June 09, 2008

Hockey Hall of Fame 2008 Power Rankings

The annual meeting of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee will be held in Toronto on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 to select and announce this year's inductees. This fall's Induction Weekend festivities will run from Friday, November 7th through Sunday, November 9th, 2008 culminating with the Induction Celebration on Monday, November 10th, 2008.

The Class of 2008 will be a unique induction. Because of the lost 2004-05 season due to NHL labour issues, there are no first-time eligible candidates as no player officially retired in 2005. Players that did not return after the return to duty, they were deemed to have retired in 2004, and therefor eligible for induction in 2007.

We all know 2007 was perhaps the greatest induction class ever, thanks the incredible pool of eligible players. 2008 is almost a make-up year for the Hall.

Here's a look at who is likely to get inducted in 2008. I call it the Hockey Hall of Fame Power Rankings.

Doug Gilmour - For a short time in the early 1990s, Gilmour was the best player in the NHL. Besides, Toronto's love affair with him would make for a grand stage for the Hall's celebration.

Igor Larionov - Everyone loves Igor, whose on-ice intelligence was second to none. Six international titles and three Stanley Cups, but was overshadowed by Tretiak, Fetisov and Makarov internationally and, due to his late arrival, was only very good in the NHL.

Pavel Bure - The Russian Rocket was the game's most electrifying and explosive scorer in the 1990s. But his career was cut short by injuries. If Cam Neely got in, so will Pavel.

Adam Oates - Playmaker extraordinaire, Oates ranks sixth all time in assists with 1079 and 15th all time in points.

Dino Ciccarelli - 608 goals is 16th highest of all time, and the most of any non-eligible Hockey Hall of Famer. He was consistent rather than great, much like Hall of Famer Mike Gartner, but not nearly as well liked.

Sergei Makarov - Makarov was the real catalyst of Soviet hockey in the 1980s, winning 10 Olympic and World titles. But an aging Makarov was basically a non-threat in the NHL, and assuming Larionov and Bure both get in this year, the selection committee will not be adding any other Russians this time around no matter how deserving they should be.

Claude Lemieux - Another clutch playoff performer and former Conn Smythe trophy winner, but Lemieux was as dirty as they come. That didn't stop the election of Sprague Cleghorn or Rocket Richard, but it is a much different time nowadays.

Glenn Anderson - Clutch playoff performer is one of the top 5 playoff scorers in most offensive categories. But the squeaky clean selection committee does not like his off-ice reputation.

Boris Mikhailov - Said to be the soul of the Soviet machine of the 1970s, Mikhailov won 9 world titles and 2 Olympic golds, but he never got the opportunity to play in North America.

Anatoli Firsov - There are some old time Soviet observers who still insist Anatoli Firsov is the greatest Russian player ever. A star in the 1960s, he never even dreamed of playing in the NHL. No matter how good he was, like Mikhailov and Makarov he is unlikely to be enshrined this year because of Larionov and/or Bure's inclusion.

Tom Barrasso - Despite being a grouch, Barrasso was a heck of a goalie. In his rookie year he turned in one of the greatest debuts ever, winning the Vezina and Calder as an 18 year old right out of the high school. He would go on to win 2 Stanley Cups and finish 14th all time in goaltender wins.

Pat Verbeek - Beeker could score, depositing the puck into the net 522 times in his career. There was a time when 500 goals scored guaranteed you enshrinement. Times are changing, and the new benchmarks might be too high for Verbeek.

Mike Richter - Often spectacular goalie with the New York Rangers in 1994 and with Team USA throughout his career. Well liked but apparantly off the committee's radar.

Other players who should get consideration: Mark Howe, Neal Broten, Phil Housley, Mike Vernon, Andy Moog, Rogie Vachon, Wendel Clark, Dale Hunter and Guy Carbonneau.

One thing is for sure - Players caught up in this log jam had better hope to get inducted in 2008, because the first time eligible classes looks strong for years to come.

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