998 to 2018, only Nicklas Lidstrom, Gonchar and Zdeno Chara had more points than Boyle among defensemen. He has a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold, but no individual titles. Let's not discount the storybook journey of Boyle to the NHL: an undrafted player ends up playing nearly 1,100 games in the NHL.
30-1: Keith Tkachuk, left wing (sixth year); Pierre Turgeon, center (ninth year)
Oh, they've got numbers: Tkachuk's 538 goals are the 32nd most in NHL history, and there's no Hall of Fame-eligible player with more points than Turgeon (1,327) who isn't already enshrined. The Hall doesn't always shy away from stat compilers -- we see you, Dino Ciccarelli -- but these two haven't had any buzz for their candidacies in quite a while.
40-1: The field
There are goal scorers (Peter Bondra, Pat Verbeek) and all-around performers (Dale Hunter) and a few other newbies who populate the field. Then there's former Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who absolutely dominated his position for a span of five years and won two Vezinas and a Conn Smythe before disappearing from the public eye.
There's also Brad Richards, in his first year of eligibility, with two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe to his credit. Finally, there's Canadian hockey icon Paul Henderson, still trying to prove that one goal in 1972 could earn one an even higher level of immortality than it already has.
Hayley Wickenheiser, Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Zubov, Alexander Mogilny, Jim Rutherford (builder).