Let the great debates rage.
Another class of legends has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, which means the typically lively conversations that sometimes turn into arguments in living rooms, bars and press boxes across the hockey world soon will spark up again.
Who among the plethora of eligible former players will make it into the Hall next year?
Let's look at the possibilities, remembering a maximum of four players can be inducted in a single year:
Scott Niedermayer -- If the former New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks defenseman is not the first name written on the ballots of all 18 Selection Committee members, they'll need to hire an outside group to conduct an investigation.
Class of 2012 inductee Joe Sakic said Niedermayer was one of the two toughest players he ever played against (the other was Nicklas Lidstrom). There probably are dozens of other players who would echo Sakic's sentiment.
It seems almost trivial to lay out the argument for Niedermayer because anyone associated with the game understands his greatness, but we'll do it anyway just to play along.
Niedermayer is the only player in history to win every major North American and international hockey championship -- the Stanley Cup four times (1995, 2000, 2003, 2007 as captain) and two Olympic gold medals (2002, 2010 as captain). He also played on teams that won the Memorial Cup (1992) and earned gold medals at the World Junior Championships (1991), World Championships (2004) and World Cup (2004).
He was on the NHL's All-Rookie team in 1992-93 and won the Norris Trophy in 2003-04. He was in the discussion for the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2003, when he had 18 points in 23 playoff games to help the Devils win the Stanley Cup for the third time in eight years.
Niedermayer had 740 points and was a plus-167 in 1,263 NHL regular-season games. He had another 98 points and a plus-20 rating in 202 playoff games.
He should be writing his induction speech now.
Chris Chelios -- He played until he was 48, which is remarkable -- but that's not the reason Chelios will be in the Hall's Class of 2013. Chelios was a Hall of Famer long before he announced his retirement Aug. 31, 2010.
After winning an NCAA championship at the University of Wisconsin in 1983, Chelios was on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, a member of the NHL's All-Rookie Team in 1985 and a Stanley Cup champion in 1986 with the Montreal Canadiens.
He went on to play in three more Olympics, winning silver in 2002. Chelios won the Stanley Cup two more times, both with the Detroit Red Wings, in 2002 and 2008. In between he won the Norris Trophy three times (1989, 1993, 1996) and a gold medal at the World Cup of Hockey (1996).
Chelios finished his career with 948 points in 1,651 games. Only Gordie Howe, Ron Francis, Mark Messier and Mark Recchi played in more NHL games than Chelios. His 266 Stanley Cup playoff games are the most all-time.
Brendan Shanahan -- While it's hard to argue with the Selection Committee inducting Sakic, Pavel Bure, Adam Oates and Mats Sundin this year, it remains somewhat shocking that Shanahan didn't crack the top four in his first year of eligibility. There should be no debate about his chances for 2013.
Shanahan had 656 goals and 1,354 points in 1,524 games over 21 seasons. He won the Stanley Cup three times with the Red Wings (1997, 1998, 2002) and Olympic gold with Canada in 2002.
Shanahan, one of the premier power forwards of his generation, is the only player in NHL history with more than 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes (2,489). He also was at the forefront of all the rule changes coming out of the 2004-05 work stoppage.
He's waited long enough to get in. He shouldn't have had to wait at all.
ON THE BUBBLE
Eric Lindros -- Lindros' case got stronger with the induction of Bure this year. The argument for him goes like this:
At one point in his career, for about four or five years, Lindros was one of the most dominant centers in the game, just as Bure once was one of the most dominant wings in the game for a similar amount of time.
Lindros, whose career was derailed by concussions, finished with 865 points in 760 games (1.138 points per game); Bure had 779 points in 702 games (1.109 ppg).
Lindros won the Hart Trophy in 1995; Bure never received enough votes to win an individual award, though his name is on the Rocket Richard Trophy twice.
Lindros, like Bure, never won the Stanley Cup -- though they did lead their teams to the Final. However, Lindros, like Bure, won gold at the World Junior Championship (1990, 1991).
