It’s safe to say there will likely be three names atop everyone’s list for the Hockey Hockey of Fame next year. But as is always the case, there’s certainly room for debate.
Here’s a closer look at the three front-runners to be inducted into the class of 2013, as well as a few honourable mentions:
The big winger from Mimico, Ont., won three Stanley Cups and was twice on the first all-star team, with the bulk of his career split between New Jersey, St. Louis and Detroit.
Shanahan was an incredible goal-scorer above all else, and a player who reinvented himself to play more of a grinding role later in his career.
One great stat for the current NHL disciplinarian: After adjusting his career totals for the low-scoring era in which he played many of his seasons, Hockey-Reference.com has him as the sixth-highest goal-scorer of all-time.
Without any tweaking, he sits 13th in career NHL goals and games played, and 25th in career points.
A smooth-skating defenceman who grew up in Cranbrook, B.C., he won four Stanley Cups, a Memorial Cup, world junior gold, two Olympic gold medals, one James Norris Memorial Trophy, one Conn Smythe Trophy and was on the NHL’s first all-star team three times.
Niedermayer may not have been a huge point producer (22nd all-time among defencemen) but was so effective in so many other ways that made him a huge part of winners in junior, the NHL and Olympics.
Known mainly late in his career for being the oldest player in the game, he was a star early in his career, winning three Stanley Cups, three Norris Trophies and making an impressive five first all-star teams. Chelios’s longevity, however, certainly helps his Hall of Fame cause, as he is fifth in career games played and 10th in points by a defenceman (948).
Hard to argue with any of those three, especially given their credentials might even exceed those of three of the four players who were inducted last Monday.
Who else should be up for consideration?
Well, there’s always the controversial choice of Eric Lindros, who suffered from the same shortened-career issues as 2012 inductee Pavel Bure but has numbers just as impressive and won a Hart Memorial Trophy.
Then, there are those who have waited even longer and/or are longer shots, from Dave Andreychuk to Phil Housley, Sergei Makarov, Rob Blake, Theo Fleury and several goaltenders (Tom Barrasso, Curtis Joseph, etc.).
You also have to add in builders such as legendary coaches Pat Burns and Fred Shero to consider – both of whom large factions of the hockey world has pushed to put in the Hall.
Not to mention the addition of more female players, who have been conspicuously absent since they were first granted separate induction in 2010.
The smart money for 2013?
Shanahan, Niedermayer and Chelios all go in, with a builder (Shero), and a female player (Canadian Olympian Geraldine Heaney).
By Hockey Hall of Fame standards, that’s quite a class.