June 20, 2011
2011 First Year Eligible Players for Hockey Hall of Fame
Technically, any professional player who retired 3 years ago is eligible for Hockey Hall of Fame consideration in 2011. To be considered by the selection committee the player must be properly nominated. However the HHOF does not release any information on which players were nominated. So, here is a list of notable first year eligible players:
Goalies: Eddie Belfour, Jocelyn Thibault
Defense: Derian Hatcher, Mattias Norstrom, Richard Matvichuk, Eric Weinrich, Glen Wesley
Forward: Stu Barnes, Mariusz Czerkawski, Andrew Cassels, Dallas Drake, Travis Green, Claude Lapointe, Martin Lapointe, Trevor Linden, Glen Murray, Yanic Perreault, Geoff Sanderson, Scott Thornton.
It is hard to get excited about that group. There's some very good players there, but outside of Eddie Belfour there is almost no chance any of these players will make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Cue the regional outrage for Glen Wesley, Derian Hatcher and Trevor Linden.)
That being said, there is also very little chance Belfour will make it into the Hall of Fame immediately.
Belfour has a tremendous resume with a Stanley Cup championship (1999), a Canada Cup title (1991), Olympic Gold Medal (2002), 2 Vezina trophies, 4 Jennings trophies, 484 career wins (3rd best all time), 76 shutouts (9th all time).
Belfour will be forced to wait largely because of some off-ice incidents. HHOF criteria judges the player's character and off-ice influence as well as their on-ice performance. The selection committee in recent years has punished many players in similar unfortunate situations. These players include Glenn Anderson, Dino Ciccarelli, Doug Gilmour, and Eric Lindros. The selection committee can get a little holier-than-thou on these issues, but nonetheless the precedent is set.
Add to that the current backlog of talent waiting in some cases for years. Too deep of a talent pool splits the votes so that it is seemingly impossible to simply agree on inducting four players and breaking the jam open. Players continuing to wait include Lindros, Dave Andreychuk, Pavel Bure, Doug Gilmour, John Leclair, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Adam Oates. That list only includes players I think have a legitimate shot at induction. There's a longer list of candidates, plus international players who I believe should get a better shake.
The HHOF has correctly set the bar high for goaltenders. Names like Tom Barrasso (2 Stanley Cups), Mike Vernon (2 Stanley Cups), Andy Moog (3 Stanley Cups), Mike Richter (1 Stanley Cup), Ron Hextall and Rogie Vachon have been waiting quite a while, and a few will never get in. Belfour will be judged against this group.
I am completely comfortable with the where the HHOF has set the bar for goaltenders. The question for Belfour is was he better than Tom Barrasso or Mike Vernon? Personally I think they are all pretty close, although Belfour's career numbers put him over the top.