Now that Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it's time to start the debate on who should join them in the Players' Category next year.
There are some candidates that immediately jump out as all-but-unanimous picks and that list includes four-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic champion Scott Niedermayer, three-time Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy winner Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan, who won three Stanley Cups and scored more than 600 goals and 1,300 points over his 21-year career.
The debate begins when the fourth spot in the Players' Category comes up for discussion. Let's take a look at some of the top contenders and get your input. Which of the following eligible candidates is most deserving to join the Class of 2013?
Rob Blake played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks, winning one Stanley Cup and one Norris Trophy. He was a four-time All-Star defenceman, who played in an era that included the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque and Chris Pronger. He represented Canada on numerous occasions, including three Olympics with a gold medal coming in 2002.
Theo Fleury played 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks, with one Stanley Cup to his credit. At 5'6", he thrived in the NHL despite his smaller stature. He finished his NHL career with 1,088 points in 1,084 games and maintained his point-per-game pace in the playoffs. He helped Canada win a gold medal in 2002.
Paul Kariya enjoyed a 15-year NHL career that included stints with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. Although he didn't win a Stanley Cup over that time, he was selected to five All-Star Games. Before his NHL career began, Kariya made his first Olympic appearance in 1994, winning a silver medal. In 2002, he returned to the Olympic arena and helped Canada win gold in Salt Lake City.
Eric Lindros played 14 injury-plagued seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars. He scored over 40 goals in each of his first two seasons with the Flyers and won the Hart Trophy as MVP in the lockout-shortened season of 1995 by scoring 29 goals and 41 assists in 46 games. He finished his career with 865 points in 760 games. Like Kariya, he represented Canada at the Olympics before embarking on his NHL career, earning a silver medal in 1992. He went on to make two more Olympic appearances, and was part of the triumphant 2002 team.
After a prolific career with CSKA Moscow and the Soviet National Team, Sergei Makarov came over to the NHL at the age of 31 and played seven more seasons with the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars. After scoring 86 points in his rookie campaign, he won the Calder Trophy in 1990. On the international scene, he won two Olympic gold medals and one silver as part of the famous KLM line with Hall of Famer Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov.
Jeremy Roenick played 20 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. The Boston native scored 513 goals and added 703 assists for 1,216 points in 1,363 NHL games. He appeared in nine NHL All-Star Games. Roenick represented the United States at two Olympic games, winning silver in 2002.
Other candidates eligible for induction in 2013 include Dave Andreychuk, Rod Brind'Amour, Guy Carbonneau, Bill Guerin, Phil Housley, Curtis Joseph, John LeClair, Kevin Lowe, Markus Naslund, Gary Roberts and Keith Tkachuk.
In the Builders' Category, the late Pat Burns and Fred Shero are strong candidates for induction.
Burns won three Jack Adams awards as Coach of the Year with three different teams and led the New Jeresy Devils to the Stanley Cup. Over his 14 years behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and the Devils, Burns compiled 501 wins.
Shero led the Philadelphia Flyers to their only two Stanley Cup victories in the mid 1970's, the days of the Broad Street Bullies. Over his 10-year career with the Flyers and New York Rangers, he finished with 390 wins and a winning percentage of .612 in the regular season.
So there's a brief rundown of some of the top candidates. Who is most deserving to join the Class of 2013?
It's Your! Call.