With no newcomers eligible this year, the Hockey Hall of Fame could open its doors on Tuesday to former NHL greats who were previously passed over by the selection committee.
Because of the hockey lockout, last year featured a double cohort of players who'd reached the three-year waiting period. Those who didn't return when the puck was dropped again in 2005 were considered retired in 2004, regardless of when they officially made an announcement or filed their retirement papers.
Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis and Ron Francis were all easy choices as a result, making the wait longer for other players who had retired previously. Last year's quartet constituted a player class that ranked with those of 1972 (Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Harry Holmes) and 1983 (Ken Dryden, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull) as the best ever.
While the 2008 class won't have the same wattage overall, there figures to be at least at couple of players who will pass muster when the inductees are announced at 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon.
The players under consideration who don't make the cut this time around may not get in for several years, if ever. The next few years will be filled with shoo-ins and other strong candidates including Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Joe Nieuwendyk, Luc Robitaille, Pierre Turgeon and Dave Andreychuk.
The following are some of the candidates who will get a longer look on Tuesday for induction in November:
- Adam Oates, F: Leads all eligible candidates with 1,420 points and is sixth in history with 1,079 assists.
- Pavel Bure, F: In a career shortened by injury, racked up 437 goals in 702 games. The Russian Rocket hit the 60-goal mark twice and was over 50 three other times.
- Doug Gilmour, F: Possibly the best all-round player not yet in the Hall, amassed 450 goals, 1,414 points, one Stanley Cup and a Selke Trophy for defensive skills.
- Dino Ciccarelli, F: Leads all eligible players not yet in with 608 goals, 16th all-time. Twice scored 50 or more goals, was over 40 seven times.
- Phil Housley, D: He trails only Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque and Al MacInnis in points among defencemen. Has most points of any non-Canadian blue-liner.
- Igor Larionov, F: Russian played professionally for nearly 25 years, winning two Olympic gold medals, three Stanley Cups and four world championships. Great two-way player who totalled 644 NHL points despite not playing until the age of 29.
- Glenn Anderson, F: One of the fastest players ever, finished two goals shy of 500 and a point below 1,100. Played on six Stanley Cup teams.
- Kevin Lowe, D: Anchored blue-line defensively while putting up 432 points. Six Stanley Cup wins.
- Tom Barrasso, G: Won Stanley Cup as a starter twice. Posted 369 career wins, captured Vezina, Calder and Jennings trophies.
- Guy Carbonneau, F: One of the greatest defensive players ever, winning the Selke three times while scoring 663 points. Played on three Stanley Cup teams.
- Steve Larmer, F: Ironman with 884 consecutive games. Over 30 goals nine times, finishing with 441 goals and 1,012 points.
- Pat Verbeek, F: Consistent scorer who finished with 522 goals and 1,063 points.
In addition to the aforementioned players, all of whom retired within the last decade, there are players from previous eras who could be considered, particularly goaltenders. Lorne Chabot recorded 71 shutouts in the 1930s while Dave Kerr and Rogie Vachon each had over 50 shutouts.
The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee is made up of 18 members. In addition to the players, referees and builders can be honoured. Up to five can be nominated in any given year, with no more than four players.
Media honours have already been announced. Veteran Canadian Press reporter Neil Stevens will receive the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for print journalism and Mike Emrick was named the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.
Inductions into the Hockey Hall of Fame will take place on Nov. 10.