One of the greatest aspects of sports is the notion that no matter how bad things have gotten, there is always next year.
Any time a team's supporter laments their awful season or streak of bad luck, the silver lining that presents itself is the idea that things will be better at some point in the near future.
Perhaps this is what the likes of Joe Nieuwendyk, Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Doug Gilmour and Eric Lindros will be thinking Monday night as they watch Dino Ciccarelli as well as Angela James, Cammi Granato and Jim Devellano take their place in hockey's hallowed hall.
While we are not here to argue the merit of this year's class (nor the exclusion of Pat Burns), we can speculate on which retired players should keep their schedule open for early November next year, just in case they receive the call that they have been eagerly awaiting.
Of the candidates already mentioned, it would appear that Nieuwendyk would be a strong pick for next year.
The Whitby, Ont., native moved from strength-to-strength during an illustrious 20-year playing career that saw him capture three Stanley Cup rings, one Conn Smythe trophy, the Calder Memorial Trophy, the King Clancy Memorial trophy and an Olympic gold medal all while averaging nearly a point per game. Those credentials should make Nieuwendyk a virtual shoe-in to take his rightful place alongside the game's all-time greats by this time next year.
Similarly, Oates could also earn his spot in the Hall. Over 19 seasons there were few better play makers in the world than the Weston, On. native. In 1,337 career games, Oates accumulated 1,079 career helpers, good enough for sixth on the all-time list, trailing only Wayne Gretzky, Ron Francis, Mark Messier, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey. All those men ahead of him already possess a plaque in the hall. In fact Oates holds the record for the most career points scored by an eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.
Working against Oates is the fact that he never won a championship at the NHL or International level. The closest he came was a pair of trips to the Final, once in 1998 with the Capitals and again in 2003 with the Ducks; however he went home empty handed. Not helping matters was the fact that he played centre during an era that included Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, meaning he only once ever made a post-season All-Star team (Second team All-Star in 1991). As well, unlike Nieuwendyk who missed out on his first year of eligibility, Oates has been passed over for election since 2007.
While Oates may have enjoyed the type of career longevity that most would envy, solid passes and sound decision making don't make the highlight reels. When discussing the most dynamic players to ever play the game, Bure's name has to be mentioned.
As the saying goes, the star that shines the brightest burns for half as long, sadly this was true of Bure. During the 1990's, there were few players that had the consistent ability to bring fans out of their seats the way that the 'Russian Rocket' did. Bure was a powerful skater with explosive breakaway speed. He possessed the hands of a surgeon and had the ability to stickhandle in a phone booth. Simply put, Bure was as an exciting offensive force as the game has ever seen.
He burst on to the scene by capturing the Calder Memorial trophy in 1992, then led the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup final in 1994, a final that many consider as one of the greatest of all-time. He topped the 50-goal plateau on five occasions and twice captured the Rocket Richard trophy for leading the NHL in goal scoring.
Bure also enjoyed an illustrious International career that saw him earn two World Junior silver medals to go along with gold in 1989. He added a gold at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in 1990 along with a bronze in 1991 as well as two Olympic medals, silver in 1998 and a bronze in 2002.
Sadly, injuries were the only thing that was able to ground this Rocket. His career was cut short by numerous knee injuries, forcing him to play his last action in the NHL at just 32 years old.
Others that remain eligible but were passed over this year include Lindros and Gilmour as well as the likes of Dave Andreychuk, Alexander Mogilny, Kevin Lowe, Mike Richter and Phil Housley.
In addition to those still awaiting their fateful call, a new group of players will become eligible for the class of 2011. They include Ed Belfour, Trevor Linden, Derian Hatcher and Glen Wesley.
Of those candidates, Belfour would appear to have the inside track on early inclusion. The 'Eagle' went from undrafted prospect to one of the best goaltenders in NHL history. He collected a Cup ring, a Calder Trophy, four Jennings awards and a pair of Vezina Trophies along the way. He also earned an Olympic gold medal in 2002 and finished his career third on the all-time list for wins by a goaltender with 484.
If any of the players mentioned above get passed over once again next year, it may be a long wait before they get their opportunity again as the level of competition in 2012 is fierce. With the likes of Joe Sakic, Jeremy Roenick, Mats Sundin, Curtis Joseph, Brendan Shanahan, Gary Roberts and Claude Lemieux all eligible for the first time, there may be no room to include a player who is currently on the Hall of Fame fringe.
Our question for you in this edition of Netcrashing is the following: 'Who should be inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011?'
Let your opinions be known in the 'Your Call' feature below.