Every Monday during the season two of our hockey writers will debate one topic. It's the 2-on-1. This week, Susan Slusser and Christopher Botta discuss which current players are bound for the Hall of Fame.
Chris Botta: With the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony a week away, I thought it would be fun to discuss which current NHLers are locks and possibilities for the Hall after they retire.
I'll tell you my formula, Susan, whether it's the Hockey Hall of Fame, baseball or any other sport. To me, if you have to ponder for a while if someone is a Hall of Famer, most likely they're not. That said, I know some guys have extraordinary numbers and they will get in whether or not we think they should.
Using my criteria, let's start with the older players I believe are locks. Right off the top of my head ...
Let me know what you think of those, Susan, and if you think I missed a slam-dunker. Then I'll list a bunch of players most would regard as close calls so I can get your opinion on them.
Susan Slusser: I'm a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame since I've been in the baseball writers' association more than 10 years, and my criteria for that is much the same as yours, only stingier. No-brainers only. No one borderline. No one who requires any debate. If it's debatable, why would they be in the Hall of Fame? That's reserved for the best of the best, not all of the best. There are a lot of people I'd take out of most Halls of Fame.
So if anything, I might go smaller with my list than you have. Lidstrom, slam dunk. Can I vote for him twice? Brodeur, definitely. Chelios -- I'd forgotten how great he was earlier in his career looking back. The rest .... well, deserving, but I'd stick to putting in two guys a year, roughly. (Except for this week -- tough to figure out anyone that doesn't belong from that bunch. Talk about no-brainers!) I'm pretty sure your whole list goes in, and I'm glad you got Modano and Selanne.
Chris Botta: Do you think I missed anyone? I have no doubt our readers will!
Susan Slusser: I can think of two players who may be retired. If you're going by the kinds of numbers these guys have and similar career arcs, you'd have to consider Brendan Shanahan and Mats Sundin, too. Shanahan's 11th on the all-time goal scoring list and he's won some titles ... I'd give him a little edge.
Chris Botta: Good catches, Susan. Shanahan and Sundin are in. So is Joe Sakic of the recent retirees. (The way Colorado is playing, I sense a Sakic comeback!) Add Sergei Fedorov to the list. And you never know if Jeremy Roenick will come back.
Susan Slusser: I'm big on championships, which is where I love Scott Niedermayer -- every international championship available, really, and a Conn Smythe and a Norris Trophy. That's a Hall of Famer. Show me something in the postseason or take home some postseason trophies or you're not in.
I remember we had some discussion during the Finals last year -- Chris Osgood, Hall of Famer? If the Red Wings had won that series, yes. Three Cups? That would do it for me. Now .... well, that third might be elusive.
Chris Botta: I love Chris Osgood. Had a brief chance to get to know him when he was an Islander. Battles like a son of a gun. I just don't think he's a Hall of Famer. Those Stanley Cup rings will have to suffice for Ozzie.
Here's my list of veterans that are not locks, at least as of now. Some have a few more good years to make their case. I'd like your opinion on them as candidates, Susan.
Adam Foote (in a Kevin Lowe sort of way)
Martin St. Louis
And, of course, please add to the mix anyone over 32 you believe merits consideration.
Susan Slusser: I love guys like Foote, Blake, Brind'Amour, warriors all. Good candidates, but I'm not sure the absolute creme de la creme. Martin St. Louis ... very intriguing, but he needs to avoid sputtering out in the back half of his career.
Every time I see Paul Kariya, seems he's scoring a clutch goal. His numbers alone might not quite put him at the top, but just on a sheer personal basis, I've never seen him be anything but nails. Not enough to say 'yes' here -- yet -- but man, do I love watching him play.
I could probably say that about most of these guys -- I always wish I saw more of Alfredsson, for instance, because he's so solid. That's the danger of a generous Hall of Fame, you want to err toward the side of "Wow, that guy was good, let's put him in."
If there's a Hall of Very Good, I would stick all these guys in it.
Chris Botta: Jason Arnott, Owen Nolan, Bill Guerin, Jere Lehtinen, Doug Weight and Shane Doan are perfect candidates for the Hall of Very Good.
I realize we're actually talking about two things here, Susan. There's who you and I think will go in and then there are the players who will make the Hall of Fame whether or not we think they're true HoFers.
Of the fence guys I ran by you, Rob Blake has a good shot, especially if he can close out his career strong. More than 1,200 games, a Norris Trophy. I agree with you that a career like Blake's doesn't make him an open-and-shut Famer, but hockey seems to be like football where a lot of really, really good players get in -- not just legends.
The guy to watch out for on the list of fencers is Alfredsson. By the time Daniel is done, he'll have played more than 1,000 games and scored more than 1,000 points. He's highly respected "in the game," as we say and -- the kicker -- he's done it all in the capital of Canada. I think that will count for a lot.
Susan Slusser: I like the way you think, Chris, which might not make for a great TV shout-fest roundtable, but we're definitely on the same page. Blake, yes. And much like with your Alfredsson argument, he's enormously well-respected and well-liked. Ryan Smyth is a fun possibility. He might need to brush off the residue of a less-than-ideal stint with Colorado, but he's doing some great stuff in LA so far.
Chris Botta: Before we move on to the "kids" like Crosby and Ovechkin, let's take a look at some veterans in their prime who seem to be on their way to the Hall. In the 27-32-year-old range, I have:
Susan Slusser: The Wings guys have the edge, you're right, with those titles. I might be biased, being a Detroit fan, but hey, if it's close, the guy with the Cup gets the boost, right? Luongo looks every bit a future Hall of Famer to me but he has to follow through. Iginla has the same look to me. He's a stud. These guys all are on the right track.
Chris Botta: Speaking of Detroit, Brian Rafalski has been a big part of the bluelines of three Cup teams. Who else do you have?
Susan Slusser: I'd throw Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley onto your medium-age/experienced guys, both over 500 points seven seasons into their careers. And can we make one entry for the Sedins and say they're in as a combo package?
Chris Botta: Good bets, especially Kovalchuk and Heatley. Since they're way under a point a game, the Sedins will need championships, in my opinion. Marian Hossa has a shot -- if he can get on the right side of a Game 7!
Susan Slusser: The young guys ... there is so much great young talent in the league right now, it could be a long list. That's why longevity and team success wind up being the difference makers, but some of these players are so obviously potential future HoFers that anyone who casually follows the game could tell you their names, That's a tipoff right there that there's some true greatness and not just hype and PR. And three years in a row, the Hart and the Ross have gone to one or the other of the big three.
Ryan Getzlaf isn't quite in that class, but I think he could be an MVP type at some point and build a Hall career. Could Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews wind up being that kind of player? One of this year's high profile rookies? How about goalies like Steve Mason and Cam Ward? The influx of great talent in the league is so exciting.
Chris Botta: Agreed. It seems each year brings at least a half-dozen special talents, and they come from all over. Of the youngsters, besides Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, Kane and Toews will have a great chance. Whether they're able to bring a Cup or two to Chicago may ultimately determine their legacy. Evgeni Malkin is right there with Crosby and Ovechkin as players in their early to mid-20s just starting Hall of Fame careers. In the last couple of weeks, Steven Stamkos has looked like a future Hall of Famer.
I was thinking of listing many more young players like Eric Staal and Henrik Lundqvist, Rich Nash and Mike Green, Zach Parise and even John Tavares, but then I figured let's not over-analyze everyone of all ages who has a chance. No doubt the readers will tell us about which players we forgot, disrespected or overrated.