Unlike Bure, Lindros won an Olympic gold medal (2002).
Lindros has been eligible since 2010. Bure had to wait seven years to get his Hall call.
Rob Blake -- Blake, who will be a first-time eligible candidate next year, was a star defenseman in his generation -- a Norris Trophy winner in 1998 who became a Stanley Cup champion with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.
He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics and twice won gold at the World Championship (1994, 1997). He had 777 points in 1,270 regular-season games and 73 points in 146 playoff games.
Sergei Makarov -- Makarov's NHL career, while nothing to scoff at, is not why he should again garner consideration for a Hall call.
Makarov, who played most of his career in the Soviet Union before coming to Calgary, is one of the greatest international players of all time. He is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (1984, 1988) and was part of the famed KLM line that dominated international hockey for years. He owns two gold medals from the World Juniors and eight from the World Championships. Makarov had 172 points in 145 games with the Soviet national team.
He played 11 seasons with the Central Red Army team and was voted the Soviet league's MVP three times. He led the league in scoring nine times, including six straight seasons from 1984-89.
Makarov came to the NHL in 1989 and won the Calder Trophy at the age of 31 (the rule since has been amended to have an age limit of 26). He finished his brief NHL career with 384 points in 424 games.
Curtis Joseph -- Joseph brings an interesting case to the Selection Committee because though he never won the Stanley Cup or the Vezina Trophy, he is fourth all time in wins (454), behind Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour. Roy and Belfour already are in the Hall of Fame; Brodeur will be three years after he announces his retirement.
Of the 10 goalies in NHL history with at least 400 wins, only still-active Brodeur, Joseph and Chris Osgood, who is not yet eligible for induction, are not in the Hall.
However, Joseph never won more than 10 games in any single postseason and has a career playoff record of 63-66 despite his 2.45 goals-against average.
Jeremy Roenick -- Roenick was a superstar forward who finished his career with 513 goals and 1,216 points in 1,363 regular-season games. He never won the Stanley Cup, though he did play in the Final in 1992 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He also reached the Eastern Conference Finals with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2004.
Roenick won the silver medal at the 2002 Olympics with the United States. He also won silver at the 1991 Canada Cup. He had 16 points in seven games at the 1989 World Juniors, but the Americans finished fifth in the tournament.
Theo Fleury -- Fleury is another tough one for the Selection Committee because though he was never considered the most dominant player at any point in his career, he still finished as a point-per-game player. He won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and gold medals at the World Juniors (1988), Canada Cup (1991) and Olympics (2002).
Fleury finished his NHL career with 1,088 points in 1,084 regular-season games. He had 79 points in 77 playoff games.
His career ended prematurely due to off-ice issues.
Phil Housley -- Yet another case worth considering for the Hall of Fame, but Housley has been eligible since 2006 and has yet to get the call. It's unlikely it will happen in 2013, but his credentials at least put him on this list again.
Housley is second all-time among American-born NHL players with 1,232 points in 1,495 regular-season games. The problem is Housley never won an individual award or the Stanley Cup. He was, however, part of the American team that won gold at the 1996 World Cup and silver at the 2002 Olympics.
He's already in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, but it's been a struggle to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Keith Tkachuk -- Tkachuk, a first-time eligible candidate next year, totaled 538 goals and 1,065 points in 1,201 games over the course of his 19 years in the NHL. He never won the Stanley Cup or an individual award, but he did lead the League with 52 goals in 1996-97.
He also was part of the American team that won the 1996 World Cup and captured the silver medal at the 2002 Olympics.
Rod Brind'Amour -- Brind'Amour won the Stanley Cup in 2006 when he captained the Carolina Hurricanes, the Selke Trophy in 2006 and 2007, and finished with 1,184 points in 1,484 games over the course of his 20-year career. He'll be a first-time eligible candidate next year.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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