The Hockey Hall of Fame meets on Monday to decide who will be honoured in the induction class of 2018.
Among first year eligible players, there are only two who will get serious consideration. Martin Brodeur is a guaranteed lock to get the call. Martin St. Louis has a strong case though he may or may not get in on the first try.
Other first year eligible players (essentially players who last played a professional game three seasons ago) include Sergei Gonchar, Martin Rucinsky, Slava Kozlov, Kimmo Timonen, Brendan Morrow, Eric Brewer, Scott Hannan and Evgeni Nabokov. All had strong careers and are likely to be honoured at their various national levels. But the likelihood of any of them making the Hockey Hall of Fame is remote.
So let's look at the two Martys.
When the selection committee discusses the name Martin Brodeur, it will be a short session. He will be a unanimous honouree in less than five minutes.
After all, the man has three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, four Vezina trophies and holds pretty much every conceivable NHL record for goalies imaginable. Most games played, wins, shutouts, even goals scored, both in regular season and in playoffs, and both in terms of career and individual seasons.
Everyone in hockey knew that Martin Brodeur would be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame since about 2002.
The NHL is so confident they have already the New Jersey Devils playing in Toronto on the Saturday before induction night (November 12th), also known as the NHL's annual Hall of Fame game. Usually the team most associated with the highest profile inductee plays in Toronto that night, since Toronto is the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Martin St. Louis
In in 1,134 career regular season games, St. Louis scored 391 goals, 642 assists for 1,033 points. The 40-year-old won the Stanley Cup and Hart Memorial Trophy with the Lightning in 2004. He is a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner and three-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2014.
Not bad for a player who was never drafted by any National Hockey League team.
I suspect Martin St. Louis gets in, though I'm not sure if he will be made to wait. The Hall of Fame is unintentionally created two levels of enshrinement - those who get immediately - aka the game's true greats - and those who get in eventually - aka those who some believe are on a lower tier.
Was St. Louis any better than Jeremy Roenick, Alex Mogilny, Theo Fleury, Daniel Alfredsson, Saku Koivu, Rod Brind'Amour or Petr Bondra? Because those guys, plus goalies like Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter and Mike Vernon, are the holdovers who are also looking for one of the three remaining spots to join Brodeur in the HHOF class of 2018.
I would say yes, St. Louis' career was stronger than any of those players. And since this is a relatively weak induction list, chances are strong he will be included in 2018.
I just mentioned the list of holdovers still hoping to get the phone call from the Hockey Hall of Fame. I would be perfectly fine if none of those skaters make it into the Hall of Fame, though I suspect Daniel Alfredsson might have the strongest case. I am definitely one who believes the bar for skaters is set far too low as it is already.
I do believe the bar for goaltenders is set a bit too high. I believe both Barrasso and Richter in particular should get in. But it won't be this year. This will be Brodeur's night.
The Hall of Fame can induct as many as two women, and it is in separate category than the men altogether.
The selection committee has shown a lack of knowledge of the women's game over the years, failing to induct anyone some years. A few days ago I wrote up a list of women the Hall should be considering.
I think Jennifer Botterill and particularly Jayna Hefford have the strongest cases. The Hall of Fame likes to have a little symmetry when it does up these induction classes. Like Brodeur, both won Olympic gold medals in Salt Lake.
The Builders category is always tough to predict. It's basically a lifetime achievement award, and there is no waiting period per se. An honouree could continue to be working in hockey and still get inducted. They wait too long in some cases, as they posthumously inducted Pat Burns and Pat Quinn in recent years.
One day Fran Rider has to be honoured for her work building the women's game, and Viktor Tikhonov for his developing of hockey in Russia. Given Igor Larionov's presence on the current selection committee, do not expect Tikhonov to get inducted any time soon.