This year is a big one for a lot of these guys because the next few years are going to be awfully tough. Consider next year when guys like Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Brian Leetch are eligible. Good luck getting the votes. Subsequent years after that until about 2012 or 2013 are similarly stacked with obvious choices.
What's funny about these selections is that folks mistake the Hockey Hall of Fame for being the NHL Hall of Fame - accomplishments rendered outside of the NHL get lost in the mix and even shoved aside. That said, even some guys with glaring and obvious accomplishments in the NHL get the same treatment because they weren't buddy-buddy with the writers or had "questionable" issues off the ice.
That means guys with seemingly obvious Hall of Fame stature are still on the outside waiting. Take Glenn Anderson. He's won six Stanley Cups. He scored 498 goals. He was a key performer on the Oilers dynasty teams of the 1980s but he's often viewed as the guy who was riding Gretzky's coattails. Insanity. What's apparently keeping him out of the Hall even more than his frosty relationship with writers is the fact that Anderson is also a dead-beat dad.
Ouch. That coupled with having a host of writers who aren't knocking down the door to write nice things about you will help keep you out of the hall. OK so Anderson is a crappy guy - no doubt about that - but him not paying child support has nothing to do with Glenn Anderson the hockey player. The guy belongs.
Then there's Dino Ciccarelli. Dino scored over 600 goals in the NHL. Dino also never won a Stanley Cup. Dino also played a ton of seasons in the NHL - a fact that gets held against him and his case for the Hall.
Give me a break. Dino was a garbage goal specialist. He wasn't one for the highlight reel goal - he wanted to stuff home a rebound or put one off a defenseman and in. You could even argue that he was Tomas Holmstrom before Holmstrom made it to America.
Dino is most famous for making one of the more memorable statements in NHL Playoff history when after the Colorado Avalanche eliminated his Detroit Red Wings in six games in 1996 and Claude Lemieux committed one of the most gruesome and illegal hits on Kris Draper, Dino said this:
"I can't believe I shook that guy's friggin' hand."Dino also has a bit of a checkered past as he was convicted of assault when in a game against the Maple Leafs while with the Minnesota North Stars he blasted Luke Richardson in the head with his stick. Ugly for sure, but certainly not something to keep him out of the Hall - and the fact he's not in yet speaks to the petty hypocracy of the writers.
Igor Larionov is best known for his days with the Detroit Red Wings and being nicknamed "The Professor" by his teammates for being a true brainiac off the ice as well as on it. There was never a pass that Larionov wouldn't make and he's also one of the true world superstars as the better part of his formative years in hockey were spent in the Soviet Union playing with the Red Army and dominating everyone and their collective brother in arms.
Most of all, Igor Larionov was a true ambassador. He along, with Russian teammates Sergei Makarov and Viacheslav Fetisov, kicked down the door for all Russians to come to the NHL. Makarov made such an impression in his first season he won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. All Igor Larionov did was help fellow Russian Pavel Bure get acclimated to the league and become a dominating goal scorer. Larionov went on to win three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and had the game-winning goal in triple-overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the 2002 Finals. For everything Larionov did for the game both in Russia as well as to open the game up for all Russians, a call from the Hall of Fame is more than overdue.
Finally, I'll make the case for a guy that shouldn't need to have a case made for him. He's 15th all-time in the NHL in points scored. He's sixth, SIXTH, all time in assists. Everyone ahead of him on the assists list is in the Hall of Fame. Everyone ahead of him on the points list either is or will be in the Hall when they retire. He was a part of two different underachievers that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 and in 2003 who both ended up losing to much more difficult and better teams.
He was the set-up man for some of the most incredible goal scorers the NHL has ever seen. While a member of the St. Louis Blues he teamed up with Brett Hull and while a member of the Boston Bruins, he spent his time feeding Cam Neely. While a member of the Washington Capitals, he fed goal-scoring machine Peter Bondra and later on with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, he was dishing off to Paul Kariya. He was the perfect complimentary player and if it weren't for guys like Gretzky and Lemieux, he would be known as the premiere passer of his era.
I am talking about Adam Oates. Incredible that a guy like Oates managed to accomplish all of this under the radar, isn't it? Sure, some folks may be critical of him never leading a team to a Stanley Cup title - but he does have one championship to his credit: The 1985 NCAA National Championship.
Oates was the dominating leader of the '85 RPI Engineers which also featured future NHL goaltender Daren Puppa as well as John Carter and George Servinis. In that '85 title season, Oates tallied 31 goals and 60 assists in 38 games.
In the Frozen Four, Oates' Engineers knocked off Brett Hull's University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the semi-finals and then Puppa and George Servinis lone goal helped RPI win the title over Providence College and their all-world goaltender Chris Terreri and head coach Lou Lamoriello. I don't know about you, but in those final two games, I see a couple of Hall of Famers who had to take a bow to an Adam Oates-led team in Hull and Lamoriello.
These four men, through their hard work and time earned and incredible accomplishments, I hope and pray we'll see their names called later today because if we don't....it may be a long time before we see them get another chance.