When the Hall of Fame’s selection committee gets together Tuesday to select its 2009 inductees, it will have three easy decisions and at least one difficult one.
The easy decisions are for three of the four openings in the players category. Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Brian Leetch are clearly shoo-ins and make this year’s class one of the most memorable in decades. All three are first-time eligible this year and the debate among the 18 selection committee members won’t be long or spirited.
The fourth opening is the one that will spark plenty of dialogue. The other first-time candidates (retired three years from hockey) are Luc Robitaille, Alexander Mogilny and Dave Andreychuk.
At first glance, Robitaille is considered an automatic as well – and by all rights he should be the fourth inductee this year. He’s the highest-scoring left winger in NHL history, 10th on the all-time list in goals (668) and 20th in points (1,394). He won a Stanley Cup, a Calder Trophy and was a first- or second-team all-star eight times.
The only thing that might hold Robitaille back is the fact both Mogilny and Andreychuk are excellent candidates as well. It all depends on the opinions of the 18 committee members, 14 of which must grant approval.
Mogilny scored 473 goals, 1,032 points, won a Cup and was a second-team all-star twice. He was one of the game’s most creative minds and a brilliant skater and he was a pioneer in his defection from the Soviet Union in 1989.
Andreychuk also won a Stanley Cup, is 13th all-time in goals (640), 26th in points (1,338) and is the game’s all-time leader in power play goals (274).
Tough decision on that fourth opening for the selection committee, but the edge has to go to Robitaille.
For the first-timers who don’t get inducted this year, they go into a pool of players who have been turned down before. That list includes the likes of Pavel Bure, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, Dino Ciccarelli, Phil Housley, Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter, Guy Carbonneau, Esa Tikkanen, Sergei Makarov, Mike Vernon, Claude Lemieux and Dale Hunter, to name several.
All will be eligible for a future year and it looks as though 2010 might be a lucky year for a couple of them. The 2010 induction class isn’t strong. Joe Nieuwendyk is probable and Eric Lindros and John LeClair are borderline candidates. So there might be two openings for the leftovers, maybe even three.
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Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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