As the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2011 gets enshrined in Toronto, the buzz about the next crop of Hall-eligible inductees for 2012 has already begun.
In short, the field is stacked.
Remember, the Hall of Fame committee can select no more than four players for enshrinement each year. And the new batch, coupled with those who struck out on their previous attempt or attempts, will make the upcoming selection a major debate.
First, the anticlimactic.
Barring a major oversight, two of the spots should already be set in stone with first-time eligibles Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan.
They are two names that pass one of the simple Hall of Fame tests: that is, before even looking at their numbers and accomplishments, their careers stand out.
The numbers and accomplishments simply drive the point home that we have known all along: Sakic and Shanahan were dominant and wildly successful winners over the course of their NHL careers.
For Burnaby Joe: 1378 games, 625 goals, 1,016 assists. 1,641 points. Two-time Stanley Cup Champion. And then scroll down and wrap your head around these accomplishments over his 20-year career - spent entirely with one entire franchise.
As for the current league disciplinarian, Shanahan played in 1,524 games, racking up 656 goals, 698 assists and 1,354 points. He's a three-time Cup champion, and like Sakic, was near the top of the league in most offensive categories in his prime.
Which leaves only two spots for these fantastic careers. Let the debate begin. We'll start with the rest of the first-time eligible players.
The Line: 1,346 GP, 564 goals, 785 assists, 1,349 points
Claims to Fame: Ranks 27th all-time in career scoring, and averaged a point per game during his 18-year career. A two-time selection to the All-NHL second team, and with eight all-star game appearances. Led Sweden to a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
Disclaim the Fame: If you're from the school of thought that winning counts, then that would affect Sundin, who never won a Stanley Cup - let alone played in a Final. He won no major awards over the course of his career, and scoring wise, finished in the top 10 in scoring just twice during his career, and had just a single 100-plus point campaign.
The Line: 1,363 GP, 513 goals, 703 assists, 1,216 points
Claims to Fame: Ranks 40th on both the all-time scoring and all-time games played list. A veteran of nine all-star games, Roenick helped lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992, where they were swept by the Penguins. Only the third American-born player ever to score 500 career goals.
Disclaim the Fame: Like Sundin, Roenick was never able to win the big one in his career. He was in the top-10 in goals and points just twice over his 17-year career. He was never named to an all-NHL team, and won no prominent end-of-year awards. The only category he ever led was game-winning goals, during the 1991-92 season.
The Line: 1224 GP, 438 goals, 472 assists, 910 points
Claims to Fame: A prominent piece to Calgary's lone Stanley Cup win in 1989. Winner of the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1995-96, the award given to the player most exemplifying qualities of perseverance and sportsmanship. Roberts also returned from a devastating neck injury to play 21 NHL seasons, and rank in the top 100 in all-time scoring.
Disclaim to Fame: The Cup win looks good on the resume, but other than the Masterton trophy, Roberts doesn't have the accolades or statistical data of others in the field. He was never selected as an all-star but played in three all-star games and had just one 50-goal season, which was also the only year he finished in the top 10 in scoring in his career.
The Line: 943 GP, 454-352-96, .906 save pct., 2.79 GAA, 51 SO
Claims to Fame: CuJo makes his claim virtually all in statistics, and they show that he was, during the best years of his career, one of the best goalies in the NHL. During a 15-year stretch from 1991-92 to 2005-06, Joseph ranked in the top 10 in wins 10 times. Over that same period, he finished in the top 10 in fewest total goals allowed 10 times, and led the league in 1989-99. From the 1991-92 season through the 2001-02 campaign, he led the league in total saves three times, and never finished outside the top five.
The two-time all-star finished in the top 10 in shutouts seven times, and his 51 career shutouts rank him 21st all-time. His 454 wins are fourth best all-time, and he also won a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Disclaim to Fame: All those wins, and Joseph has no Vezina trophies as the league's top goalie, and was never named to an all-NHL team. As well, he never played in the Stanley Cup Final. Six times in his career, Joseph ranked in the top 10 in losses. His 352 losses ranks second all-time NHL history.
And don't forget about some of returning candidates:
The Line: 760 GP, 372 goals, 493 assists, 865 points
The Goods: A Hart trophy winner as league MVP, an Art Ross trophy as scoring leader and a Pearson award winner as MVP as voted by the Players' Association. Named to the All-NHL team two times. Career cut short by concussions.
The Line: 702 GP, 437 goals, 342 assists, 779 points
The Goods: Calder Trophy winner as league's top rookie, as well as a three-time Rocket Richard winner as the leading goal scorer in the league. Can't discount the fact that he was, in his prime, arguably the best player in the league. Career derailed by knee injuries.
The Line: 1337 GP, 341 goals, 1079 assists, 1420 points
The Goods: 16th on the NHL all-time scoring list. Ranks sixth all-time in total assists. Named to the All-NHL second team in 1990-91. Arguably the biggest omission from the 2011 class.
The Line: 1639 GP, 640 goals, 698 assists, 1338 points
The Goods: A Stanley Cup Champion at the tail end of his career with the Lightning, Andreychuk ranks 14th all-time on the NHL goal scoring list.
The Line: 1495 GP, 338 goals, 894 assists, 1232 points
The Goods: Named to the 1982-83 NHL All-Rookie first team and a second team all-NHL selection in 1991-92. Ranks 37th all-time on the NHL scoring list. Second all-time in scoring and games played by an American-born player.
The Line: 1084 GP, 455 goals, 633 assists, 1088 points
The Goods: Helped lead the Flames to their lone Stanley Cup win in the 1988-89 season. An all-NHL second-team selection in the 1995-96 season, Fleury also helped Canada to Olympic gold in 2002. Finished in the top 10 in goals and points three times in his career. Ranks 57th all-time in NHL scoring.
You've met the candidates, and now we want to hear from you: Who do you think should be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2012? It's Your! Call.